Coming off of their first loss of the season to the Minnesota Golden Gophers 84-71 on Saturday, the No. 5 Ohio State Buckeyes (10-1, 1-1) blew out the Southeast Missouri State Redhawks 80-48. However, it was not as easy as either the score, or the idea of a home game against a 3-7 team from the Ohio Valley conference finishing up a seven-game road-trip should be.
As has become a bit of a trend for the Buckeyes, the start of the game was sloppy as they had turnovers on three of their first four possessions and five in the first four minutes of action. Through the first 10 minutes, the Buckeyes struggled to score in paint and were completely out of sync on offense.
However, as it has for much of the season, the Buckeye defense turned the tied. Ohio State began to establish its dominance in an eight-minute run as they took it from a one-point game to nine-point game at the break. In the second stanza, the Buckeyes opened up their lead and returned to the form that made them one of the top-ranked teams in the country.
After those turnovers in the opening minutes, sophomore guard Luther Muhammad — who had started — was pulled following his second-straight sloppy play, and true freshman D.J. Carton found Kaleb Wesson who hit a big three-pointer from the top of the key.
On the next offensive trip down the court, Kaleb Wesson appeared to have his left knee give way, and limped back to the locker room. However, after just a few minutes, he came back to the bench and was cleared to return to action and came back into the game after missing just about two minutes of action.
After a 5-0 run by the Redhawks, the Buckeyes got the ball inside to Kaleb Wesson and he showed that his leg wasn’t too worse for wear as he hit a smooth baby hook on the block. However, thanks to turnovers and a SEMO defense that was forcing the Buckeyes deep into the shot clock, the Hawks took a two-point edge a few times early on.
Kaleb back in the game and looks smooth down on the block. pic.twitter.com/v75gZV0l8N— Land-Grant Holy Land (@Landgrant33) December 18, 2019
The OSU offense looked like it was still just as confused and out of sync as it was against the Gophers on Saturday. With Washington out, there was not a legitimate threat on the outside, meaning that the Redhawk defense was able to constrict the floor and force 10 turnovers in the first 8:41 of the game. SEMO led in the first half 16-12.
Over the next four minutes of game time, the Buckeyes reclaimed the lead thanks to a trio of three-pointers from Kaleb Wesson, CJ Walker, and Kyle Young (yes, that Kyle Young). At the under-eight media timeout, Ohio State led 18-16, but their inability to hold onto the ball or score inside did not seem like a trend that could continue if the Buckeyes were going to win.
Then, coming out of that timeout, freshman E.J. Liddell grabbed a ball rolling freely on the ground and was able to power through for the bucket. He was fouled, but missed the and-one. Then on the next possession, Carton drove to the lane and got the finger-roll to fall.
Without Washington on the floor, the SEMO defense seems to be able to keep the lane off limits for the Buckeyes, but E.J. Liddell muscled his way into the hoop and the harm (although, he missed the FT). pic.twitter.com/fEjt4nEP3X— Land-Grant Holy Land (@Landgrant33) December 18, 2019
The re-emphasis on scoring in the paint allowed OSU to run off a 13-1 run over five minutes while SEMO wasn’t able to hit a field goal in 8:06. However, despite the draught from the field for the Redhawks, the Buckeyes were only up nine points going into the break.
Southeast Missouri State hit only eight of their 28 attempts from the field for 29 percent shooting in the first half, while the Buckeyes were 14-for-22 (64%) and 5-for-11 (45%) from distance. However, the Redhawks kept it close thanks to their ability to hit free throws, and OSU’s absolute refusal to do so. SEMO was 8-for9 (89%) while the Buckeyes were shooting just 33 percent from the stripe (2-6).
Kaleb Wesson led all scorers with 13 in the first 20 minutes, going a dominating 5-of-6. And while Muhammad had very little to be pleased with in the first half, he did make a fancy pass to freshman Alonzo Gaffney for a bucket.
couple nice looks at a fancy pass from Luther Muhammad to Alonzo Gaffney pic.twitter.com/xFpDXJH3ul— Land-Grant Holy Land (@Landgrant33) December 18, 2019
The second half opened with a similarly impressive pass for OSU, as Andre Wesson found a cutting Young in the lane to give the Buckeyes their first double-digit lead of the game. The Ohio State defense allowed the home team extend their lead in the early going after intermission.
nice movement from Young and dish from the elder Wesson for the first bucket of the second half. pic.twitter.com/qv1e0AC6LT— Land-Grant Holy Land (@Landgrant33) December 18, 2019
However, things weren’t all smooth sailing after the break for the Bucks, as they hit their season-high of 16 turnovers with 16:21 left in the game. With the No. 6 Kentucky Wildcats coming up next, they will need to clean that up if they want to come out of Las Vegas with another win against a blue-blood program.
While the Buckeyes didn’t play a perfect game, by any stretch, eventually their talent-advantage became too much to handle, and as they started to play together, their energy improved on both sides of the floor, and that led to better ball movement, shot selection, and defensive intensity.
Ohio State went on a 12-0 run over a 1:36 span, and outscored SEMO 22-4 to open the second 20 minutes. However, as Bill Landis of The Athletic noted on Twitter, OSU’s performance on Tuesday night was a collection of contradictions.
Ohio State is shooting 65 percent, has made nine 3s and has 17 assists on 22 makes.— Bill Landis (@BillLandis25) December 18, 2019
Not sure how those 17 turnovers got into the mix.
But the nice thing for Buckeye fans is that once the home team got into its groove, they began to take care of the ball much better than they had in the laborious first 25 or so minutes of the game. Following their 16th turnover, the only had two turnovers while the starters were still in over the next 10 minutes; and one was an offensive foul against Kaleb Wesson.
Keeping their hands on the ball and maximizing possessions led to a lot of three-pointers and dunks, including this fast-break slam from Carton.
Dipsy Doo Dunkaroo for DJ the Diaper Dandy! pic.twitter.com/V3FNooCEr2— Land-Grant Holy Land (@Landgrant33) December 18, 2019
Four Buckeyes made it into double-digits against the Redhawks. Kaleb Wesson led the way with 18 points and 10 boards, while big brother Andre had 14 points, and Young and Carton both had 10. Andrew Wesson got to his total thanks to three-straight threes over a 1:05 span before he headed to the bench for the rest of the night.
The No. 5 Buckeyes will play the No. 6 Kentucky Wildcats in Las Vegas on Saturday, Dec. 21 in a game that will be broadcast on CBS at 5:15 p.m. ET.