Ohio State hoops got the season started off with a bang, knocking off in-state rival Cincinnati, 64-56, in the inaugural game inside the newly renovated Fifth Third Arena.
The Buckeyes, now without the production of guys like Keita-Bates Diop or Jae’Sean Tate, were able to get it done on the road with a group containing a majority of fresh faces, while being led by a few familiar ones.
OSU was led by Kaleb Wesson’s big night, as the sophomore forward finished with 15 points and seven rebounds. C.J. Jackson added 13 of his own, including a pretty layup that would ice the game with 30 seconds remaining.
Cinci’s valiant comeback effort was fueled by junior guard Jarron Cumberland, who after not scoring in the first half finished with 22 points on 7-of-17 shooting. No other Bearcat finished with more than eight points.
Here’s how the Buckeyes came away with their first win of the new season.
In their brand new building, Cincinnati scored the first basket of the game on a three-pointer by senior guard Justin Jenifer. Ohio State was held scoreless through the game’s opening three minutes, as first-game jitters led to three early turnovers for the Buckeyes.
After an 0-of-5 start from the field, OSU would score their first points of the game at the 16:14 mark on a putback layup by sophomore forward Kaleb Wesson. Despite the slow offensive start, the Buckeyes found themselves down just 3-2 as the Bearcats began 1-of-8 from the field themselves.
Kaleb Wesson played a huge role on the boards early on, recording five boards in the first five minutes. Keyshawn Woods, the graduate transfer from Wake Forest, scored the second basket for the Buckeyes on a jumper followed by a Duane Washington Jr. three-pointer to give OSU an early 7-3 lead.
The Bearcats answered with a three of their own on the other end, which Ohio State would follow up with three by freshman Luther Muhammad to make it 10-6 Buckeyes. OSU’s defense was smothering early on, holding Cinci to just 2-of-14 shooting nine minutes into the first half.
The fans in the Cincinnati arena got real quiet as the Buckeyes took a 12-6 lead on a Musa Jallow putback layup. After two free throws by Bearcat guard Keith Williams, Kaleb Wesson made a basket on a nice scoop and score to make it 14-8 Bucks. After a 1-of-8 start, Ohio State had hit five of their last nine shots.
Both teams looked like they were still trying to find some sort of rhythm early on, and following a myriad of bad possessions and turnovers on both sides the Bearcats got two points on a solid move underneath from Williams. Woods answered with a contested fade-away jumper on the other end as the Buckeyes led 16-10 at the 7:27 mark.
Fouls started to become an issue in the first half for Ohio State, as Kaleb Wesson would hit the bench with two fouls at the five minute mark. After a number of empty possessions, a Nysier Brooks inside bucket and three straight makes at the free-throw line for Tre Scott cut the OSU lead to 18-15 with a little over three minutes remaining in the first half. Cinci would remain in the bonus for the rest of the half as the Buckeyes had nine team fouls.
Ohio State got a little bit of a streak going at the free throw line, as the Bucks, also in the bonus, knocked down six straight at the line (four from Kyle Young, two from C.J. Jackson) to put OSU up 24-15 with 2:05 remaining. On the other end Cinci was struggling mightily, missing nine of the last 10 shots.
Jackson knocked down the third Buckeye three of the night, his first in three attempts, to give Ohio State their biggest lead of the first half at 27-17. After a make and a miss at the line from Cinci, the Bucks would go into halftime with a 27-18 lead in front of a restless Bearcat crowd that saw their team not make a single field goal in the final 6:38 of the half.
In a game that was predicted to be low-scoring, the first half was exactly that. Both teams shot poorly (a combined 13-56), the Bucks hitting at the 33 percent clip. Young led all scorers at the half with six, while Wesson had a game-high six rebounds. Cane Broome, arguably the Bearcats best player, led the team in points with five despite going 1-of-8 shooting while adding a pair of assists.
Neither offense was able to move the ball particularly well, as the two teams combined for seven first-half assists (all three of Ohio State’s coming from Woods). The Bucks were out-rebounded 22-18, impressive given how much size they were giving up to Cinci especially without Kaleb Wesson on the floor.
Cinci got the first half going with a two-point hook shot from Brooks, but Muhammad answered on the other end with a deep two. Bearcat star Jarron Cumberland made his first basket of the game on the next possession, again just to be answered by Muhammad, the score sitting at 31-22 OSU two minutes into the half.
The Buckeyes continued to stifle the Bearcats on defense, with a couple bad possessions and takeaways leading to fouls on the other end, allowing Ohio State to go on a 9-0 run, punctuated by a three from Andre Wesson to put the Bucks up 38-22.
The Bearcats would stop the run with a three-pointer from Scott, but Andre Wesson would hit again from deep on the other end to answer quickly. After another basket inside from Cumberland, Kaleb Wesson would be forced out of the game at the 13:12 mark with his third foul, as two more CInci free throws cut the OSU lead to 41-28.
Ohio State would need a timeout after a few solid defensive possessions for Cinci and yet another bucket from Cumberland got the crowd back into the game as the lead was cut to 11. Sensing a pivotal moment in the game, Holtmann took a risk and inserted Kaleb Wesson back into the game with 12:34 remaining.
The suffocating Bearcat defense continued to tighten as their newly found lockdown defense led to bad possessions and turnovers for a stagnant OSU offense, with Andre Wesson picking up his fourth foul at the 11:48 mark as the crowd was fully back into the game.
After Cinci had cut the lead to 41-32, the Buckeyes were able to put a stop to the run with a pair of Kaleb Wesson free throws. After a couple of empty possessions, Young got an and-one putback layup to put the Bucks back up 46-32.
Fouls rapidly became a problem for Ohio State, as with 9:21 remaining five different OSU players had at least three fouls, putting the Bearcats in the bonus for the rest of the contest. The Bucks would get into the bonus themselves just a minute later.
OSU began to find a rhythm again on offense as Jackson hit a highly contested three in the corner and Kaleb Wesson threw down a dunk to give the Bucks at 52-36 lead with 6:23 remaining. Cumberland hit a big three at the other end, but Mohammad came right back with a three of his own on the following possession, receiving a questionable technical foul for taunting as Cinci made one of two free throws to make it 55-40 with just over five minutes to go.
Jump-started by a deep Cumberland three, the Bearcats started to go on a run of their own. After an 8-0 run cut the lead to just 55-47, the crowd was in a frenzy as Cinci seemingly had the Buckeyes on the ropes, but Kaleb Wesson said no with a huge three-pointer.
Cumberland continued his massive second half with another pair of free throws down the other end as Cinci again cut the Buckeyes lead to just seven, but Jackson was able to get one back at the line on the other end, as OSU held a 59-51 lead with under two to go.
After a few chippy possessions back and forth, Cinci got the ball in transition following a Kaleb Wesson make-and-miss at the line as Cumberland once again knocked down a three to cut the OSU lead to four with a minute to go.
The Buckeyes would weather the storm, however, as Jackson iced the game with a smooth scoop layup with 29 seconds remaining to put Ohio State up 62-56. Jackson would hit two more free throws after Cinci’s intentional foul to make it final, 64-56 Buckeyes.
Next up, Ohio State will return home to take on Purdue Fort Wayne on Sunday. The game is scheduled for a 4 p.m. ET start and will be broadcast on BTN.