After suffering their first loss of the season on Sunday night, Ohio State won’t have much time to dwell on the defeat, as they are back in action tonight at Value City Arena against the Southeast Missouri State Redhawks. Tonight’s matchup between the Buckeyes and Redhawks will be the first-ever between the schools.
Ohio State was the latest Big Ten team to fall victim to this year’s road curse in conference play, losing at Minnesota on Sunday night 84-71. With the loss by the Buckeyes at Williams Arena, road teams are now 0-14 in Big Ten play this year. The loss to the Golden Gophers not only snapped a three-game winning streak by the Buckeyes against Minnesota, but was also the first December loss in Big Ten conference play for head coach Chris Holtmann.
Before even taking the court on Sunday night, Ohio State suffered a setback when it was announced Duane Washington Jr. would miss the game against Minnesota with a rib injury. The loss of Washington not only left Ohio State without their second-leading scorer, but also took away the best three-point threat for the Buckeyes. It is not yet known if Washington will suit up tonight for Ohio State, but with a showdown with Kentucky in Las Vegas on tap for Saturday afternoon, expect the Buckeyes to be cautious with Washington returning to the court.
Ohio State had a solid start to Sunday’s game against Minnesota, but once the Golden Gophers took the lead with just over 12 minutes to go in the first half, things spiraled out of control for the Buckeyes. Minnesota took a 38-29 lead into the locker room at halftime and in the second half Ohio State wasn’t able to cut into the halftime lead the Golden Gophers had built.
Kaleb Wesson had a rough night in the loss, scoring just 12 points and grabbing six rebounds. Wesson was hampered by foul trouble and turnovers against the Golden Gophers. While Wesson still hasn’t fouled out this season, he was called for four fouls in a game for the fourth time this season. Along with the fouls, Wesson turned the basketball over six times, which was the second time in the last three games he has recorded that many turnovers. Even with the subpar performance, Wesson is still leading Ohio State in scoring and rebounding, averaging 13.9 points per game and 9.0 rebounds per game.
There weren’t many bright spots for Ohio State on Sunday night, but a couple players who do deserve some praise were freshmen who came off the bench. D.J. Carton established a new career-high by scoring 19 points, snapping a streak of three straight games in which he failed to reach double figures in scoring. E.J. Liddell also set a career-high by scoring 14 points, building off the 12 points he scored in the win over North Carolina.
The best way for Ohio State to put the loss to Minnesota behind them is to get back out on the court quickly, and that’s just what they’ll do tonight when they host Southeast Missouri State, who is 3-7 on the season. This will be the first time the Buckeyes and Redhawks have met on the hardwood. Tonight’s game will close out an eight-game road trip for Southeast Missouri State, with the Redhawks going just 1-5 on the first seven games of the stretch.
The Redhawks also played on Sunday, losing 65-50 at Youngstown State. The loss extended Southeast Missouri State’s losing streak to three games. One of the few wins for the Redhawks this year came in their second game of the season when they beat Purdue Fort Wayne, 79-78. Less than two weeks later the Buckeyes played the Mastodons and defeated them 85-46.
Coaching Southeast Missouri State is Rick Ray, who is in his fifth year with the school, posting a 46-87 record since arriving in Cape Girardeau. Prior to arriving at Southeast Missouri State, Ray was an assistant at Purdue and Clemson before Mississippi State gave him his first shot as a head coach. Ray struggled in Starkville and was fired after coaching three years and finishing with a 37-60 record.
Ray has a lot of work to do if he wants to lead the Redhawks to their second NCAA Tournament appearance in school history. The only other time Southeast Missouri State made the NCAA Tournament came back in 2000, when they pushed LSU to the limit in the first round, falling to the Tigers 64-61. Since then the Redhawks have had just four winning seasons, with their best campaign coming back in 2013-14 when they finished the year 18-14.
Southeast Missouri State suffered a key loss early in the year when Chris Harris was sidelined after suffering a knee injury in practice prior to Southeast Missouri State’s third game of the season. Harris not only made the game-winning three-pointer in the win over Purdue Fort Wayne, but he was leading the Redhawks in scoring, averaging 15.5 points in the first two games of the season.
With Harris sidelined due to injury, the leading active scorer for the Redhawks is guard Alex Caldwell, who is averaging 10.5 points per game. After hitting six three-pointers and scoring a season-high 18 points in the loss to Drake last Saturday, Caldwell couldn’t find his shot in Youngstown on Sunday, missing all six of his shots and finishing with zero points against the Penguins.
While Caldwell was shutout against Youngstown State, Darrious Agnew did his best to pick up the slack, finishing with a team-high 17 points in the loss. Agnew is only averaging 13.8 minutes per game this year, but has seen his minutes increase after entering Southeast Missouri State’s starting lineup the last two games. Agnew was on the court for 19 minutes against Drake and a season-high 20 minutes on Sunday against Youngstown State. The junior transfer from East Mississippi Community College. For the season Agnew is averaging 7.9 points per game, but that number has started to rise after scoring 28 total points in the last two contests.
Joining Agnew at forward is junior Sage Tolbert, who is averaging 9.9 points per game and a team-high 6.7 rebounds per game. Like Caldwell, Tolbert was shutout in the scoring column against Youngstown State, but he had a number of promising performances prior to the loss to the Penguins. Tolbert has one of three double-doubles registered by Southeast Missouri State players this year, scoring 13 points and grabbing 10 rebounds in the 64-57 loss to Cal State Fullerton in the Cable Car Classic. Quatarrius Wilson has the other two double-doubles for the Redhawks.
ESPN BPI: Ohio State 98.8%
This is the perfect game for Ohio State. Not only are the Buckeyes coming off their first loss of the season, but they have a tough contest on Saturday against Kentucky in Las Vegas. Playing a team like Southeast Missouri State will allow the Buckeyes to get some of their confidence back after losing to Minnesota, as well as get some more experience for the players on the bench who could be counted on at times the rest of the season.
After allowing 84 points to Minnesota on Sunday night, expect to see a much better showing out of Ohio State’s defense tonight. One area where Southeast Missouri State has struggled this year is with sharing the basketball. The Redhawks are averaging just 9.8 assists per game this year. With not much movement of the basketball by Southeast Missouri State, Ohio State should be able to clamp down on defense and end a streak where the Buckeyes have allowed their last two opponents to score more than 60 points in a game.