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Ohio State men’s basketball vs. Cincinnati: Game preview and prediction

Ohio State looks to bounce back against the Bearcats after a loss to San Diego State in the Maui Invitational opening round.

Maui Invitational - Ohio State v San Diego State Photo by Darryl Oumi/Getty Images

The Ohio State Buckeyes men’s basketball team (3-1) is looking to bounce back after suffering their first loss to No. 17 San Diego State in the opening round of the 2022 Maui Invitational. The Aztecs used an 11-point halftime differential to take down the Buckeyes 88-77.

The first half proved to be the Buckeye’s demise in this one, falling down 37-26 after shooting just 1-for-11 from three-point range. Ohio State center Zed Key also got into early foul trouble and the Aztecs started knocking down their shots before the Buckeyes did.

This was a tale of two halves, as the Buckeyes came out scoring in the second half, but the Aztecs came out hot as well. The Buckeyes cut the deficit to four points at one point in the second half, but the Aztecs immediately went on an 8-0 run in 39 seconds behind two three-pointers from Micah Parrish to extend their lead back to a dozen points. The Buckeyes kept scoring to keep them in the game, but could not string together enough consecutive stops on defense to make the game truly competitive.

Buckeye guard and West Virginia transfer Sean McNeil recorded a team-high 22 points in a team-high 31 minutes, including 20 of those coming in the second half and 10 coming from a 10-point McNeil streak for the Buckeyes where he put the team on his back and did all the scoring. McNeil finished 9-for-14 from the field and 3-for-7 from three-point range.

Buckeye star freshman Brice Sensabaugh came into this one averaging 17 points and five rebounds per game. He recorded 17 points and five rebounds to hold that line steady, despite it being against much higher-level competition than before.

Freshman point guard Bruce Thornton had his best game of his young career to this point, recording 13 points on 4-for-8 shooting from the field and 2-for-5 shooting from three-point range. Thornton also finished with three rebounds, three assists, two steals, and just one turnover in 25 minutes against the tenacious Aztec defense.

The Buckeyes fall to 3-1 on the season after defeating Robert Morris, Charleston Southern and Eastern Illinois to start the season. After playing Cincinnati (3-2), the Buckeyes will either play No. 21 Texas Tech or the struggling Louisville Cardinals for their third and final game on Wednesday.


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

Ohio State will take on their in-state rival Cincinnati Bearcats in the second round of the Maui Invitational after the Bearcats fell to No. 14 Arizona 101-93 late Monday night. Memphis and Virginia Tech transfer Landers Nolley II scored 33 points on 12-for-18 shooting from the field and 9-for-14 from behind the three-point line. Both the 33 points and nine made three-pointers were career-highs for the senior from Fairburn, Georgia.

Viktor Lakhin finished with 17 points in 19 minutes. Mika Adams-Wood finished with 11 points and Jeremiah Davenport finished with 10 points to round out a well-rounded Cincinnati offensive attack at the Lahaina Civic Center.

Similar to the Buckeyes, the Bearcats were down by double digits at halftime and even though they got incredibly hot on offense in the second half, they struggled to get a stop on defense against the Wildcats. Cincinnati scored 63 points in the second half and Arizona scored 61 to win by eight.

Cincinnati started 3-0 on the season but has now lost two in a row to Northern Kentucky and Arizona. The Bearcats will be hungry to get on the right track against the Buckeyes and try to avoid falling to .500 on the season with three straight losses, while the Buckeyes still have their sights set on leaving Maui with two wins in their pocket.


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

Not a shocker to anyone here, the defense will have to be better for the Buckeyes in this one. Cincinnati can score the ball and is averaging 79.6 points per game through their first five. The Buckeyes looked solid on defense in their first three games and in the first half against San Diego State, but struggled mightily to get a stop when they needed one in the second half against the Aztecs. In order to make up a deficit or extend a lead, this team will need to learn how to get consecutive stops in a row. They weren’t able to do that last night.

They will also need more from their returners in Justice Sueing and Zed Key. Key was averaging 13 points and 12 rebounds per game heading into their fourth game, but was in foul trouble all night and only finished with seven points and three rebounds. Sueing scored 20 points in the Buckeyes' opening game against Robert Morris but over the last three games has struggled from the field. Sueing scored just six points on 3-for-11 shooting but was able to record six rebounds, two assists, a steal, and a block.

The freshmen such as Sensabaugh and Thornton have been solid offensively and McNeil and Wright State transfer Tanner Holden are starting to look more comfortable with the ball in their hands, but the x-factors on this team are Key and Sueing. They need to be the focal points for this team and what they can accomplish offensively.

I think they both get back on track against Cincinnati and help the Buckeyes get to 4-1 total and 1-1 in Maui.

ESPN BPI: Ohio State 70.0% win probability
Time: 5:00 p.m. ET

LGHL score prediction: Ohio State 76-71