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Column: Spotlight on Ohio State men’s basketball bench

The Buckeye hoops team is a very cohesive unit, and their bench play demonstrates this well.

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

This year’s Ohio State men’s basketball team is unique. Yes, E.J. Liddell is the clear star, yet he tends to be streaky. Therefore, the entire team has to be ready to jump in at any time to help get a win. While is fellow starters in Zed Key and Jamari Wheeler are usually reliable, the bench players play a critical role in this team’s success, too.

Eugene Brown III

NCAA Basketball: Penn State at Ohio State Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Brown, a sophomore guard, has been getting an increase in minutes over the past few games. His stats really don’t show what kind of player he is. Yes, he averages 0.2 blocks per game. Remember his block against Northwestern that forced OT? That won the game for the Bucks. Defensively, he brings a lot to the floor.

When Brown is given the opportunity, he has shown his potential for greatness. He had eight rebounds against Xavier, four against Indiana and four against IUPUI. Also in the IUPUI game, he scored a career-high 14 points. That game could be the confidence booster needed to get his shooting game going.

Bottom line: Brown has shown to be clutch on both sides of the ball, and with more experience, he could definitely play a crucial role with the Buckeyes moving forward.

Cedric Russell

NCAA Basketball: Indiana - Purdue at Ohio State Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

This man can shoot. Russell is shooting about 45% this season, and has done so in pivotal moments. The first time this season where he made a name for himself was against Duke. The senior guard scored a career-high 12 points in that game, including going 3-for-3 beyond the arc. Russell recorded six of the team’s final 12 points, the most important being the three that brought the Buckeyes within two with 2:32 remaining.

Besides the Duke game, Russell contributed seven points against Wisconsin, nine against Northwestern and 12 against IUPUI. He can tend to be streaky too, but when he’s hot, he’s not to be messed with. If he can find some more consistency in his shooting, he could be lethal to opposing team’s defenses.

Bottom line: Russell has the potential to be an offensive menace if he can become more steady with his shooting. He has shown up in big moments, so it’ll be interesting to watch if he can do the same thing in low-pressure situations, too.

Joey Brunk

NCAA Basketball: Ohio State at Nebraska Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

Brunk has gotten the least amount of minutes besides Harrison Hoofkin (shoutout to Hoofkin on his recent scholarship!). The big man center hasn’t gotten many chances, only averaging six minutes per game. However, his best game came against his former team, Indiana, scoring six points with two rebounds and one block.

The biggest thing Brunk brings to this team is his veteran leadership. The grad transfer shot over 50% during his time at Indiana, and has yet to show that at Ohio State. He underwent back surgery last season, so that is also something to consider this season.

Bottom line: Brunk gets a bucket or two in each game, but doesn’t really get much playing time. For his 6-foot-11 frame, it would be nice to see some more defense from the center.

Jimmy Sotos

NCAA Basketball: Ohio State at Nebraska Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

Last but certainly not least, Jimmy Sotos. While every broadcaster tends to highlight him as a TikTok star before mentioning his playing abilities, his progress is evident during this season.

While Sotos averages only 2.2 points per game, he is really known for being a facilitator. He has a commanding presence on the floor and does a solid job of moving the ball around. His career-high nine assists against IUPUI demonstrated this well. However, the 1.1M TikTok followers I must admit, is impressive. I am one of them.

Bottom line: Sotos is in his fifth season and his experience shows when he is playing. He makes some phenomenal assists, and overall brings an uplifting atmosphere to the team.