The No. 13 Ohio State Buckeyes (12-1, 2-0) took to the floor one last time in 2018, wrapping up the non-conference portion of their regular season with a 82-64 win over Tubby Smith’s High Point Panthers (6-7). At home in the Value City Arena, the Buckeyes survived a mid-first half run by the Panthers to close out the first 20 minutes on a remarkable run of their own, and never looked back after the break.
Freshman Luther Muhammad led the Buckeyes in the early going, putting up 9 points in the first 5:32, including a pair of three-pointers. Combined with a triple from C.J. Jackson, OSU got off to a decent shooting start, hitting three of their first six attempts from distance. The Panthers intermittently employed some zone, as that has presented the Buckeyes some problems in games earlier this season against Syracuse and UCLA.
Despite the strong shooting, with Kaleb Wesson on the bench, High Point went on a 10-2 run to even the score at 16. With 9:46 remaining in the first half, the Buckeyes were trailing 11-5 in total rebounds.
Even with Kaleb Wesson back after a timeout, things didn't turn around for the Buckeyes. High Point extended their run to 16-2 (including an 11-0 streak) over six minutes, before Kaleb Wesson hit a three-pointer to end the drought.
A minute and a half later — following an old-fashioned three-point play by Jackson — the younger Wesson brother hit his second triple of the game, putting Ohio State back on top 25-24. Muhammad followed up a bunny in the lane and then a triple on the next possession to give the home team an 18-2 run, putting them up 34-24.
Muhammad ended the first 20 minutes with a career-high 14 points on 5-for-7 shooting (including 3-for-5 from beyond the arc). He was also incredibly tough on defense locking down whichever High Point player he was assigned to guard. His effort on both sides of the ball allowed the Buckeyes to go on a 19-2, to end the first half up 37-28.
Before and after the Panthers’ run, Ohio State got physical; clamping down on defense and driving to the hoop, drawing fouls. The Panthers were called for 13 fouls in the first half, and turned the ball over 12 times. Ohio State scored 14 of their 37 points off of Panther turnovers.
Conversely, the Buckeyes were only whistled for four fouls in the first half, leading to nary a free throw for the visiting Panthers. Ohio State was also pretty proficient with the ball, turning it over five times. While head coach Chris Holtmann would probably prefer that number to be less, considering the dry spell that his team suffered through in the first half, it likely could have been worse.
Tubby’s team was well-balanced in the first half, with nine players getting into the scoring column, but none accounting for more than six points. Senior forward Ricky Madison led the way for the Panthers with those six on 3-for-5 shooting. Despite only putting up 28 points in the half, High Point shot well, going 13-for-25 (52%) in the half.
The Buckeyes, on the other hand, rallied from a low point at 33 percent to finish the first 20 minutes shooting 43.3 percent (13-30), and 40 percent (6-15) from downtown.
The second half opened up even better for OSU than the first half closed. The home team connected on their first five shots, including a pair of three-pointers. With seven for Jackson and seven combined for the Wesson brothers in the first four minutes after halftime, Ohio State extended their lead to 51-32.
As has been a calling card for the Buckeyes throughout the season, their ball-handling was exceptional against High Point. On the game, Ohio State assisted on 18 of their 29 field goals, while only turning it over 11 times — with at least three of those coming in garbage time with the regular contributors in the bench.
After the quick start, most of the second half was spent with the Buckeyes holding a lead between 15 and 20 points. Against High Point, four Buckeyes went for double figures, Jackson leading the way with 20, Kaleb Wesson with 17 (on 7-for-12 shooting), Muhammad with 15, and Andre Wesson with 10.
Madison led the way for the Panthers with 12, and freshman guard Curtis Holland III had 11. A total of 10 players scored against the Buckeyes for High Point.
The Buckeyes will open the major portion of their Big Ten schedule on Saturday, Jan. 5 at noon ET against the No. 8 Michigan State Spartans. The game will be broadcast on FOX from the Schottenstein Center in Columbus.