Second-Half Explosion Leads To OSU’s Second Win
While Ohio State’s season-opening win at Cincinnati was impressive in terms of significance, setting and team defense, there were still a couple reasons for concern.
Is this an OSU team that is going to be offensively challenged?
Is the front line too thinned out with the sudden transfer of 6-10 veteran Micah Potter?
How would Chris Holtmann’s basketball Buckeyes follow-up in their home debut vs. Purdue-Fort Wayne?
The response to those questions and others, it turned out, was overtly positive.
Coming off a defensive grinder at UC on Wednesday night, OSU glided to 2-0 on the young season with a 107-61 rout of the visiting Mastodons Sunday afternoon at the Schottenstein Center.
After leading just 41-34 at halftime and allowing the first hoop of the second half, the Buckeyes exploded with a 25-5 run to gain total control and point guard C.J. Jackson put on a shooting exhibition.
“It was an interesting game because the halves were so different,” said Holtmann, who was celebrating his 47th birthday. “There are a lot of good things we can take from this game. We are maybe not as good as we were in the second half. They struggled there and that’s not how good they really are, either.”
PFW fell to 1-2 on the season and looked outclassed in the second 20 minutes. The Mastadons’ other loss was a 96-71 loss at UCLA.
Meanwhile, Jackson may be on his way to a big season. He tallied a career-high 25 points and ended up 8 of 11 from the floor, adding six rebounds and five assists. He canned four three-pointers included three in a row in about a 150-second span.
“This was just a good feeling,” Jackson said. “We had to string a couple of good days in practice. We knew they would come in and make some tough shots. We focused on the defensive end first and just executed our plan.
“Right after that game (at Cincinnati), Coach emphasized our next few practices. We knew the Fort Wayne team would come in here and try to win. We had to be prepared. The way we played in the first half wasn’t good enough. If we had kept playing like that, it would have been a dogfight.”
Young guards Luther Muhammad and Musa Jallow helped the onslaught with key buckets as the Buckeyes opened up a 25-point lead (66-41) at the under-12 timeout.
The Buckeyes hit 18 of 28 shots (64.3 percent) including 11 of 18 from long range (61.1 percent) in the second half, rolling to a 66-27 advantage in the stanza.
Freshman guard Duane Washington Jr. also did major damage to the PFW defense, supporting Jackson with 20 points and bagging six triples.
OSU finished 15 of 28 (53.6 percent) from three-point range.
But not all of the eye-opening play came from the backcourt. Another frosh, 6-9 Jaedon LeDee, added 16 points, seven rebounds and four blocked shots. He did not play at UC but looked comfortable opening his career before the home crowd.
LeDee’s output also was notable on a night when starting center Kaleb Wesson was held to eight points and seven rebounds in 19 minutes.
“Their defense was built around stopping Kaleb,” Holtmann said. “They were set up to try and do that. That won’t be the only team we play that will be set up to try and stop him. We have to continue to look in there and also be prepared to take the open shot.”
LeDee’s aggression led to him drawing seven fouls. He finished 12 of 14 at the foul line and 2 of 2 from the floor.
Similarly, Muhammad already looks like a confident difference-maker despite being a newcomer.
“That’s credit to my teammates, C.J., Keyshawn (Woods) and everyone on the team,” he said. “They allow us to be ourselves and just play. If we take a bad shot, they let us know and whatever. They never yell. They coach us through every play and every decision we make. I thank my teammates for that and the older guys on the team.”
While the win and long-range shooting show was crowd-pleasing, PFW coach Jon Coffman, who is a good friend of Holtmann’s, was impressed for other reasons.
“You guys are going to enjoy some good basketball this season,” Coffman said. “Coach has the Buckeyes playing really good defense right now. If they play that kind of defense, they will have a lot of success. I will attribute our lack of success in the second half to what they were doing defensively.”
Coffman probably was sensing his team had a chance after a three-point play by PFW’s Kason Harrell and a three by Dee Montgomery cut the OSU lead to 29-26 with 5:07 left in the first half.
However, Washington nailed back-to-back threes to create the 41-34 halftime lead and set the tone for the second half.
“Without Duane’s two threes at the end of the half, it’s basically a tie game,” Holtmann said. “That broke it open a bit and gave us some life.”
Washington and Woods scored on consecutive treys during a run that built the lead to 78-46 and allowed Holtmann to clear his bench. The fans who stuck around got the exclamation point they were seeking as the beloved Joey Lane added a three of his own with 2:14 left.
Next up for the Buckeyes will be a trick trek to the state of Nebraska and a date with 2-0 Creighton on Thursday (7 p.m., FOX Sports 1). The matchup is part of the Gavitt Games, which pits Big Ten teams against foes from the Big East.
Holtmann called that contest “another tremendous challenge.”