Monday night’s game against No. 17 San Diego State was the first “real” test for this young Ohio State team that plays four freshmen in their rotation. While it did result in an 88-77 loss, the experience that guys like Bruce Thornton and Brice Sensabaugh got from playing a rugged, veteran team like SDSU should pay dividends down the road. Thornton (13 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists) and Sensabaugh (17 points, 5 rebounds) both played well, but the Buckeyes were never able to string together enough defensive stops to overcome what felt like an eternal 11-point deficit.
And while it was a “learning experience” and certainly will aid in the progression of this team over the long haul, it was still a loss. Ohio State (4-1) will not be heading home with the Maui Invitational Trophy — the best they can do at this point is a 2-1 record and a fifth-place finish.
One day after scoring 77 points against the eighth-best defensive team in America, the Buckeyes kept their offense in a groove while also doing much better guarding the perimeter. San Diego State scored 88 points and shot 47% from three last night — two numbers that the Buckeyes knew could not be repeated if they were going to knock off the Bearcars.
The Bearcats, like the Buckeyes, were outgunned in a high-scoring affair Monday night against No. 14 Arizona, 101-93. Defense was optional for both teams last night, but Cincinnati (3-3) has allowed teams to shoot better than 40% from three-point land all season long. It was a problem against Northern Kentucky last week and continued against Arizona, with both teams shooting better than 50% from downtown.
Wes Miller’s team went with a starting five of Landers Nolley II, Mika Adams-Woods, David DeJulius, Jeremiah Davenport, and Viktor Lakhin. Chris Holtmann countered with the same starting five that he’s run all season long: Bruce Thornton, Sean McNeil, Justice Sueing, Isaac Likekele, and Zed Key.
Cincinnati jumped out to an early 8-2 lead thanks in large part to Davenport, the junior guard from Cincinnati. He had six of Cincinnati’s first eight points on a pair of three-pointers. But the Buckeyes swung back with quickness, going on an 11-2 run to take a 13-10 lead. Ohio State’s surge was mostly from second-chance points, as they were able to grab rebounds on five of their first seven misses. Key in particular was a nuisance early on, with eight points and two boards over the first five minutes.
By the under-eight timeout, Ohio State clung to a slim 21-20 lead. Two guys who did not show up against San Diego State — Key and Sueing — did nearly all of the heavy lifting early, combing for 17 of OSU’s first 21 points. The problem, the math tells us, is that everyone else combined for four. The Bearcats were getting balanced scoring early from six different guys, but they gave Ohio State far too many second chances on the glass.
Thanks to a buzzer-beating three from Sensabaugh just before halftime, Ohio State carried a 38-27 lead into the break. Sueing and Key were great in the first half, combining for 21 points on 9-16 shooting, eight rebounds (five offensive), two assists, and just one turnover. Sensabaugh also had eight points. As a team, the Buckeyes out-rebounded Cincinnati 23-15 over the first 20 minutes. The 6-foot-11 Lakhin proved to be a tough assignment for Ohio State defensively, as he scored eight points on a perfect 4-4 shooting in the first half, plus two blocks.
The Buckeyes thoroughly dominated Cincinnati during the second half. They held the Bearcats to nine points over the first nine minutes of the second stanza, extending their lead from 11 points to 22. Sueing and Key did the work in the first half, but it was Sensabaugh and Thornton in the second half who helped Ohio State pull away. Felix Okpara’s layup with 10:38 remaining made it 60-38 Ohio State, and Wes Miller called timeout to regroup.
There was definitely more basketball that was played over the final 10 minutes of this one, but very little of it was consequential with Ohio State going ahead by 20+ points pretty early on in the second half. But despite leading by 20 or more points for most of the second half, the Buckeyes’ motor never slowed. They continued to crash the glass and refused to settle for low-percentage shots, resulting in a lopsided loss for the Bearcats and an impressive win for the Buckeyes.
When all was said and done, Ohio State had wrapped up a 79-53 victory over their rivals from down I-71. Key led Ohio State with 19 points and 8 rebounds. Sensabaugh and Thornton each chipped in with 17 apiece. Lakhin led Cincinnati with 12 points and 4 rebounds over 19 minutes.
If you weren’t able to catch Ohio State’s big win at Maui, here are a few of the moments that mattered!
Davenport sparks Bearcats to early lead
Davenport, the junior guard who was born in Cincinnati, popped two quick three-pointers over the first 90 seconds to give Cincinnati an 8-2 lead. They were deep, well-contested threes — the ones you assume won’t continue all game long, but on these soft Maui rims, they’ll drop.
Davenport would finish with eight points over 22 minutes.
Key, Sueing dominate offensive glass to get back in it
After falling behind early, the Buckeyes did major work on the glass to earn their way back into the game. Despite missing a ton of shots early, Ohio State was able to corral five of their first seven misses and score on those offensive rebounds. Through the first four minutes of this game, Ohio State had five offensive rebounds — including two apiece from Key and Sueing. At the 16:10 mark, Wes Miller was forced to call timeout after Ohio State took their first lead of the game, 9-8.
Sueing would finish the game with 11 points, 6 rebounds, and 1 steal over 26 minutes. Ohio State out-rebounded Cincinnati 42-29, with the Buckeyes winning the offensive rebound battle 19-12 as well.
McNeil takes a while to heat up, gives DeJulius problems
Less than 24 hours after scoring a season-high 22 points, McNeil was held scoreless over the first 12:50 of today’s game. But with Ohio State leading 21-20 with just over seven minutes remaining in the first half, he dribbled out of a double team towards the top of the three-point arc and rose up for a triple with the shorter DeJulius in his face. He canned it. On the ensuing possession, he took DeJulius off the dribble again for a fading, long two-point jumper just in front of the Cincinnati bench — a quick five points for the senior to hold Ohio State’s lead at 26-22.
McNeil would finish with just those five points over 26 minutes.
Key’s and-one (?) layup stretches Ohio State’s lead to 11
Already in the middle of a 7-0 run and up 33-24, Ohio State fed Key the ball on the right block. He pivoted several times and then went up with his right hand, fighting through contact from Lakhin to score and give the Buckeyes their first double-digit lead of the game. As soon as he put the shot up, the junior big man screamed “And-one!” to let the referees — and Lakhin know that he scored despite what he saw as a foul.
23 basket— Ohio State Hoops (@OhioStateHoops) November 22, 2022
CIN: 2⃣4⃣ pic.twitter.com/Dmj4fnzv0i
There was no foul, but the Buckeyes led by 11 with 2:40 left in the half.
Cincinnati cashes in after Buckeyes can’t corral missed FT
With 52 seconds remaining in the first half, Tanner Holden had the ball stolen and had no choice but to foul Dan Skillings Jr. to prevent an open-floor, fast-break bucket. Skillings made the first to make the score 35-25, but was well short on the second. Ohio State somehow didn’t get the rebound, instead, it was Nolley who got it and fed it back out to Skillings on the right wing for a three-point attempt.
Skillings missed, but the Bearcats grabbed their own rebound again — this time it was Adams-Woods below the basket. He went right up with it and scored to make it 35-27. The 28-second possession included extra possessions for the Bearcats — something that can’t happen.
Despite this rough possession, Ohio State still outscored Cincinnati in second-chance points, 27-16.
Up eight points and holding for the final possession, Ohio State couldn’t get much going on the final possession of the first half. With three seconds remaining, Sensabaugh chose to take a step-back three-pointer over the defender’s head and cashed it. He had eight-first half points, and that shot sent OSU to the locker room with a 38-27 lead.
Big Brice would go on to finish with 17 points and two rebounds over his 20 minutes.
Sensabaugh pours it on, gives Ohio State a 22-point lead
This game was pretty tight for much of the first half. The second half... was a different story.
The Buckeyes outscored the Bearcats 20-9 over the first nine minutes of the second half, with Thornton and Sensabaugh combining for 15 of those 20. With Ohio State up 56-36 with 11:19 remaining in the game, Sensabaugh caught a pass from Felix Okpara in the left corner. He took two dribbles to his right and shot a long two and knocked it down for his 14th and 15th points of the game. Ohio State took a 58-36 lead — their biggest lead of the game.
I flop, you flop, he, she, we, flop?
For the last few seasons, a “flop” was first punished by a warning, and then a class-A technical foul (two free throws and possession). This season, a flop is an immediate class-B technical foul (one free, throw, no possession).
Over a one-minute stretch late during the second half, Ohio State was whistled for two separate flops. With the game already out of hand, it didn’t matter, but perhaps the Buckeyes should practice their acting a bit tonight before they see Texas Tech tomorrow.
With 10:08 remaining in the game, Sensabaugh shot (and missed) a three. He fell backward and slid on his butt for a few feet and was assessed a flop foul.
With 8:53 remaining, Rob Phinisee drove to the basket and scored over Gayle, who fell straight onto his back and he was also assessed a flop foul.
Cincinnati hit both free throws earned from those flops, but it didn’t matter by that point.
Ohio State (4-1) will face No. 21 Texas Tech (4-1) in the fifth-place game of the Maui Invitational tomorrow at 2:30 p.m. E.T. This game will be broadcast on either ESPN2 or ESPNU.
The Red Raiders opened the tournament with a 76-65 loss to No. 10 Creighton on Monday night, before turning around and blowing out a still-winless Louisville team 70-38 on Tuesday afternoon.