Buckeyes cap their up and down weekend with an impressive hammering of South Carolina State. And they were…what they thought they were!
Columbus – To rip off from the book of quotes by late Minnesota Vikings coach Dennis Green, South Carolina State was exactly what everyone inside Value City Arena thought it would be. Only in this case it wasn’t a formidable team, but the basketball version of a cupcake with sprinkles.
The Bulldogs of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference might not be the 348th worst team out of 353 Division I teams that KenPom.Com has them ranked, but they certainly were the perfect tune-up for a team under construction.
What Buckeyes coach Chris Holtmann wanted to see was how the players would respond after their impressive 69-60 victory over Creighton on Thursday in Omaha in the Dave Gavitt Tip-Off Games.
Ohio State started out minus a hangover from that game and, other than 15 turnovers and some dead spots here and there, looked strong and alert in an 89-61 victory over the Bulldogs before what the university announced was a crowd of 10,935.
“We moved and shared the ball well,’’ Holtmann said. “But we still are turning it over too much. We’ve got to build habits on how we want to play possession by possession. We’ve got a long ways to go.’’
Sophomore center Kaleb Wesson led with 18 points – 17 coming in the first half – and 12 rebounds. Freshman guard Duane Washington Jr. was next with 14 points. Freshman guard Luther Muhammad had 12 points and four assists and freshman center-forward Jaedon LeDee 12 points and five rebounds.
The largest lead was 35 points with 4:27 left to play when walk-ons Joey Lane and Danny Hummer checked into the lineup.
The Buckeyes fed Wesson, who is 6 feet 9, 270 pounds, on their first possession and kept it up. Three of his baskets came from three-point range.
A letdown, he said, was not going to happen.
“Our leadership never lets us fall off,’’ he said.
As for the three-pointers, Wesson said, “Coach gave me the green light to shoot that.’’
South Carolina State coach Murray Garvin came away impressed by the big man.
“We’ve tried, but unfortunately we can’t grow a player 6-9, 270,’’ he said. “Wesson is a heck of a player. I believe his best basketball is still ahead. He actually drew 12 fouls from our post players, and I’ve never seen that before. His game can go to another level. They went inside to the big fella and they just kept going.’’
One of his big men is a walk-on from the football team.
Garvin paid the Buckeyes a compliment saying, “They really don’t care who scores.’’
Center-forward Micah Potter threw Ohio State into a bind when he announced that he was transferring two days before the opener against Cincinnati. Now, his absence might not be all that big a deal.
LeDee, a four-star recruit from Houston, got 17 minutes, 12 seconds playing his third game. He’s being force fed as the No. 3 big man behind Wesson and Kyle Young.
LeDee is listed at 6-9, but probably is closer to 6-7, and weighs 230 pounds. He is built like a power forward or smallish center, but has made 18 of 22 free throws with a soft, confident touch and is comfortable stroking the 15-foot jumper.
Holtmann said the staff wants LeDee eventually to increase his range all the way to the three-point line. But he also can bump and grind underneath the basket.
“I’ve seen that in J since June,’’ Wesson said of LeDee. “It’s huge being out there getting used to the speed (of the game).’’
LeDee’s public speaking is on the same plane as his game – under control.
“I always try to be ready,’’ he said. “I’ve done fine. We’re winning. I’m having fun out there with my brothers.’’
And that, for him, is an oratory.
It became apparent that South Carolina State had nothing for Ohio State in trailing 33-14 on a three-pointer by Muhammad with 6:13 left in the first half.
The in-game fan entertainment staff pretty much summed up the atmosphere by zooming in on a woman who was fast asleep a couple minutes before halftime. Everyone knew that this game would be lopsided. No television network bought the broadcast rights.
By late in the second half, the woman was wide awake and enjoying the cameras giving the crowd an update on her consciousness.
She actually witnessed the best moments, such as Washington catching an alley-oop from Muhammad with one hand and getting the ball to trickle into the hoop. He was fouled and completed the three-point play to make it 73-43 with 7:33 left.
Less than two minutes later, Muhammad got grazed across the face by a defender’s hand, but finished the drive for a left-handed layup for another three-point play.
Then it was LeDee’s turn to have some fun by ramming home a dunk off a lob from Muhammad. What made the play spectacular was that Muhammad was on the floor in tracking down the ball after a mad scramble. That made it 82-45 with 4:45 left.
Freshman guard-forward Justin Ahrens of Versailles got 10 minutes, 30 seconds playing time. He hit a three-pointer from the top of the key with 8:50 left, missed a step-back trey from about the same spot and got the crowd chirping with a steal and dunk with 51 seconds left. He had one rebound.
Ahrens did have his man throw in a three-pointer over him, but was aggressive defensively by moving his feet and steering clear of screens.
Holtmann was disappointed with the team’s turnovers and “inconsistent defensive approach.’’
“We better get better,’’ he said of Tuesday night’s game at The Schott against Samford.