With only four players returning from an Ohio State team that made it to the second round of the NCAA Tournament last season, Tuesday night’s exhibition game against Chaminade was an opportunity to showcase the Buckeyes’ highly touted freshman class as well as its three experienced transfers. The 2022-23 iteration of the Ohio State men’s basketball team is looking to sharpen up some areas it struggled with last season, in particular its defense (No. 111 in adjusted defense) and rebounding (12th in the Big Ten in rebounds per game).
With Justice Sueing (ankle) and Gene Brown (concussion) unavailable tonight, Holtmann rolled out a lineup of Bruce Thornton, Sean McNeil, Brice Sensabaugh, Isaac Likekele, and Zed Key. It should be noted, however, that Sueing would have played through the ankle injury if this was a regular season game — per Ohio State.
Isaac Amaral-Artharee opened the scoring with a three-pointer for the Silverswords 55 seconds into the game, but Key followed with a little 4-0 run by himself to put the Buckeyes back in front. The next 10 minutes or so were a back and forth affair, with Ohio State trying to put distance between themselves and Chaminade but failing to do so. Even when the Silverswords would miss air-ball a three or get their pocket picked coming up the floor, the Buckeyes struggled to take advantage at the other end.
After shooting 35% overall for the first 10 minutes of the game, the Buckeyes finished the first half on a 19-2 run to head to the locker room with a 46-23 lead over their D-II counterparts. Tanner Holden led all scorers with 19 points in the first half, including a 7-0 run all on his own at one point. He also blocked a shot, had a steal, and pulled down three rebounds during the first half.
The Buckeyes scored 17 points over the first five minutes of the second half, stretching their lead to 63-29. Likekele — who only has 19 career three-pointers to his name — knocked down a triple, while McNeil connected twice from downtown over a two-minute stretch from 18:59 to 16:51.
Holtmann subbed in Owen Spencer, Bowen Hardman, and Kalen Etzler with 11 minutes remaining, but after three consecutive Chaminade baskets Thornton, Sensabaugh, and Holden re-entered the game. Hardman stayed in, however, and wound up knocking down three three-pointers over a 3:06 stretch to help give Ohio State an 88-50 lead in the closing minutes.
By the time the final horn blew, the Buckeyes had wrapped up a 101-57 victory over the Silverswords at Value City Arena. Tanner Holden led all scorers with 25 points on 10-12 shooting. Key (15 points), Likekele (10 points), Hardman (12 points), and Gayle (14 points) all scored in double digits as well. Chaminade was led by Amaral-Artharee and Braden Olsen, who each had 12 points.
What can we really take away from tonight’s victory over Division-II Chaminade? A few things:
Tanner Holden and Roddy Gayle heading up the second line
Holden and Gayle were the first and second players to check into the game off the bench at the 15:49 mark. Holden would go on to play essentially the rest of the first half, clocking 14 minutes of the remaining 15:49. Gayle played 12 of the final 15:49. The only other player to sub in for Ohio State during a competitive first half — besides Holden and Gayle — was Felix Okpara, who played nine minutes during the opening stanza.
The defense should be better
Thanks in large part to the versatility of guys like Likekele, Holden, and Sueing — who did not play — Ohio State’s defense should step up from their 11th-ranked defense last season in the Big Ten. During the first half alone, Holden had a block and a steal, while Likekele was constantly switching on defense to guard the two through five positions. Sueing — who is 6-foot-7 and 220 pounds — will be able to do a lot of the same things Likekele does on defense when he returns.
Ohio State held Chaminade to 27.6% shooting overall, and 18.2% (6-33) from three. Ohio State had seven blocks and eight steals, collectively.
Ohio State needs to be more aggressive on the glass
The Buckeyes struggled mightily last season on the glass, especially defensively. Giving second-chance opportunities to teams in the B1G who have quality centers will lead to second-chance points more often than not, so it’s an area Ohio State has to improve on this season.
Unfortunately that did not happen during the first half of tonight’s game, as they out-rebounded Chaminade by just one board, 25-24. Nine of those Chaminade rebounds were of the offensive variety, which led to six second-chance points. Comparatively, Ohio State had four offensive rebounds, which led to just three second-chance points.
OSU won the rebounding battle while the game was still competitive, but barely. By the end of the game, Ohio State had out-rebounded Chaminade 49-41, but the advantage climbed as the game got more and more out of hand.
Against a Division-II team that kind of effort will fly, but it won’t against Purdue, Michigan, or Indiana. Collectively, the Buckeyes have to get after it on the glass — on both ends.
Holden might be your drought-snapper
One of the biggest questions with this particular Ohio State team is “who will get you a bucket when everything goes stale?” In basketball terms: when an offensive possession is going nowhere and the shot clock starts to dwindle, who do you pass the ball to and tell to go make something happen? Tonight, that person was, without question, Holden.
The fourth-year transfer from Wright State had 19 first-half points on 7-9 shooting, including hitting two three-pointers and going 3-4 from the free throw line. It is D-II competition, but Holden drove to the basket with conviction repeatedly with both hands and on both sides of the basket. He finished with 25 points in 25 minutes.
Justice Sueing will be one of Ohio State’s biggest offensive weapons this season, but perhaps his absence was good for Holden to build confidence leading into the Buckeyes’ season opener next week.
Sean McNeil is not the next Justin Ahrens...… Bowen Hardman is
After a lot of effort and correction during the off-season and preseason, Chris Holtmann and his staff hammered the message home that despite McNeil being a career 38% three-point shooter, he is not “just like another player that this program had recently.” McNeil’s game is more well-rounded than that “mystery player” that Holtmann would not specifically name but we all knew who he was talking about — Ahrens.
That’s because the next Justin Ahrens is actually Bowen Hardman. Hardman, the overlooked member of Ohio State’s top-10 freshman class, scored 12 points on 4-6 shooting tonight, all from three-point land. Listed at a generous 6-foot-3 and 175 pounds, Hardman isn’t quite as far along physically as the other four freshmen class, but he made some noise during tonight’s game.
It was against a terrible defense and Hardman will certainly be at the back end of the Buckeyes’ rotation this season, but it doesn’t look like he’s going to redshirt. In fact, don’t be shocked if the Cincinnati Princeton graduate plays some meaningful minutes here and there for Ohio State.
Author’s note: Holtmann clarified after the game that Hardman’s nine minutes tonight were a product of game flow, and he does not expect him to see the same type of extended opportunity again this season. He said Hardman is just not “Progressed enough physically yet” to warrant the minutes.
With their exhibition with Chaminade in the books, the Buckeyes have five days off before they take on Robert Morris on Monday evening in their first official game of the season. The Colonials went 8-24 last season and 5-16 in the Horizon League. RMU is No. 293 in KenPom’s preseason rankings, and was picked to finish eighth (out of 11) in the Horizon League.
Ohio State’s season opener against Robert Morris tips off at 7:00 p.m. and will be broadcast exclusively on B1G+.