Things got exceptionally chippy between the Ohio State Buckeyes and Miami Redhawks on Wednesday night, in a game that the Buckeyes were favored to win by 22 points and was generally considered a tune-up for Big Ten play. Three technical fouls were assessed during the second half of Wednesday night’s game, which ultimately resulted in an 84-64 win for Ohio State.
“I think there’s a reason coaches have not played a ton of Ohio schools, you know?” Ohio State head coach Chris Holtmann said after the game. He went on, “Ohio schools, they play with a different way about them when they come in here. I was reminded of that before we played them. I think there’s always an energy in those games that’s just different, and we respect it.”
Miami coach Travis Steele was not made available to the media following Wednesday night’s game (as is typical for many non-conference games).
With 17:12 remaining in the game, Miami head coach Travis Steele — a former GA at Ohio State 20 years ago — took exception to a play where Ohio State’s Felix Okpara impacted Miami’s Evan Ipsaro’s shot, but no foul was called. After Ohio State went to the other end and scored on an Evan Mahaffey layup to take a 46-33 lead, Steele called timeout and immediately let the closest official hear it. Steele was assessed a technical within seconds, and Ohio State’s Jamison Battle knocked down both free throws to make it a 15-point lead.
Less than three minutes later, Miami was trying to inbound the basketball on the far end of the court, with Ohio State leading 51-35. Ipsaro (who seemed to be in the middle of everything) was the intended inboundee, but Scotty Middleton was all over him. In what looked like a big brother/little brother “I’m not touching you, I’m not touching you” moment, the 6-foot-7 Middleton was leaning on the 6-foot tall Ipraso, impeding him from moving towards the ball. Meanwhile, Middleton had both arms in the air, trying to show the officials that he wasn’t touching him (despite him leaning and bumping into him with his entire lower body).
The two started leaning shoulders into each other and were talking to each other, with the much shorter Ipsaro not giving an inch on his fellow freshman. The nearby official had to come over and separate the two of them, before giving Miami the basketball and allowing it to inbound the ball. To Ipsaro’s credit, he went at Middleton on the other end and wound up scoring about 10 seconds later. He would finish with eight points and five rebounds, while Middleton finished with just three points.
Not even 30 seconds later, it was Ohio State that was trying to inbound the basketball under its own basket. Bruce Thornton was struggling to find a target on the near side of the court, so Roddy Gayle started running towards the backcourt, with his back to Thornton and the rest of the action. Miami’s Ryan Mabrey chased him down, and when Thornton’s long inbounds pass came down, Mabrey unintentionally tripped Gayle, causing the Ohio State sophomore to fall awkwardly with his legs pointing to the side.
The other eight players on the floor immediately rushed over, a few guys had words for each other, and not much else came of it other than Mabrey being assessed a common foul.
Then, with 12:19 remaining in the game (yes, all of this happened in a five-minute stretch of play) Zed Key went straight up for a layup, and Ipsaro poked it out of his hand. The ball was loose, and several players dove into the pile for it, including Key, Ipsaro, Thornton, and Miami’s Darweshi Hunter.
In a massive pile of arms and legs, it was Key and Hunter who started to get into it, before teammates separated them. Key hopped up, put his arms in the air (the universal sign of “I did nothing wrong”), and jogged towards the other end of the court, away from the scrum. Offsetting technical fouls were assessed to Key and Hunter, who were coincidentally two of the biggest performers Wednesday night. Key had 13 points and 10 rebounds, good for his second double-double of the season. Hunter led Miami with 16 points and played a game-high 37 minutes.
After the game, Key said, “It was a whole big thing, but at the same time it wasn’t even a big thing.” Key also said that there were several men on top of his legs, and Key — who missed several months of action over with a shoulder injury this year — just wanted to get his legs free. Key also defended his sterling behavioral record, saying this was the first technical that he’s received in four years. This, in hindsight, turned out to be false, as Key was given a technical during Ohio State’s 77-44 win over Morehead State back on December 2, 2020 — Zed’s freshman year — for a hook-and-hold.
Technical given to Zed Key for, you guessed it, a hook and hold. Now a media timeout is called, even though we're not to the under-16 break.— Adam Jardy (@AdamJardy) December 2, 2020
We're all just muddling through, people. https://t.co/Vd9kBm0hTP
All in all, Wednesday night’s game between the two Ohio programs was accompanied by a whole lot more drama than anyone expected. This was only the 10th meeting between the two programs, with the last meeting coming back in 2017. There was no existing rivalry between the teams before this, but perhaps moving forward this will be a matchup to keep an eye on — if for no other reason than hoping for more fireworks.