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Ohio State narrowly escapes Bucknell, wins 73-71

Kaleb Wesson had a big afternoon in the Buckeyes’ win.

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

The No. 15 Buckeyes showed a little rust after their 10-day break, knocking off the Bucknell Bison 73-71 in a step away from the conference schedule. Ohio State moves to 9-1, now winners of three in a row following their lone loss to Syracuse.

The Bison had no answer inside for OSU big man Kaleb Wesson, who finished with 22 points and 10 rebounds to secure his first career double-double. Keyshawn Woods was the hero early in the second half, as his 13 points helped dig the Buckeyes out of a second period hole. CJ Jackson added 10 points of his own as well eight boards and six assists as Ohio State got a full team effort after a long layoff.

After knocking down nine threes in the opening period, Bucknell hit just three in the second half. The Bison had four players finish in double digits, including Jimmy Sotos who dropped 12 points to go along with seven rebounds and five assists. After leading by as many as eight early in the second period, the Bison could not hold on as Ohio State came away with a gritty victory on their home floor.

Bucknell had a chance to win the game as time expired, after an OSU turnover with 14 seconds remaining gave the Bison one final chance down just two. Bruce Moore came up short on the three-point attempt, as their quest for an upset in Columbus was put to an end.

Ohio State scored on their first possession of the game, with Andre Wesson getting a wide open dunk after the Buckeyes secured the opening tip. Bucknell answered on the other end with a three-pointer from Avi Toomer followed by Wesson getting another basket inside as both teams got the scoring going early.

After a jumper by Luther Muhammad, Kaleb Wesson got a three to fall as OSU took an early 9-3 lead. Wesson got an easy layup on the ensuing possession before a basket by Jimmy Sotos broke a 9-0 scoring run for Ohio State. At the first media timeout, the Bucks held an 11-5 lead.

Kaleb Wesson knocked down two free throws out of the timeout, but Kimbal Mackenzie got Bucknell on the board again with a three-ball. John Meeks cut the Bucks lead to just three with a made jumper before Kaleb Wesson got it back on yet another layup. After a nifty drive from C.J. Jackson and a jumper from Keyshawn Woods, Ohio State led 19-13 heading into the second media timeout.

Duane Washington Jr. hit one from midrange out of the timeout, as Bucknell answered with a three from Nate Sestina. Kaleb Wesson continued to bully people down low, getting another basket inside, but Bucknell’s fifth three in the early goings of the game cut the OSU lead to 23-19.

After both teams traded a number of empty possessions, Washington nailed an open three for the Bucks. Toomer matched him with a three at the other end, but Washington responded with yet another deep three as the Buckeyes led 31-23 with just over six minutes remaining in the period.

The two teams traded some layups back and forth, with a smooth drive by Muhammad putting Ohio State up 10. Kaleb Wesson continued his hot start with another basket inside, but Sotos got a three to fall for the Bison. After a steal and fastbreak score from Toomer, Sestina hit a contested layup inside to cut the OSU lead to 37-32.

Sestina nailed the Bison’s eighth three of the period on the ensuing possession to cut the Buckeyes lead to just two. After a pair of missed free throws from Jackson, Mackenzie hit a mid-range jumper to tie things up at 37 as the Bison found themselves on a 12-0 run with a little over a minute remaining in the half.

A Sotos three gave Bucknell their first lead of the game, but Woods ended the 15-0 Bison run with a jumper on the other end as Ohio State went into the half down 40-39.

The Bison absolutely torched the Buckeyes from deep in the first half, knocking down nine three-pointers through the first 20 minutes. Toomer and Mackenzie paced Bucknell with eight apiece, each knocking down a pair from behind the arc. Most of Ohio State’s damage came in the paint, where they outscored Bucknell 18-10. Kaleb Wesson had 13 points at half to lead all scorers as well as a game-high six rebounds.

Bucknell continued their hot shooting right out of the break, as Bruce Moore knocked down a three on their first possession in the period. After a wide open layup from Sotos and a pair of free throws by Mackenzie, the Bison led 47-41. Things went from bad to worse for the Buckeyes, as Andre Wesson went to the locker room after hitting his head on the floor.

Luther Muhammad was finally able to get Ohio State back on the board with a mid-range jumper, and after a pull-up three from Jackson the Buckeyes were back within three. A pair of very suspect calls put Bucknell at the free throw line, as Andre Wesson shockingly returned to the floor after cracking three teeth earlier in the period. A big three from Woods got the Bucks back within one, 52-51.

Jackson put the Buckeyes back on top with a spinning layup as OSU found themselves on a 12-3 run. Woods knocked down another three a few possessions later, as the crowd in Columbus was fully back into the game. Ohio State was now leading 56-52 with 12:21 remaining having hit six of their last six shots from the field.

Kyle Young added two more points in the paint as the Buckeye defense starting to lock in, holding Bucknell scoreless for over three minutes. After Moore got the Bison back on the board with a pair of free throws, Sotos hit a contested shot in the paint to get his team back within two.

Bucknell continued to hang around through latter half of the second period, as it remained a six-point game after a pair of Kaleb Wesson free throws with a little over seven minutes to go. Foul trouble began to plague the Bison, as Sestina fouled out and two more free throws for Wesson put Ohio State up 66-58 with 6:17 left in the game.

The Buckeyes defense put the clamps on in the later stages of the game, as Bucknell shot only 31 percent in the second period. After spectacular three-point shooting in the first half, the Bison went just 3-of-13 behind the arc in the second.

Ohio State fully regained control as they continued to lock down on defense, and the Buckeyes were able to pull away. The Bison made things interesting late in the game, but OSU was able to knock down their free throws and come away with a narrow 73-71 victory.

The Bucks dominated the glass, out rebounding Bucknell 39-29. They also outscored the Bison 28-18 in the paint. Both teams finished shooting 40 percent from three-point land and 72 percent from the charity stripe.

Ohio State will take on another non-conference opponent when they matchup with Youngstown State on Tuesday, Dec. 18 at 7 p.m. ET in Columbus.