LAS VEGAS – Waiting outside Ohio State's locker room in the bowels of T-Mobile Arena on Saturday afternoon, Duane Washington Jr. didn't hold back.
|#5 OHIO STATE||37||34||71|
"What a time to be a Buckeye," he shouted as his team readied to run out onto the court about a half hour before tipoff. Then he yelled it again, tossing in an expletive. His words were prescient. Less than three hours later, Washington and his teammates picked up another top-10 win, topping No. 6 Kentucky, 71-65, in Las Vegas as part of the CBS Sports Classic.
The victory improved Ohio State's record to 11-1. Though North Carolina is currently unranked and Villanova is currently 18th, both teams were in the top 10 when the Buckeyes beat them by 25 points apiece.
In a truly back-and-forth game that featured neither team going on a run of more than six unanswered points, Ohio State's lead dwindled to one with 6:46 remaining, but with big shots by DJ Carton and Luther Muhammad down the stretch and a late 3-pointer by CJ Walker, the Buckeyes put the Wildcats away for the win.
Before fouling out with Ohio State up six and 3:30 remaining, Kaleb Wesson scored 12 points and grabbed eight rebounds. Carton had 13 points and five rebounds. Kyle Young scored 10 points, all of which came in the first half. The Buckeyes only went 6-for-19 from beyond the 3-point arc but were deadly from the inside, making 50 percent of their total shots (22-of-44).
Nate Sestina came out of nowhere to power the Kentucky offense. The graduate transfer hadn't scored more than 12 points or hit more than one 3-pointer in any game this season, yet he had 17 points and made five triples versus the Buckeyes. Ashton Hagans and Tyrese Maxey also offered major contributions, scoring 14 and 15 points, respectively.
Certain key aspects of the game played out as most expected.
|22-44 (50.0%)||FGM-FGA (PCT.)||25-59 (42.4%)|
|6-19 (31.6%)||3PM-3PA (PCT.)||7-23 (30.4%)|
|21-27 (77.8%)||FTM-FTA (PCT.)||8-13 (61.5%)|
Kentucky entered Saturday ranked No. 329 in the country with a 27.5 3-point shooting percentage, and the team struggled to hit shots from beyond the arc. With the Buckeyes playing some of the game in a zone defense and daring the Wildcats to shoot from 3-point range, Kentucky went 7-of-23 from 3.
Ohio State, after committing 14 turnovers in its loss to Minnesota and 21 turnovers in its win against Southeast Missouri State, turned the ball over 14 times on Saturday. However, the Buckeyes only had five second-half turnovers.
After missing the past two games due to a rib injury, Washington returned to action on Saturday and scored eight points, making 2-of-7 shots.
Next up: Ohio State has a week off before heading to Cleveland to take on West Virginia on Dec. 28. The game at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse will tip off at noon.
- Even with Washington back, Chris Holtmann rode the starting lineup that he used the past two games without him: Walker, Muhammad, Andre Wesson, Young, Kaleb Wesson.
- Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Bryce Harper, who once served as a College GameDay guest picker in Columbus and whose wife played soccer for Ohio State, sat in the front row with her beside the Buckeyes' bench. Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith, who will next head to Arizona for the Fiesta Bowl, also watched the game from the stands.
- Washington entered the game for the first time with 12:49 remaining in the first half. He air-balled a 3-pointer on his first shot attempt.
- In the first game of the CBS Sports Classic, North Carolina beat UCLA, 74-64.