COLUMBUS — The season opener is rarely pretty, and the one at Ohio State was no exception.
The Buckeyes found themselves scoreless eight minutes into Wednesday night’s game against Cincinnati, had only 19 points at halftime and were in the thick of a rock fight at Value City Arena.
Ohio State’s offense snapped out of the first-half rut and outlasted Cincinnati 64-56 on Wednesday night for its second-straight season-opening win over the instate foes.
It was never going to be an easy game, opening the season with a tough opponent like the Bearcats. But now the Buckeyes have a solid win on their resume and a chance to regroup, watch tape and learn before hosting UMass-Lowell on Sunday. But first, Lettermen Row is starting the season with Three Points (and a bonus) as Ohio State begins the year with a win.
Kyle Young can be huge for Ohio State
Maybe Ohio State was just going through some early-November offensive jitters. But the Buckeyes couldn’t find offense for much of the first half, and the 19 first-half points might hold up as the season-low for points in a half. But the bright spot of the offensive struggles — 31 percent from the floor in the opening half — was junior Kyle Young, who nearly had a double-double in the first half alone. Young had six first-half offensive rebounds, eight rebounds overall and 10 points. As the offense got going, Young continued to clean the glass and score around the basket after grabbing the rebounds, a welcome sign for the Buckeyes moving forward. He finished with 14 points and 13 rebounds.
Andre Wesson can contain elite scorer
Ohio State’s defensive success can be pinned on both teams struggling to shoot. It can also be credited to Andre Wesson holding Cincinnati guard Jarron Cumberland, the reigning American Athletic Conference Player of the Year who averaged 19 points per game last season, to just 13 points. Cumberland’s poor showing can be linked to just a bad night, or maybe some early-season rust to shake off. But the Buckeyes did their part to limit one of the premier scorers in the AAC with the defensive effort of Wesson, among others.
Offense still plays through Kaleb Wesson
Simply put, the Buckeyes offense will go as Kaleb Wesson goes. That’s not to say he will always lead Ohio State in scoring — he will a lot this season — but the ball gets dumped into Wesson on the block on a majority of the offensive possessions. That’s how Chris Holtmann will run his half-court offense. As long as Wesson stays out of foul trouble, which was a struggle late Wednesday, he’ll will be the focal point for an Ohio State offense that can only build off its offensive performance. Oh, and he can knock down shots from the outside, helping him stretch the floor and open the offense.
Buckeyes young talent has room to grow
It’s to be expected, but DJ Carton and E.J. Liddell left quite a bit of room for improvement after their first Division I college basketball action. Carton got his first bucket out of the way in the first half, while Liddell finally scored late in the game. The highly-touted freshman weren’t supposed to come in the game and take it over, so their time on the court will make for good teaching moments later this week. Carton did go on a small 5-0 run by himself to widen the lead late in the second half to help lift the Buckeyes, so there were some positives for the freshman. Holtmann noted that the exhibition game against Cedarville — a game in which both Carton and Liddell looked impressive — wouldn’t be the same as the opener against Cincinnati. They learned that.