Fresh off a crushing loss to the North Carolina Tar Heels in the CBS Sports Classic this weekend, the Ohio State Buckeyes (8-3, 1-0) returned home for a friendly matchup with the Maine Black Bears (6-6) out of the America East Conference. Maine did nab an early-season win against Boston College on the road, but two of their other five wins came against non-Division-I opponents. KenPom’s No. 303 team fought for a few minutes, but the Buckeyes had more or less wrapped this one up by the halftime buzzer.
With Ohio State being the 24-point favorite heading into the game, everyone knew it was going to be an uphill battle for their opponents from the Pine Tree State. Maine earned the Buckeyes’ respect early by knocking down a few long jumpers, but they couldn’t sustain that, and OSU ran the not-so-feisty black bears out of the building, 95-61.
With Isaac Likekele still away from the team while he deals with a family matter back home in Texas, Chris Holtmann went with a lineup of Bruce Thornton, Sean McNeil, Brice Sensabaugh, Justice Sueing, and Zed Key. Chris Markwood went with a starting five of Kellen Tynes, Ja’Shonte Wright-McLeish, Jaden Clayont, Gedi Juozapaitis, and Kristians Feierbergs.
After Maine took a brief 6-5 lead for 30 seconds early on, the Buckeyes scored seven straight points to take a 12-6 lead into the first media timeout 4:11 into the game. Key had five early points and was active on the glass, while Maine’s six points came on two three-pointers. Ohio State would not trail again from this point on.
Maine kept the Buckeyes within 10 points or so for the first eight minutes of the game, but Ohio State’s youngsters went on a tear to pretty much put the game away midway through the opening stanza. Felix Okpara checked in at the 11:43 mark to give Key a breather, and in roughly six minutes following that sub, he and his fellow freshman Sensabaugh scored 10 combined points to turn the Buckeyes’ nine-point lead into a 16-point lead, 34-18.
Ohio State took a 47-26 lead into the halftime break in thanks to a balanced scoring attack and a less-than-enthusiastic defensive effort from Maine. Sueing, Key, Sensabaugh, and Okpara all scored eight or more points, while Sensabaugh also set a career-high with four first-half assists. The Buckeyes shot a collective 55.3% in the first half, while Maine only connected on 34.4% of their field goal attempts.
Maine played Ohio State evenly for the first 10 minutes or so of the second half, but there was no chance they could close the 21-point gap that was created in the first half. A Tanner Holden layup with 11:48 remaining in the game gave Ohio State a 67-42 lead, as Chris Holtmann began to filter his rotation players in and out. The Buckeyes ran a lineup of all four freshmen alongside either Sueing or Holden a handful of times throughout the game, even early on when it wasn’t a blowout.
Not a whole lot had changed by the under-eight timeout, but the Buckeyes’ 25-point lead had shrunk to a smaller — but still insurmountable — 21-point lead. The Black Bears stunk up the joint with their first-half shooting, but improved mightily in the second half, shooting 43.8% in the second half — a marked improvement. This helped them keep up with the Buckeyes in the sense that the deficit didn’t get any worse — much to the chagrin of Chris Holtmann.
However, as time ticked away, Maine started heaving up desperate shots and essentially gave up on defense, and Ohio State’s lead got wider and wider. By the time all was said and done, the Buckeyes had completed a bounce-back blowout win over Maine, 95-61. Sensabaugh led all scorers with 19 points, as well as seven rebounds and a career-high seven assists. Sueing (15), Key (14), Thornton (11), and Okpara (10) all scored in double digits as well.
Did you miss Wednesday’s late-night Big Ten-America East action? Fear not — here are a few consequential plays and milestones we saw during the Buckeyes’ eighth win.
Maine takes an early first-half lead
The Black Bears are a below-average team shooting from distance, but were able to take an early 6-5 lead thanks to threes from Wright-McLeish and Juozapaitas. Maine held that 6-5 lead for exactly 30 seconds before Key’s and-one layup pulled the home team back ahead 8-6.
Maine finished the game going 6-25 (24%) from three-point land. Kellen Tynes led Maine with 19 points on 9-14 shooting.
No answer for Key below the basket
It happened in the first half against Rutgers and it happened against Maine tonight — when Zed Key decides to turn the motor up, there’s not much anyone can do to stop him. Key had 10 of Ohio State’s first 22 points tonight, including five points before the first media timeout.
He would go on to finish with 14 points, 6 rebounds, and 2 blocks over 24 minutes.
The kids are alright
With Ohio State leading 24-15 eight minutes into the game, two of Ohio State’s freshmen — Sensabaugh and Felix Okpara — outscored Maine 10-3 to extend the lead to 34-18 at the 6:12 mark. Okpara checked in for Key at the 11:43 mark and scored six straight points including a dunk and a tip-in, and then Sensabaugh scored on back-to-back possessions as well. Not to be forgotten, Thornton opened the scoring during tonight’s game with a three-pointer 22 seconds into the game.
Ohio State’s five freshmen — including Bowen Hardman, who saw mop-up minutes — combined to score 52 points on 23-36 shooting. The freshmen also racked up 18 rebounds and had an assist-to-turnover ratio of 14:4.
McNeil hits 1K
With his first-half three-pointer Wednesday night with 2:51 remaining in the first half, McNeil hit 1,000 points for his career. 900 of those points came over three seasons at West Virginia, and the next 100 were in scarlet and gray. During the second half, it was announced to all those in attendance that McNeil had hit the 1,000-point mark, to which everyone gave him a big applause.
McNeil finished tonight’s game with eight points on 3-6 shooting over 24 minutes. He also had two assists.
Key was Ohio State’s only double-digit scorer in the first half with 10 points, but all eight Buckeyes who saw time scored over the first 20 minutes. Sueing and Okpara both had eight first-half points, Sensabaugh had nine, and Thornton had five.
Sensabaugh hits double digits for the tenth time
Despite coming off the bench for all but three games this season, the reigning Big Ten Freshman of the Week had scored in double digits in nine of 10 games this year. With his turnaround jumper 1:37 into the second half tonight, Sensabaugh hit double digits for the 10th time this season.
Okpara ties a career-high
With Ohio State leading 67-45 and 10:29 remaining in the game, Thornton dribbled into the key and looked like he was going to throw up a right-handed floater. Instead, he tossed the ball up to the right of the rim, where Okpara grabbed it and slammed it home for his ninth and 10th points of the day. That bucket tied his career-high of 10 points — he also had 10 points against St. Francis on Dec. 3.
Ohio State (8-3, 1-0) gets one week off before returning home to face Alabama A&M (4-7) next Thursday. The Bulldogs are No. 329 in KenPom’s rankings, but they are one of the fastest-moving teams in America with an adjusted tempo of 72.2. That makes A&M the 38th-quickest team in the country as far as pace of play goes.
That game tips off at 3:00 p.m. ET on Thursday and will be broadcast on BTN.