For the first time since 2016 — Thad Matta’s final season — the Ohio State men’s and women’s basketball programs hosted a season tip-off event for the fans. “Buckeyes on the Blacktop” debuted six years ago on the outdoor courts behind Ohio Stadium, with Kam Williams winning the dunk contest and Joey Lane winning the three-point contest. That Ohio State team did not make the NCAA Tournament. This year’s squad is already operating with the mindset that making the tournament isn’t an accomplishment, it’s simply the expectation.
The 2022 version of Buckeyes on the Blacktop pretty much followed the same script that the 2016 event did, with a few minor changes. Instead of Mark Titus emceeing the event, it was “Big Matt” aka “Father Matt” or “Father Panda”, the man behind the mic at Ohio State men’s basketball, women’s volleyball, and so many other sports around the city of Columbus. The men’s team also ran a five-on-five “scrimmage” at the end of the event, which did not happen in 2016 — although it played out more like the NBA All-Star game, with minimal effort and no defense to make sure nobody got hurt.
Other than that, Holtmann’s version of Buckeyes on the Blacktop more of less followed the script that Matta left six years ago. With 10 new faces on the team, it was important for fans to get introduced to the 2022-23 group, which is perhaps why they suddenly chose to bring the event back after a six-year hiatus.
The event started with a “shooting stars” competition, which pitted a member of the women’s team against a member of the men’s team in each round. The winner was required to make a layup, free throw, three-pointer, and half-court shot before their opponent. The women’s team took home the hardware for this one, with junior guard Madison Greene defeating Tanner Holden in the final. Here’s how each round went down:
Madison Greene def. Justice Sueing
Rikki Harris and Gene Brown tie
Tanner Holden def. Taylor Thierry
With the tie removed, the two winners — Greene and Holden — faced off in the championship. Greene got to the half court shot first, but Holden caught up. Holden only took one attempt from that spot before Greene canned one for the win.
Madison Greene helps the Ohio State women’s basketball team defeat the men’s team in the Shooting Stars Contest during “Buckeyes on the Blacktop.”— Jacob Benge (@JacobBenge) October 6, 2022
Greene defeated Tanner Holden with a halfcourt shot.#Buckeyes @LanternSports pic.twitter.com/7d1SXYdDTP
For the three-point competition, a member of the men’s and women’s program both shot simultaneously, and the player with the most made baskets on each side advanced to the final round. Each player got five racks with five balls per rack, and 60 seconds to make their way around. The participants were Brice Sensabaugh, Sean McNeil, Bowen Hardman, Zed Key, Jacy Sheldon, Taylor Mikesell, Emma Shumate, and Rebeka Mikulasikova.
Unfortunately we didn’t get the final numbers for each player, but Brice Sensabaugh was crowned the three-point champion after knocking down 14 of his 25 shots in the opening round before advancing to win the final.
Here’s some video from the men’s side, with their numbers just from the first round:
Sean McNeil: 12-of-24
Sean McNeil in the 3PT contest pic.twitter.com/4E057bBmBS— Connor Lemons (@lemons_connor) October 6, 2022
Bowen Hardman: 12-of-25
Bowen Hardman was hanging the gooseneck, you know it's dropping when you hang the pic.twitter.com/XYupSZXD3I— Connor Lemons (@lemons_connor) October 6, 2022
Brice Sensabaugh: 14-of-25
Brice Sensabaugh knocked down 6 of his final 10 in the 3PT contest pic.twitter.com/AJqfrt94Oa— Connor Lemons (@lemons_connor) October 6, 2022
Zed Key: 6-of-24
Here's Zed Key with his new and improved jumper participating in the 3PT contest pic.twitter.com/DbYT65YTaw— Connor Lemons (@lemons_connor) October 6, 2022
The dunk contest rules were simple: all four contestants get three attempts at one dunk, and will be judged by the four celebrity judges on a scale of 1-10. The top two scorers advance to the championship round. On Thursday night, the celebrity judges included the reigning three-point champion, a nut, the leading contender for the Heisman trophy, and a teammate of the dunkers — the last one seems a bit biased.
Dunk contest judges:— Connor Lemons (@lemons_connor) October 6, 2022
Justice Sueing, C.J. Stroud, Joey Lane, Brutus pic.twitter.com/m1bfigyAxa
The contestants for the dunk contest were Felix Okpara, Roddy Gayle, Kalen Etzler, and Brice Sensabaugh. We didn’t record the individual scores, but Sensabaugh and Gayle faced off in the final round, with Gayle walking away the champion. However, Sensabaugh’s first-round dunk that got him to the finale may have been the most impressive dunk of the evening. Here are a few clips:
Sensabaugh’s under the legs, reverse dunk
Etzler dunks over two people on the block
Kalen Etzler over two human beings pic.twitter.com/U8H6KyMfAr— Connor Lemons (@lemons_connor) October 6, 2022
Gayle dunks over 6-foot-6 Gene Brown
Roddy Gayle over Gene Brown pic.twitter.com/munnGoQGyG— Connor Lemons (@lemons_connor) October 7, 2022
Felix Okpara channels Vinsanity with arm in the tin one-handed slam
Felix Okpara's best Vince Carter impression pic.twitter.com/i7PALZ11FX— Connor Lemons (@lemons_connor) October 7, 2022
And the dunk that won the contest......
Roddy Gayle reverse dunk off a side of the backboard feed from Isaac Likekele
Roddy Gayle Jr. wins the dunk contest with an assist from Isaac Likekele pic.twitter.com/r9IaJGUYxA— Connor Lemons (@lemons_connor) October 7, 2022
I mean.... what? He’s got to be four feet off the ground, right?
10 minute “Scrimmage”
The men’s team split into two groups of five — a red team and a gray team. They ran a 10 minute, full court scrimmage with an Elam Ending finale. Neither team ran full speed, nor did they play much defense so that nobody was injured during a pointless game on an outdoor court.
If we could take anything away from the NBA All-Star Game-style scrimmage, it’s that Justice Sueing looks like he’s rearing and ready to go. The lefty knocked down a few threes, stole a few lazy passes, and threw down this big dunk before hanging on the rim for a moment.
Folks, I think Justice Sueing is gonna be alright. pic.twitter.com/t1C2wWbAuH— Connor Lemons (@lemons_connor) October 7, 2022
After the scrimmage ended, the men’s team took a team photo and fans were able to walk on to the court to take pictures and talk to members of both basketball programs. 2023 Ohio State commit Devin Royal was one of many in attendance, and was chatting with Okpara after the game.
The Buckeye Nuthouse had a strong representation at the event just a few weeks after selling out their season tickets in under four hours. The crowd was probably somewhere between 800 and 1000 people — seated on bleachers, in the grass, leaning on fences, and several rows deep around the court. All in all, a very successful event for the men’s and women’s programs, right in the shadow of Ohio Stadium.