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Ohio State men’s basketball hangs on against Miami (OH), 72-59

It wasn’t easy, but C.J. Jackson and Keita Bates-Diop held off a furious RedHawk comeback attempt.

NCAA Basketball: Miami (OH) at Ohio State Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

In their final non-conference game of the season, the Ohio State Buckeyes (11-4, 2-0) held on against the Miami (OH) RedHawks (7-6), 72-59, after an evenly played first half at the Value City Arena. The Buckeyes took a commanding 17-point lead midway through the second half only to see Miami eventually cut the advantage to three points. However, from there, OSU ran away with the victory to wrap up the non-conference slate going 8-1 at home against non-Big Ten foes.

OSU senior Jae’Sean Tate started the game, but reportedly has been dealing with a left shoulder sprain. Apparently head coach Chris Holtmann thought about sitting the senior forward for the game, with the Buckeyes returning to the Big Ten portion of their schedule next week. However, Tate, who is left handed, did play, and turned in one of his traditionally well-rounded performances. He finished the game with 11 points and five rebounds, but the game belonged to a trio of his veteran teammates, Keita Bates-Diop, C.J. Jackson, and Kam Williams.

The game opened with both teams pretty cold from the floor. The Buckeyes hadn’t played since last Saturday’s loss to the North Carolina Tar Heels, and the RedHawks hadn’t been on the hardwood since Dec. 21 against DePaul. At the first media timeout at 15:25 in the first half, the teams were a combined 2-13; the Buckeyes were 1-8 (12.5%) and Miami was 1-5 (20%).

From there, OSU began to build a modest lead thanks to their stifling defense. Miami was forced to settle for shots from distance as eight of their first 11 attempts came from behind the arc. The Buckeyes also were able to turn over the RedHawks five times in the first nine minutes of the game. Those turnovers led directly to five points, which was the margin of Ohio State’s early advantage at the second media timeout, 12-7.

After the under-12 timeout, the Buckeyes began to find their stroke as they went on a six-point run in 30 seconds, thanks to an old-fashioned three-point play from Kaleb Wesson and a more traditional triple from Jackson to go up 18-9.

Sandwiched around a great give-and-go from Kaleb Wesson and Tate, Miami forward Bam Bowman hit back-to-back three pointers to cut into the OSU lead. After RedHawk Dalonte Brown missed a three that would have given his team a one-point lead, guard Darrian Ringo picked up his third first-half foul. As one of Miami’s best offensive weapons, head coach Jack Owens allowed his junior leader to stay on the floor for a few extra minutes. The risk paid off as he hit a layup in the lane to cut the OSU lead to 23-21.

However, from there, Ringo headed to the bench, and the Buckeyes opened up their lead as Bates-Diop hit a jumper, and Williams followed up with a three-pointer to go up seven, 28-21.

Holding onto a 30-26 lead, Jackson poked the ball free from Isaiah Coleman-Lands, and Bates-Diop found the guard streaking towards the basket. Jackson laid it up, and Logan McLane blocked it off of the backboard, resulting in a goaltend and a bucket. OSU freshman Musa Jallow hit a three-pointer with 00:43 left in the period to bring the halftime score to 35-28 in favor of the home team.

At the intermission, the Buckeyes were getting incredibly balanced scoring; Jackson and KBD led with eight apiece, Kaleb Wesson had seven, and Tate had six.

Similarly, 26 of Miami’s 28 points in the first half came from four players; Ringo and Nike Sibande each had seven, and Bowman and Jake Wright had six apiece.

As with the individual scoring, most of the first half stats were fairly close. Miami had a one board lead on the glass (17-16), while the Buckeyes led just 12-10 in terms of points in the paint. Both teams shot 10-for-26 (38.5%) in the first 20 minutes.

On Miami’s first offensive possession of the second half, Bates-Diop picked up two blocks on shots down low, but after a Kaleb Wesson fall-away miss, Wright and KBD traded jumpers, before Jackson hit a three-pointer to get the Buckeye lead to double-digits for the first time on the day, 40-30.

After starting the season in a rather rocky manner, Jackson had one of his best games of the year. The guard finished with 16 points, six assists, and five rebounds. He hit 6-of-9 attempts on the day, including 4-of-6 from deep.

Coming off of a timeout four minutes into the half, Jackson drove into the lane, and delivered a slick no-look pass to Bates-Diop underneath to extend the lead to 12. Then on the following Buckeye possession, Williams hit his second three-pointer of the afternoon to get the lead to 47-32, forcing Owens to call a timeout.

After the Buckeyes took a 17-point lead, the RedHawks’ defense began fighting to get them back in the game. Ringo picked up a pair of steals, leading to his own layup and a monstrous throwdown by Sibande, and in-between, Bowman hit his third triple of the game. The 58 second-run cut the OSU advantage to 49-39, and Holtmann called a timeout in hopes of stemming the RedHawk tide.

Unfortunately for the Buckeyes, their next possession ended in a turnover (their fourth in about two and a half minutes). A few possessions later, Bowman, who does not look like a traditional sharpshooter, hit a corner three to cut the lead to seven. From there, missed layups and unsuccessful rebound attempts continued to pile up for Ohio State and Sibande hit another three to bring Miami to within two possessions, 50-45.

On the subsequent offensive trip, Bates-Diop took the ball into the lane and hit a jumper, OSU’s first field goal in 4:25. The next time the Buckeyes had the ball saw Williams hit another shot to give the Buckeyes a bit of a cushion. However, Brown hit another thunderous dunk for Miami, and KBD responded with a tip-in to extend the lead back to nine, 56-47.

Bates-Diop ended the game with 19 points and nine boards, leading both teams in those categories. The only aspect of his game on Saturday that was not strong was his three-point shooting. The junior forward was 0-6, which drug down his total shooting percentage to 33 percent (6-18).

After the sluggish first 15 minutes for both teams, the action in the second half became fast and furious, and Bowman kept it going with his fifth basket from downtown, and Ringo led a fastbreak and found Sibande for the dunk.

Another three-pointer from Jackson got the Buckeyes back to a six-point lead with 5:30 remaining, but the RedHawks were not going away. However, in addition to his strong offensive outing, Jackson drew offensive fouls on consecutive Miami possessions, with the second leading to a Williams three-pointer, which got the OSU lead back to nine points.

Williams finished the afternoon with 15 points on 5-for-8 shooting, including a perfect 3-for-3 from downtown.

Another block for KBD and a second-chance basket from Tate put the Buckeyes back up by double-digits, 65-54, with just 3:31 remaining. A minute and change later, Jackson found Tate in the corner with no one between him and the basket. So, shoulder strain or not, the senior drove and threw down an emphatic two-handed dunk to extend the lead to 69-56. Miami would get no closer than that.

Ringo led the RedHawks with 16 points and eight assists, as Bowman’s five three-pointers gave him 15 on the day, and Sibande finished with 14 points.

The Ohio State Buckeyes will return to action as they begin the Big Ten slate in earnest on Thurs. Jan. 4, as they travel to Iowa City to take on the Iowa Hawkeyes at 7:00 p.m. ET. The contest will be broadcast on ESPNU.