CINCINNATI, Ohio — Many people thought going into the 2018-19 Ohio State men’s basketball season that this would be a down year for the Buckeyes.
And why wouldn’t people think that?
They lost five of their top seven scorers from last season, including 2017-18 Big Ten Player of the Year Keita Bates-Diop, and they brought in a recruiting class which wasn’t all that highly touted. For all those reasons, most picked the Buckeyes to finish the season in the bottom half of the Big Ten.
Yet, Ohio State sent a statement Wednesday night with their 64-56 road victory over Cincinnati. They sent a message that they have no intentions of this being a “rebuilding year”.
Ohio State played above everyone’s expectations on Wednesday, especially on the defensive side of the ball as the Buckeyes held the Bearcats to just 27% shooting from the field for the entire game.
This game may have felt close, but Ohio State took the lead with 14:50 left in the first half and they never gave up the lead for the entirety of the game.
Ohio State only shot 43% from the field vs. Cincinnati, but plenty of experienced and inexperienced players alike turned in solid performances as veterans C.J. Jackson and Kaleb Wesson both turned in double-digit games while freshman Luther Muhammad scored eleven points in his Buckeye debut and Kyle Young posted ten points and eight rebounds in his first start for Ohio State.
“I thought we did some really good things,” head coach Chris Holtmann said when I asked him if he thought Ohio State played better than what he was expecting. “I was pleased with our poise and we made shots like I thought we would, but it’s too early for me to make any statements on how we’re going to be [the rest of the season].”
And Chris is right. It is just one game after all.
But it was an important game and Ohio State won it.
When asked the same question, sophomore forward Kaleb Wesson responded, “Oh no. I always talk about preparation and we’ve been preparing for this game since June. I felt comfortable with every player we had out there.”
The Buckeyes did look pretty comfortable together, especially defensively. There are still plenty of things they need to work on offensively, especially in moving the ball as Ohio State only had a combined seven assists for the entire game, but it was certainly a good start for a team that isn’t projected to be a contender this season.
Chris Holtmann is right. The season is still much too early and it’s impossible to make sweeping judgements or statements after only one game, but this was certainly a great start for Ohio State and sends a statement to their doubters that they will not be an easy opponent this season.
As I’ve said and Holtmann said and everyone is thinking, it’s still early so we don’t know what this team is going to look like over the course of the season, but if tonight was an indication of what we can expect moving forward and if the Buckeyes continue to improve in the coming weeks, this could be a team that contends for the Big Ten for the second year in a row.
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