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Ohio State men’s basketball vs. Fort Wayne: Game preview and prediction

The 1-0 Buckeyes return home to take on the 1-1 Mastodons on Sunday.

NCAA Basketball: Ohio State at Cincinnati David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

After yet another stressful college football Saturday, a Sunday slate of NFL action and some afternoon NCAA basketball should provide something to look forward to for Ohio State fans. The Buckeye faithful can switch their attention from the gridiron to the hardwood as the Scarlet and Gray (1-0) will take on Fort Wayne (1-1) at 4 p.m. ET at Value City Arena — their first home game of the season. The action will be broadcast on the Big Ten Network.


Ohio State is coming off of a huge win in their first game of the year, knocking off in-state rival Cincinnati 64-56 to spoil the Bearcats’ home opener in their newly renovated Fifth Third Arena.

After a defense-oriented first half in which neither team’s offense looked very pretty, the Buckeyes held a 27-18 lead. The second period was mostly Bucks early on, with Ohio State leading by as many as 16, but Cincy battled back furiously on the strength of a monster half by junior guard Jarron Cumberland in which he dropped all 22 of his points.

After a Cumberland three-ball cut the OSU lead to 60-56 with under a minute left, Buckeye senior guard C.J. Jackson hit a silky scoop layup on the other end to effectively ice the game with only 29 seconds remaining.

Ohio State was led by sophomore forward Kaleb Wesson, whose team-high 15 points were punctuated by a huge three-pointer late in the second half. Wesson added seven rebounds, two blocks, and a steal for an incredibly undersized Buckeye unit. Fellow forward Kyle Young also played a huge role on the boards, bringing in eight of his own to lead the team. Jackson — shooting just 3-of-10 from the field — scored eight of his 13 points in the second half, while freshman Luther Muhammad dropped 11, going 2-of-3 from deep, in his first collegiate game.

The Buckeyes’ defense impressed in an otherwise sloppy opener, holding the Bearcats to just 27.4 percent shooting in the game and 6-of-26 from three-point land. OSU hit 40 percent of their shots from behind the arc, but struggled to move the ball — finishing with only seven assists as a team. They also found themselves victims of the bonus early in both periods, as six of the eight guys that played in the game finished with three or more fouls.

Fort Wayne is coming off of a game in which they won by 61 points, a 112-51 shellacking of the Division III Earlham Quakers. The Mastodons had five players score in double figures, including freshman guard Jarred Godfrey’s game-high 23 points on 9-of-10 shooting. Senior guard John Konchar was all over the box score, dropping 17 points with seven boards, six assists and a block. The dominating effort came after Fort Wayne dropped their season opener 96-71 on the road against No. 21 UCLA.

In the early goings on the season, Fort Wayne finds itself ranked second in the Summit League in points per game and third in field goal percentage. The Mastodons’ biggest threat on offense is Konchar, who through two games is averaging 21 points to go along with over seven rebounds and six assists per game while shooting over 62 percent. Konchar is one of two seniors on Fort Wayne’s roster, the other being guard Kason Harrell, who is third on the team in scoring with 11.5 points per game.

Much like Ohio State, the Mastodon roster has had a ton of turnover, with eight players who were not on the team a year ago (five freshmen and three transfers). Fort Wayne is 2-11 all time against the Big Ten, with both wins coming against Indiana. This matchup with the Buckeyes is part of a stretch of the opening schedule that features five games in 11 days for the ‘Dons.


Vegas Line (as of Saturday night): OSU -17


It is incredible what Chris Holtmann has been able to do in such a short amount of time with the Ohio State basketball team. Two years ago, walking into Cincinnati and coming away with a victory in that kind of hostile environment was completely unthinkable. Luckily, it is now very much a reality as Holtmann and the boys are ready to shock the world yet again.

With a game now under their collective belt, and the home crowd on their side, the young Bucks should feel much more comfortable and loose than on Thursday night. Fort Wayne is also a much better matchup size-wise for Ohio State, as they have played only two players 6-foot-8 or taller — the same as the Buckeyes.

The Mastodons will likely keep it relatively close in the first half as Ohio State’s freshmen continue to get their feet wet and the revamped roster continues to gel and find a rhythm. However, defensive adjustments in the second half and increased ball movement will put the Buckeyes up big and they won't look back. Look for a big time increase in assists from last game, as well as increased impact from Andre Wesson, who missed a lot of time against the Bearcats in foul trouble.

LGHL Final Score Prediction: Ohio State 77-58