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Ohio State knocks off Appalachian State, 80-67

Not even a mid-game evacuation could stop the Buckeyes from picking up their fourth-straight victory.

NCAA Basketball: Appalachian State at Ohio State Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

After a week off, the Ohio State men’s basketball team (9-3, 2-0) returned to the court at the Value City Arena in Columbus on Saturday night, and won their fourth game in a row by knocking off the Appalachian State Mountaineers (5-7), 80-67.

Coming into the game, both squads had been on a bit of a break, as they each had the week off following games on Saturday, Dec. 9. The down time dedicated to finals made the game a bit choppy at first, but the Buckeyes settled into a rhythm by the mid-point of the first half. As has become part of the script this season, redshirt junior forward Keita Bates-Diop was Mr. Everything for the Buckeyes—leading the way to another OSU victory.

The scoring opened as Kaleb Wesson drew a double-team underneath and found a streaking Jae’Sean Tate, who slammed it home. The assist made up for an airball three-point attempt from the top of the key for the Buckeye freshman on OSU’s first offensive possession of the game.

The App State offense early on came from junior guard Ronshad Shabazz. He had four of the Mountaineers first seven points, including a circus lay-in as time expired on the shot clock.

Both teams showed a bit of rust in the early going after their week-long layoffs. In addition to Wesson’s airball, Kam Williams had one of his own, and the threes that had fueled the Buckeyes’ recent success were hard to come by on Saturday; OSU missed its first six three-point attempts.

On App State’s possession after the first media timeout, forward Isaac Johnson streaked into the lane only to run smack dab into a stationary Kaleb Wesson. With the OSU center’s arms straight up, Johnson fell down and turned over the ball via a travel.

As the action moved to the under-12 minute break, the Buckeyes were still struggling to get their shooting going. Hitting 6-14 (42.9%) from the field, including 0-4 from behind the arc, they led 14-11. For their part, App State was only shooting 5-10 from the floor and 1-4 from deep.

With both teams looking to regain their touch, they turned towards the paint to find points, as both the Mountaineers and Buckeyes had eight points in the paint at that timeout. One part of the Buckeyes’ game that did not seem to be hampered by the week off was turnovers. While keeping the ball safe had been a bit of a bugaboo for OSU so far this season, halfway through the first half, the Scarlet and Gray only turned the ball over twice compared to App State’s five.

At the 9:01 mark, Kaleb Wesson picked up his second foul, but unlike earlier in the season, head coach Chris Holtmann kept the freshman in the game, as he was having one of his best all-around performances. However, after a few minutes, the center did sit down for the majority of the rest of the half.

One of the things that kept the Buckeyes in the lead, despite their somewhat chilly shooting, was the way that they were sharing the ball in order to find the open man.

As has been the case throughout the season, Bates-Diop led the Buckeyes in the first half. The junior was the top-scorer in the first 20 minutes with 12. He also added four boards before the half, which was tied with Kaleb Wesson for the most in the game. At the break, Bates-Diop also had four steals, two blocks, and zero turnovers in his 19 minutes of work.

With the OSU lead at 25-17 with just under six minutes to go in the half, Bates-Diop blocked a layup attempt from Johnson, and after corralling the ball, raced to the other end to secure a layup of his own, giving the Buckeyes the double-digit lead.

About four minutes of game-time later, KBD went to the floor to secure a steal, then gave up the ball to a breaking Andrew Dakich who drove into the lane, spun to the right and then fed a driving Tate who slammed it home.

That Tate dunk was followed by a pair of free-throws by C.J. Jackson which helped OSU end the first half on a 6-0 run, hitting five of their final seven field goals before the break. The score at halftime was Ohio State 40, Appalachian State 27.

In addition to Bates-Diop’s 12, Tate put up a strong nine points in the half to go along with three boards.

The biggest discrepancy between the teams in the first half was in turnovers. Perhaps uncharacteristically, the Buckeyes only turned it over four times in the half, while the Mountaineers had coughed it up 10 times, leading to nine points for OSU.

Despite the teams shooting a combined 2-15 from downtown, they’d been able to get their shooting percentages back up after rocky starts. After 20 minutes, the Bucks were 14-28 (50%) and App State was 11-25 (44%).

After being sidelined due to injuries recently, both Kyle Young and Micah Potter returned to limited action for the Buckeyes in the first hald. Neither scored in the first 20 minutes (Young missed the only shot the pair attempted), but Young did pick up a pair of fouls which likely led to Andre Wesson getting a little more playing time than normal. The sophomore took advantage, converting on his only shot from the floor and both of his attempts from the charity stripe.

On the first possession from the break, App State’s Griffin Kinney picked up a layup for the Mountaineers, and then the Buckeyes followed up with consecutive three-point possessions. First as Jackson hit a corner three, and then secondly as Kaleb Wesson was fouled on a spinning layup before converting the free-throw attempt. Just a minute and 14 seconds into the half, Holtman sent Young into the game to spell the younger Wesson.

Then with 17:47 left in the game, alarms went off in the Schottenstein Center and announcements were made that directed all fans to exit the arena. Likewise, both teams were escorted to the locker-rooms. According to the Big Ten Network, it was eventually determined that a smoke alarm in a concession area necessitated the evacuation.

After about a 12-minute delay, the game began again with the Buckeyes up 48-33. However, the Scarlet and Gray appeared to be a little sloppy after returning to the floor. App State’s Shabazz was at the line when the delay started, and hit the free-throw when the game resumed.

Then, following a Kaleb Wesson miss, Johnson hit a three to cut the lead to 11. Next, after a Buckeye turnover, Johnson hit a nifty layup on an out-of-bounds play as the shot-clock expired.

However, with the Mountaineers on a mini-run, Bates-Diop decided enough was enough and drove to the basket for the layup. On the subsequent Buckeye possession, Kaleb Wesson was fouled while converting a spinning layup. He missed the following free throw, but the freshman’s bucket reestablished a 13-point lead for OSU, 52-39.

Tough Kaleb Wesson wasn’t in significant foul trouble midway through the second half, his playing time was limited—with Young seeming to get the bulk of the extra minutes. While Young is not the offensive post presence that Wesson is, he provided the Buckeyes with a strong defensive effort underneath.

With a little more than 10 minutes left in the half, Young took a rebound and hit Dakich with the outlet who hit Tate wth the mid-lane bounce pass for the layup. Tate was fouled on the play, but didn’t hit the free-throw. On the next possession, Jackson banked in a three-pointer to give the home team their first 20-point lead of the night at 67-47.

With about five minutes left in regulation, Tate slapped down on a shot attempt by Johnson, and even though replay made it seem like he got all ball, Tate was charged with his fourth foul. Kaleb Wesson also had picked up his fourth, and was already out of the game; Tate remained in the action.

On the next App State possession, Shabazz drove towards the basket on fast-break only to find Tate in his way. The Mountaineer guard raised his arm on contact and was charged with his third foul.

The large lead seemed to give the Buckeye players a sense of security, at least on the offensive end. Rather than working the ball inside, as they had to build the advantage, they began settling for long-range shots, leading to a more than four-minute drought, which allowed App State to cut the lead to 74-58.

A layup by Tate ended scoreless spell for the Buckeyes. However, for the second time in the game, he did not make the free-throw to complete the old-fashioned three-point play.

Another interesting note from the game is that nine Buckeyes recorded more than 10 minutes of playing time. In the Thad Matta-era, especially in the latter years, the bench was used sparingly as the conference season approached. However with Holtmann’s young squad, the ability to get inexperienced players valuable action very well should pay dividends as the bruising Big Ten season progresses.

Kaleb Wesson picked up his fifth foul with 1:42 remaining as he was trying to establish position in the lane. He finished the game with 16 points and eight rebounds.

Both teams ended the game with four players in double-digits. Tate led all scorers with 19, followed by Bates-Diop’s 18. KBD also turned in a game-high eight boards. Williams rounded out the Buckeyes quartet with 11.

For the Mountaineers, it was Shabazz with 15, Kinney with 14, and Johnson and Justin Forrest with a dozen apiece.

With the Buckeyes shooting a woeful 3-14 (21.4%) from three-point land, they found the bulk of their scoring in the lane. Fifty of their 80 points came in the paint.

The Ohio State Buckeyes will be back on the hardwood on Tue. Dec. 19 at 7:00 p.m. ET as they take on The Citadel at the Value City Arena. The game will again be broadcast on the Big Ten Network.