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Buckeyes buck Buccaneers, begin season 2-0

Zed Key’s first-half double-double got Ohio State on the right track early, taking the lead two minutes in and never looking back.

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

Following a convincing 38-point win on opening night, the Ohio State men’s basketball team (2-0) returned to the floor Thursday evening against Big South cellar dweller Charleston Southern with their eyes set on starting the season 2-0 for the 19th-straight season. They did that easily, rolling over the Buccaneers 82-56.

Charleston Southern (1-1) entered the game as the No. 320 team in the nation according to KenPom. They won one game in the Big South last season, finishing in last place for the second-straight season. Despite the low expectations surrounding the Buccaneers’ program this season, Chris Holtmann described CSU center Taje Kelly as a “big kid and a load down low” and junior guard Tahlik Chavez as “an all-conference caliber player” who would “present a challenge.”

The Buckeyes — on the other hand — were in high spirits following their most lopsided season opener in nine years earlier in the week. Nine players scored, and four guys scored in double digits during the Buckeyes’ win over Robert Morris. With the Maui Invitational looming, the first three games of the season are more of a measuring stick as to how well Ohio State can blends a handful of new faces, more than anything else.

Just like in game one, Chris Holtmann went with a starting five of Bruce Thornton, Sean McNeil, Justice Sueing, Isaac Likekele, and Zed Key. Charleston Southern countered with Tyeree Bryant, Chavez, Kelly, RJ Johnson, and Cheikh Faye.

After Chavez started the scoring with a high difficulty up-and-under layup 30 seconds into the game, Key went to work on the other end, scoring six consecutive points to give Ohio State a 6-2 lead. A McNeil three-pointer and a Sueing layup made it 11-2 and the Buckeyes were off and running fur minutes into the game. Key had three offensive rebounds over the first four minutes, and all three of them turned into Ohio State baskets.

Once the Buckeyes took the lead 1:51 into the game, they never turned back around. They outscored the Buccaneers 30-5 after the opening basket, holding a 30-7 lead at the under-eight media timeout. Key had racked up 13 points by this point, but took a seat at the 11:12 mark. Ohio State was knocking down shots, but Charleston Southern was struggling mightily on the offensive end. The Buccaneers hoisted up last-second prayers on several occasions to avoid shot clock violations, and were having a hard time driving past Key and Okpara to get high-percentage looks.

Ohio State led 46-22 at halftime, which was actually closer than it probably could have been — the Buccaneers outscored Ohio State 8-7 over the final 4:11 of the first half. Key led all scorers with 13 points, while Sueing had nine. The Buckeyes also had 10 offensive rebounds in the first half after grabbing 14 total in the win against Robert Morris.

A McNeil tip-in on a missed layup by Zed Key pushed the lead to a game-high 30 points at the 15:59 mark, 57-27. Despite the game being out of hand, Key’s motor had yet to stall, and his teammates were feeding off of that and getting him the ball as much as possible.

Charleston Southern did not let the game get much more out of hand than it already was, keeping close with Ohio State down the stretch and not falling behind by more than the 30 points they were trailing by. Ohio State’s defense began to lag a bit in the second half, allowing CSU to shoot near the 40% mark for much of the second half. The OSU offense, however, was averaging nearly 1.3 points per possession — an elite mark. Ohio State held a 74-47 lead at the under-eight media timeout.

More basketball happened over the final eight minutes, but it was out of reach well before that. When the final buzzer sounded, the Buckeyes had emerged victorious, 82-56. Key was the leading scorer with 17 points, while Sensabaugh (14), McNeil (13), and Sueing (11) all scored in double digits as well. Chavez led CSU with 13 points on 5-10 shooting.

If you didn’t catch tonight’s shellacking of the Buccaneers, here’s a few important moments and notes from Ohio State’s second win of the season:

Seconds, anyone?

Against a team with only two players taller than 6-foot-7, Key was as aggressive in the post as he’s ever been since joining the Ohio State basketball program. He had six points and three rebounds over the first four minutes, with all three of those early rebounds happening to also be of the offensive variety. All three of those offensive rebounds wound up leading to second-chance points for the Buckeyes, as they took the lead for good just 1:51 into the game.

Key would finish the first half with 13 points, 10 rebounds, and one assist in 13 minutes.

Tanner Holden runs a little point

Brice Sensabaugh, Tanner Holden, and Roddy Gayle checked in at the under-12 timeout, and Holden assumed point guard duties for a substantial stretch for the first time as a Buckeye (that I can recall). With Holden, Gayle, Sensabaugh, Likekele, and Okpara on the floor, it was Holden — not Likekele — that brought the ball up for several minutes until Thornton checked back in at the 8:32 mark. Holden finished the first half with two points, three rebounds, and two assists.

Sensabaugh settling in

Although it’s been against poor competition, Brice Sensabaugh has looked extremely comfortable against collegiate competition thus far. After scoring 17 in his collegiate debut, he scored eight points in the first half against Charleston Southern on 3-6 shooting. More importantly, he did it while only taking one three-pointer. Sensabaugh’s ability to drive to the basket and body guards will be huge for him as Ohio State gets closer to Maui.

Sensabaugh finished with 14 points and 4 rebounds over 18 minutes. He’s scored in double digits in both of his college games.

Key puts up a double-double in the first half

Key’s 13 points and 10 rebounds in the first half was good for his fourth career double-double, and his second of the season. Key also had 13 points and 10 rebounds against Robert Morris on Monday, but that took 21 minutes. On Thursday, he did it in 13.

Key would finish the game with 17 points, 13 rebounds, and one assist over 21 minutes.

Charleston Southern refused to lose by 50

There wasn’t much to write about on the Charleston Southern side because well.... *gestures at everything*. But when this game started to look like it was going to get so out of hand that Ohio State might win by 50, the Buccaneers swung back and made sure that was not so.

After Sensauagh’s midrange jumper at the 15:16 mark gave Ohio State a 59-27 lead, Charleston Southern went on a 7-0 run to bring the deficit back to 25 points. Not that it made a difference, but they deserve a little bit of respect for realizing things were sliding rapidly into “very embarrassing” territory and they did something to stop it. Four of those seven points came courtesy of Claudell Harris Jr.

Turnovers still an issue

Chris Holtmann was pleased with most of the Buckeyes’ performance on Monday, but how they took care of the basketball against Robert Morris was the one area he was not happy. Ohio State turned the ball over 14 times in their first game, and followed that with 12 more Thursday against Charleston Southern. It doesn’t lie solely on the shoulders of their freshman point guard, either — eight different Buckeyes coughed up the rock at least once.

Up Next:

Ohio State (2-0) has five days off before welcoming Eastern Illinois (0-1) to the Schottenstein Center on Wednesday night. The panthers went to Illinois for their season opener on Monday and got rocked, 87-57. They are currently the No. 354 team in the country, according to KenPom. Wednesday’s game will tip off at 7:00 p.m. E.T. and will be broadcast on Big Ten Network.