A sign of things to come, or a talented team just trying to find its footing early on in the season? That is what we were tasked with figuring out heading into tonight’s game against yet another in-state rival, Bowling Green State University.
After beating Akron and Niagara by a combined 11 points last week, Ohio State (3-0) came into tonight’s contest surrounded by some early skepticism due to their struggles with two teams most people expected them to defeat handily. In fact, the Buckeyes dropped two spots in the AP Poll this week after their two heart-stopping wins, from No. 17 to No. 19.
The Falcons (1-2) seemed to pose a similar level of difficulty as Akron and Niagara. Before play began, they checked in at No. 150 according to KenPom, and have already lost to the No. 299 in those rankings, the Western Carolina Catamounts. BGSU was picked to finish sixth in the MAC this season, but Chris Holtmann advised us not to underestimate their foes from just up I-75. Holtmann told media last week that the Falcons were a “tough, physical team” and that the Buckeyes will need to be ready. Assistant coach Ryan Pedon repeated that stance during his media availability on Sunday, reiterating that Bowling Green would likely bring a type of bruising physicality that neither Akron nor Niagara exhibited.
But with Kyle Young back, Ohio State was also getting some grit and physicality back on the floor. Aside from being more physical in the literal sense, the Buckeyes also needed to crash the boards with more assertiveness after only out-rebounding Niagara by three last week. These early games can sometimes show some growing paints for teams, and one of the areas Ohio State needs to flex their muscles a bit more is on the glass.
Holtmann went with the same lineup as the Niagara game, rolling out a starting five of Jamari Wheeler, Malaki Branham, Justin Ahrens, E.J. Liddell, and Zed Key. Like last game, Young was available off the bench, but Justice Sueing — who has been working back from a “lower body” injury — was unavailable. Ohio State announced pregame that Sueing will, “continue to be evaluated for this lower body injury.”
The Buckeyes started hot, jumping out to an 11-0 lead before Bowling Green had a chance to settle themselves. Wheeler picked up his hot shooting right where he left off against Niagara, canning two shots from beyond the arc over the first five minutes. Ohio State wasn’t dominant on the offense end early on — rather, their tight defense allowed them more room for error at the other end. The Falcons missed their first seven shots of the game.
After BGSU started 2-of-19 from the floor, they began to get it going a bit more, hitting four of their next nine shots and forcing Ohio State to re-focus with 5:38 to go in the first half. But once Bowling Green got within 18, the Buckeyes turned it back on. A Key dunk and a nifty Young reverse layup extended the Buckeyes lead back to 22, and the romp was on.
By halftime, Ohio State had built a 23-point lead over the Falcons. Ahrens led the Buckeyes with eight points in the first half on 2-of-3 shooting, and eight Buckeyes in total scored during the first 20 minutes. They also doubled up BG on the boards, grabbing 27 rebounds in the first half compared to BGSU’s 12. All around, it was the Buckeyes’ cleanest half of basketball they’ve played this season.
And if you thought things would get easier in the second half for the Falcons (why would you ever think that), they did not. The Buckeyes opened the second half on an 11-2 run, extending their lead to 32 (!!) points just four minutes into the second half.
A lot of basketball happened between the first media timeout of the second half and the end of the game, but going into each little bit seems like beating a dead horse (falcon). When all was said and done, Ohio State had thoroughly embarrassed, pantsed, and beat down BGSU to the tune of a 89-58 victory. The Buckeyes were led by Meechie Johnson and Liddell’s 13 points each. It was exactly the type of performance — on both ends — they wanted to see before a big road game in a few days.
Let’s run through some of the key moments — and statistics — that were noteworthy during Ohio State’s comical spanking of BGSU.
Consecutive points to start the game
After struggling to open up a double-digit lead at all during their first two games, Ohio State decided to just throw a haymaker right out of the gate in this one. Aided by two Wheeler three-pointers, one Liddell triple and a couple Justin Ahrens free throws, the Buckeyes jumped out to an 11-0 lead over the first 3:53.
Minutes of game play before Wheeler’s first turnover of the season
When Wheeler was stripped and turned the ball over at the 17:12 mark of the first half, it represented his first turnover wearing an Ohio State uniform, spanning 64 minutes of play. That is quite a number, and if he can keep up that level of sure-handedness it will help Ohio State tremendously as the season progresses.
Minutes between BGSU buckets during the first half
After two pretty half-ass defensive games, the Buckeyes locked in on the Falcons during the first half. At one point, BG went without a basket for 7:38, during which Ohio State extended their lead from 7 points to 18. That run right there, ladies and gentlemen, is where the game got away from Bowling Green.
Buckeyes scored in the first half
Led By Ahrens’ eight points, eight different Buckeyes saw the ball go through the hoop during the opening stanza. Behind Ahrens was Liddell (7), Wheeler (6), Young (6), Key (6), Branham (4), Eugene Grown (2), and Meechie Johnson (2).
First half points from Bowling Green
I can’t recall the last time Ohio State held an opponent under 20 points in a half, but they did it tonight against the Falcons, holding them to 18 points on 8-of-31 shooting.
If your reaction is “Well it’s just Bowling Green!” you clearly did not watch Ohio State’s first two games.
Ohio State turnovers
The Buckeyes weren’t all that clean handling the rock, and still won by quite a comfortable margin. Had they taken care of the basketball, this game could’ve been considered a felonious assault in several states.
- Liddell (13)
- Johnson (13)
- Key (12)
- Brown (12)
- Ahrens (11)
- Branham (8)
- Young (8)
- Wheeler (6)
- Sotos (5)
- Brunk (1)
Rebounds, a season-high
Ohio State was doubling up BGSU on the boards for much of the game, but ended with a 42-24 advantage.
Ohio State’s (3-0) early flurry of games continues Thursday when the Buckeyes travel to the Queen City to take on the Xavier Musketeers (2-0) in the Gavitt Games inside the Cintas Center. Xavier opened the season with a tight 63-60 victory over Niagara (maybe those guys aren’t too bad after all), and then followed it up with a 14-point win over Kent State on Friday night. Ohio State and Xavier have not faced each other since the 2007 NCAA Tournament. The last regular-season meeting between the two teams was way back in 1984. Ohio State’s matchup with Xavier tips off at 6:30 p.m. ET, and will be broadcast on FS1.