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Justin Ahrens: the unexpected savior of Ohio State basketball

The freshman’s career game led the Buckeyes to a massive win on Tuesday.

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

“It’s a small sample size, of course, but that ability to stretch the defense could force teams to defend the Buckeyes differently the rest of the season.”

- Marcus Hartman on Justin Ahrens, Dayton Daily News

A month ago, if you would have asked those who follow Ohio State sports what the hot topic would most likely be at the end of February, they probably would have said something surrounding Dwayne Haskins preparing for the NFL Combine. Nobody in their right mind would have expected the talk of the town to be a 6-foot-5, 19-year-old freshman averaging under nine minutes a game on the men’s basketball team — but here we are.

Against Iowa on Tuesday night, forward Justin Ahrens racked up a career-high 29 points on 6-of-10 shooting from three-point land and a perfect 9-of-9 from the charity stripe as he led the Buckeyes to a 90-70 win over the No. 22 Hawkeyes. Coming into the night, Ahrens had scored 30 points combined in 13 Big Ten games, including nine points in his last time out against Maryland, making this offensive outburst even more astonishing.

While Ahren’s monster performance was shocking to many in the college basketball world, he has actually been a talented scorer throughout his hoops career. As the all-time leading scorer in the Midwest Athletic Conference, Ahrens helped Versailles High School to a league title and a 25-2 record. Holding school records for points, threes, assists and rebounds, he averaged over 23 points per game with 8.9 rebounds and 3.5 assists in 2017.

Despite his prolific scoring, Ahrens came out of high school as a three-star recruit, ranking 249th overall and the seventh-highest from the state of Ohio. Before an injury to C.J. Jackson opened the door for him to start these previous two games, Ahrens had seen over 10 minutes in a game just five times this season. However, given the opportunity for increased playing time, Ahrens has flourished, knocking down nine of his last 15 attempts from deep.

It will be interesting to see if Ahrens remains in the starting lineup once Jackson is back at 100 percent, but either way Chris Holtmann has found another scoring option in a lineup that has lacked the ability to shoot the ball at times. While it is entirely unrealistic to expect the freshman to continue knocking down threes at a 60 percent clip, his contributions on Tuesday kept Ohio State’s NCAA Tournament hopes alive, and should the Buckeyes make the big dance, Ahrens could play a key role for the guys in Scarlet and Gray.


“He was really good when we played against him, and he broke a lot of records that year too. He was better than I expected and than we expected as a team. I think whichever team he goes to that needs a quarterback, I think he’s going to make some noise.”

- Michigan linebacker Devin Bush on Dwayne Haskins, 247sports.com

It is no surprise that NFL Draft scouts have been impressed with the work of Dwayne Haskins, continuing to project the one-year starter at Ohio State as a top-10 pick in almost all mock drafts. However, it may be a surprise when that praise comes from an opponent of his — specifically one from that team up north.

Appearing on The Adam Schefter Podcast, Michigan linebacker Devin Bush, also preparing for the 2019 NFL Draft, was asked which opponent he faced this year will have the best NFL career. Without much hesitation, Bush chose Haskins. When asked what struck him most about Haskins, Bush said it was his composure. His ability to block out all the media attention and hype surrounding this season’s edition of The Game while playing perhaps his best game of the year impressed the former Wolverine.

Against Bush’s Michigan team, coming into the game as one of the best defenses in the country, Haskins racked up 396 yards passing with six touchdowns and no interceptions, completing almost 65 percent of his passes. Able to mix in the short catch-and-run plays with the occasional downfield bomb, Haskins led Ohio State to a 62-39 win that shocked both Buckeye and Wolverine fans alike.

Haskins will, in all likelihood, be the first quarterback taken in this year’s NFL Draft. In most projections, including Mel Kiper’s Mock Draft 2.0, Haskins is selected sixth overall by the New York Giants, with teammate Nick Bosa going to the Cardinals with the No. 1 overall pick. Regardless of where he ends up, Haskins had an amazing career at Ohio State, and it will be no surprise if continues to excel at the next level.


Around Campus

Men’s Ice Hockey

The No. 5/6 Buckeyes clinched their first ever Big Ten regular season title this past Thursday with a 3-on-3 overtime win against Michigan in Ann Arbor. Ohio State now stands at 19-8-5 overall and 12-6-4-3 in the Big Ten. The team will now own the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament, earning themselves a first round bye. The Buckeyes will host the semifinal game at 3:30 p.m. EST on March 17.

Women’s Ice Hockey

The ladies also found success on the ice, as the No. 10 women’s ice hockey team took down No. 1 Wisconsin in a shootout on the road this past Saturday. Buckeyes’ rookie goaltender Andrea Braendli finished with 40 saves as Ohio State got its second consecutive shootout win against the Badgers. The lady Bucks are home for the first round of the WCHA Tournament, where they’ll host Minnesota State this Friday at 6:07 p.m. ET.

Wrestling

No. 2 Ohio State defeated No. 7 Cornell in their last regular season matchup on Friday. The Buckeyes won the season finale 25-9 to finish the year at 12-2, winning the first seven matches of the event to get off to a 25-0 lead. Myles Martin had a bunch of takedowns in the 184-pound bout, coming away with a 13-6 victory over No. 6 Max Dean. Martin is undefeated (17-0) heading into the Big Ten Championships.


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