It hasn’t been as pretty as I am sure fans, coaches or the players would have preferred, but the Ohio State Buckeyes men’s basketball team is 2-0. The Buckeyes have now opened their season with a win against Mid-American conference championship contender Akron and pesky Niagara. They now move their attention to Bowling Green, who they will play tonight at home at 6:30 p.m. on Big Ten Network. Thankfully, you can actually watch this one.
The Buckeyes did not have as much drama against Niagara and it truly never felt like them losing was a possibility, but the 25-30 point wins are nice and so far, Ohio State doesn’t have that. I don’t think it is coming tonight either, but I will get into that. They defeated Akron 67-66 on a Zed Key game-winning basket and defeated Greg Paulus led Niagara 84-74.
It has been the EJ Liddell show so far for the Buckeyes, which isn’t a surprise. And of course, Kyle Young literally made an impact the second he stepped on the court against Niagara.
Liddell scored 25 points and 11 rebounds in their opening win against Akron and 29 points and five rebounds against Niagara. For my friends that don’t like math, that’s an average of 27 points per game and 8.0 rebounds through the first two contests.
While Liddell is a legitimate All-American candidate and him dominating inferior teams shouldn’t be surprising, he is clearly faster, stronger and more agile than last year and it has already shown. There is no reason to believe he won’t keep the trend going against Bowling Green.
Kyle Young made his season debut off the bench and it was clear how much the Buckeyes missed what he provided. Young recorded five points and seven rebounds in just over 22 minutes and the team on both sides just looks better with him on the court. Justice Sueing played just one more minute than he did against Akron, but he looked a bit healthier and better, recording 10 points and four rebounds. They are clearly working him slowly back into the lineup and trying to let him heal from a lower leg injury he suffered and I expect Bowling Green to be a similar story.
We haven’t seen much of Cedric Russell yet, as he only played four minutes against Akron and did not play against Niagara due to a personal matter. Coach Holtmann said he would be back for this one and it will be interesting to see how his role develops. Same with sophomore guard Eugene Brown who is a solid three-and-d guy, but has only played a combined 12 minutes through the first two games.
Jamari Wheeler is the clear starting point guard, but the two position has already fluctuated. Meechie Johnson started in that role in game one and in game two, Malaki Branham got the nod. I expect Branham to get the nod again to play alongside Wheeler tonight. It will be interesting to see if they continue to bring Young and Sueing off the bench or if they start in the lineup soon. If they do, you will see Justin Ahrens and Zed Key come off the bench.
Anytime a high major plays a decent team from a decent conference, it can get scary. Remember a week ago? However, Bowling Green isn’t Akron and do not propose as much of a threat. Then again, I predicted a 84-66 Buckeye in over the Zips so what do I know?
Bowling Green is coming into this one fresh off a waxing over Ohio Wesleyan, winning 101-60. It was Space Jam night at Bowling Green which honestly sounds incredible.
Unfortunately for the Falcons, their exhibition game and season opener did not go as they planned. They won their exhibition game over Fairmont State, but it was by two points and in overtime, 91-89. They lost their season opener to Western Carolina 79-71 in overtime. Only three Falcons reached double digit scoring in the contest and two of them had 10 points. Daeqwon Plowden led the Falcons in scoring against Western Carolina with 18 points and 2020-21 MAC player of the year Trey Diggs led the way with 20 points against Ohio Wesleyan. Plowden added 14 points.
It was a much more overall effort against Wesleyan for the Falcons, with six guys getting into double figures. They will need that production across the board if the want to compete with the Buckeyes. They lost senior Justin Tuner last year who was a monster on the court, averaging 19.3 points per game, 4.3 rebounds per game and 4.4 assists per game. He was a top tier player and their main goal this season is finding ways to replace his production, because it won’t come from one person. As of right now, Daeqwon Plowden and Trey Diggs are their guys.
Okay so I will be honest. I am getting really good at predicting at least one side of the game. I predicted Akron would have 66 points In the opener, and they did. I also predicted Ohio State to have 82 points and they had 84 against Niagara. I am not great at predicting the other score but we can do where Justin was wrong and where Justin was right later in the season.
I do think this will be Ohio State’s largest victory of the season. Bowling Green isn’t near Akron in terms of talent and they don’t have a scorer like Niagara has Marcus Hammond who can shoulder a load when the other four guys aren’t stepping up. Hammond recorded 22 points in this one but he had 12 points in the first 9 minutes of the game, keeping the Purple Eagles in striking range. The key in this game will be getting out ahead early and holding it. In both games against Akron and Niagara, late in the first half the Buckeyes have had a chance to jump put ahead permanently, but both times they let their opponent go on a mini run to stay close.
Bowing Green is also averaging 9.5 steals per game, so Wheeler, Johnson and Branham will have to take care of the ball. Turning defense into offense is a Bowling Green specialty.
They will need to bury the Falcons early because they don't have the firepower to make a comeback run. If they can do that, they run away with it but it they let them hang around like the Akron and Niagara game, anything can happen.
ESPN BPI: Ohio State 88.3%
Time: 6:30 p.m. ET
TV: Big Ten Network