The Ohio State men’s basketball team (11-2, 1-1) closed out its non-conference schedule with a 78-75 over the West Virginia Mountaineers (5-8) at the Legends of Basketball Showcase at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse in Cleveland on Saturday night.
Sophomore Roddy Gayle Jr. put the Buckeyes on his back with a career-high 32 points on a night when no one else in scarlet and gray was shooting particularly well. Ohio State led by as many as 14 in the first half and led for nearly the entire game, but the Mountaineers kept the game close and tied the game at 65 with less than a minute left. The Buckeyes got the last possession of regulation, but a shot clock violation robbed them of the final shot sending the game to overtime.
Multiple three-point buckets — from Jamison Battle, Bruce Thornton, and Gayle — got the Buckeyes in the lead early in the extra period, and kept them there for the duration. However, four missed Buckeye free throws in the final minute gave the Mountaineers the chance to tie the game and force a second OT. But, WVU missed its own key free throw with less than 10 seconds remaining, essentially ending the game.
The Buckeyes will jump back into conference play on Wednesday at home against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, who have started their season 8-4 but are coming off just a one-point win over 2-13 Stonehill Saturday afternoon.
The Buckeyes came into this contest ranked No. 30 in the country according to KenPom, while West Virginia came into this one ranked No. 132 on KenPom. The last time the Buckeyes took on the Mountaineers was a 67-59 loss at the end of 2019. The Buckeyes were outscored 36-22 in the second half to lose a six-point halftime lead and committed 22 turnovers the last time these teams met.
Ohio State is led by the sophomore backcourt duo Bruce Thornton and Roddy Gayle. Thornton comes into this one averaging 17.4 points and 4.1 assists per game, while Gayle is averaging 13.8 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 3.3 assists per game. Transfer senior forward Jamison Battle averages 14.1 points and 4.7 rebounds per game.
For West Virginia, Quinn Slazinski leads the way at 15.9 points per game and 5.0 rebounds per game. RaeQuan Battle is averaging 29 points per game but has only played two games as he was awaiting a transfer appeal.
West Virginia has struggled to start the season, but they recently got back Battle, Noah Farrakhan, and Kerr Krissa, three starters who missed the first part of the season for a variety of reasons. Krissa is averaging 11.7 points and 7.7 assists per game in three games, and Farrakhan is averaging 14.3 points and 4.0 rebounds per game in three games.
The game tipped at 7:07 Eastern time. Ohio State won the tip and things started with a three-pointer from RaeQuan Battle and then another from Roddy Gayle.
Just two minutes into the game, Jamison Battle went for a rebound and came down awkwardly on his lower leg. He went back to the locker room immediately and was replaced by freshman Scotty Middleton. Battle ran back out of the locker room and back onto the Buckeye bench four minutes later.
The Buckeyes jumped out to a lead early on, leading 12-5 at the first media timeout. Roddy Gayle recorded seven quick points, including a great steal on a West Virginia inbounds pass after a Bruce Thornton three-pointer. Battle then hit a floater to give the Buckeyes a 16-6 double-digit lead with 12 minutes left in the first half at the second media timeout.
Following four free throws from Felix Okpara and Evan Mahaffey and a jumper from Gayle, the Buckeyes extended the lead to 14, 24-10. However, West Virginia answered with a 9-0 run to cut the deficit to just five as the Buckeyes struggled shooting the ball, going 2-for-18 in that stretch.
The Mountaineers closed the half on a 16-4 run to cut the Buckeye lead to just two with 20 minutes remaining, mostly due to the poor shooting from the Buckeyes. Ohio State was held scoreless for more than five minutes while West Virginia cut into the lead.
Roddy Gayle led the Buckeyes with nine first-half points, while Quinn Slazinksi led the Mountaineers with nine points on the other side. The Buckeyes won the first-half turnover battle, recording just five to West Virginia’s eight.
To start the second half, Gayle got going once again, knocking down a bucket for the Buckeyes, and RaeQuan Battle answered for West Virginia on the other end. Jamison Battle was 0-for4 from the three-point range but knocked down two immediately out of the break to give the Buckeyes a six-point lead. Gayle got two more points and extended the lead to eight. Noah Farrakhan knocked down a big three-pointer for the Mountaineers to stop the 7-0 Buckeye run, and by the under-12 timeout, the Buckeyes held on to a 42-38 lead.
Roddy Gayle recorded five straight points for Ohio State to extend the lead to 47-40, but Noah Farrakhan answered for West Virginia. Back-to-back three-pointers from Scotty Middleton and RaeQuan Battle made the score 50-45 Ohio State.
Three free throws from Roddy Gayle gave the Buckeyes a 56-49 lead with just under eight minutes left. Noah Farrakhan also picked up his fourth foul after recording 13 second-half points.
Ohio State took a 61-53 lead after a Jamison Battle three-pointer, but five straight points from the Mountaineers cut the Buckeye lead to just three. With 3:35 left in the game, Ohio State led 61-58.
Ohio State led 65-63 with 42.0 seconds left in the game. West Virginia tied the game at 65 with 26 seconds remaining, and Roddy Gayle missed the jumper at the buzzer, and the game was sent to extra time.
FREE BASKETBALL COMING UP! pic.twitter.com/4pwXRJkLyP— FOX College Hoops (@CBBonFOX) December 31, 2023
Bruce Thornton struggled in regulation but recorded six straight points to take a 77-71 lead. Evan Mahaffey recorded a key offensive rebound off a missed free throw to get the Buckeyes a second chance.
With the Buckeyes leading 78-75, Evan Mahaffey recorded a huge offensive rebound, but missed both free throws. However, on the other end, Kerr Krissa missed the one-and-one, and the Buckeyes dribbled out the ball to win the game 78-75.
Roddy Gayle led Ohio State with 32 points, and Jamison Battle added 17. Noah Farrakhan recorded 19 points for the Mountaineers, and RaeQuan Battle had 21 points.
Here are some storylines from the game.
Homecoming for Dale Bonner
Fairmont State and Baylor transfer Dale Bonner returned home to Cleveland for this one, as he grew up in Shaker Heights, Cleveland, and went to Shaker Heights High School.
Bonner averaged 18.4 points his senior season at Shaker Heights, earning second-team all-area honors. He averaged over 20 points per game at Fairmont State over two seasons and averaged just under four points per game at Baylor, but was a force on defense for Scott Drew and the Bears.
Bonner is averaging 6.8 points per game and 3.0 rebounds per game in 21.7 minutes per game off the bench for the Buckeyes so far.
First-half shooting struggles
The first half was not a shooting clinic for either team, as the Buckeyes shot just 10-for-37 (27 percent) from the field and 2-for-15 (13 percent) from three-point range. They did not make a basket after going up 24-10 with 11 minutes left in the first half, missing eleven straight shots, seven of those being from three-point range. In the first half, Jamison Battle was 1-for-9 from the field, and Bruce Thornton was 2-for-7 from the field.
The bench was a combined 1-for-10, with Zed Key recording the only basket.
West Virginia was not much better, shooting 8-for-25 (32 percent) from the field and 2-for-8 (25 percent) from three-point range.
Controlling the glass
Even with the Buckeye's shooting struggles, Ohio State controlled the boards in the first half against the Mountaineers. They recorded 27 rebounds to the Mountaineers 19 and 12 offensive rebounds to West Virginia’s two. West Virginia’s 6-foot-11 center Jesse Edwards missed this contest due to injury.
Onto Conference Play
With the contest with West Virginia and the trip to Cleveland in the bag, the Buckeyes now turn their attention to the Big Ten. Ohio State’s last 18 games will all be conference games, starting with a home contest against Rutgers on Wednesday at 7 p.m. ET.