After a slow start in the first half that enabled the Samford Bulldogs to lead at the intermission, the No. 23 Ohio State Buckeyes turned it on in the second half and sprinted away with a 68-50 victory inside Value City Arena on Tuesday night.
Chris Holtmann’s squad is now 5-0 on the season, and this one came with a shakeup to the starting lineup.
The Buckeyes unveiled a starting five that included some fresh faces. Duane Washington Jr., Jaedon LeDee and Keyshawn Woods made their first appearance in OSU’s starting five, while Musa Jallow cracked the lineup for the first time this season. It was announced that the normal starters were being held out because they were late for game day prep on Tuesday.
Guard C.J. Jackson kept his spot in the starting line, but had a slow start — gaining only four points in the first 20 minutes of game time. He ended the game with eights points on 2-of-11 shooting and nine rebounds.
After being removed from the starting lineup, Kaleb Wesson made an impact when he stepped onto the floor. At halftime, he led the team with 9 points, many from the free throw line, and ended the game with a team leading 17 points.
In the first minute, Samford hit two baskets to pull out to a 4-0 lead, courtesy of Ruben Guerrero and Josh Sharkey. Jackson got the Bucks on the board with a pair of free throws, but the Bulldogs took an 11-4 lead into the first media timeout at 15:46.
Out of the media TO, a four-minute scoring drought allowed the Bucks to get back into the game. Guerrero, Samford’s center, checked out of the game for a while after picking up two fouls. In the meantime, Kaleb Wesson delivered a trio of free throws, and Jackson took a basket on the fast break before making the deficit only two at 11-9. Kaleb Wesson would continue doing work, as he made a layup to square the score at 11-11.
Ohio State missed their first five shots from three-point range, and at the second media timeout, still trailed — albeit by only two points, 13-11. Another scoring drought from the Bulldogs enabled the Buckeyes to climb out of the deficit and into the lead. Luther Muhammad knocked down a three pointer to give OSU their first lead of the game; not long after that, Kaleb Wesson knocked down his fourth and fifth free throws of the night, pushing the Buckeyes’ lead out to 18-15.
But, the scoring drought bug would eventually hit the home team. For over three minutes, the Bucks didn’t score. That was more than enough time for Samford to regain their lead. A pair of buckets from Myron Gordon paced the visitors to a 22-20 lead with under six minutes to play in the first half.
Both teams finally found a hot hand, as OSU went on a 5-of-6 shooting streak while Samford hit three in a row. As a timeout was taken with 1:33 left in the half, the Bulldogs held on to a 32-29 lead.
And that would be the score we’d get at halftime, as both teams couldn’t lift the lid on the rim. Ohio State’s scoring drought lasted the final 2:25; Samford’s lasted the final 2:03.
On the surface, it may have been surprising to see the Bucks down at the break, however, it’s not all that surprising when you look at the stats. OSU shot 38 percent from the field, including an abysmal 18 percent (2-of-11) from three point range. Samford made 50 percent of their shots in the first 20 minutes, but had a worse three point percentage (14 percent) than the Bucks.
Samford’s Gordon led all players on the floor with 16 points in the first half. For Ohio State Kaleb Wesson led the early scoring efforts with 9 points; his brother, Andre Wesson, led the assisting (2) and rebounding (4) categories at intermission.
The second half began a lot better for the Buckeyes. A five-minute drought for Samford, which included six-straight misses, ran counter to a 7-0 OSU run. By the 14:18 mark, Ohio State had the lead back, 36-35. Brandon Austin would break the cold streak for the Bulldogs with a three-ball, tying everything up at 38.
After a Muhammad free throw, Keyshawn Woods would secure an and-1 opportunity. His basket took the game into the under-12 media timeout, but more importantly, gave OSU a three-point lead. Woods would knock down his freebie, and did his part in a 13-3 Buckeye run that extended over six minutes.
In a hurry, the Buckeyes pulled away with a double-digit lead. Kyle Young knocked down a jumper, and Washington did the same on the fast break. With a 46-38 lead, Young buried two more shots—and drew an and-1 of his own on his third basket of the half.
Guerrero broke up the OSU scoring streak, and scored his first basketball of the night. But by the time the under-eight minute media timeout arrived, the Chris Holtmann coached squad held a 52-42 lead over the unbeaten Bulldogs.
Austin knocked down a three to bring the Bulldogs within 10 points, however, the Buckeyes ability to hit free throws kept their lead safe. Even when a four minute scoring slump hit the Bucks, the defense stepped up and stopped Samford’s playmakers from driving toward the basket.
Ohio State also wasn’t doing themselves any favors down the stretch. They committed three turnovers over a two-minute timespan. For the game, they committed 10 turnovers, attributing to nine points for the Bulldogs.
Samford couldn’t make anything of the Buckeye miscues, and instead make miscues themselves. Four quick turnovers by the Bulldogs kept them away from making it a close contest in the waning minutes of regulation. Ohio State broke off a quick 8-0 run to end the game, and that was that.
The No. 23 Buckeyes are back in action on Friday night. They’ll face Cleveland State at 8 p.m. ET inside historic St. John Arena. FS1 will broadcast the game.