Basketball Preview: Ohio State Looks To Ride Momentum From Season-Opener Against UMass-Lowell In Covelli Center

By Colin Hass-Hill on November 29, 2020 at 7:45 am
Duane Washington

The beat goes on.

Four days after opening the season with a 94-67 beatdown of Illinois State, Ohio State hits the court again on Sunday with plans of improving its record to 2-0. Chris Holtmann's squad plays host to UMass Lowell, a 1-1 team from the America East that the Buckeyes topped in a 20-point win last year.

Who Where When TV
UMass Lowell (1-1) Covelli Center 12 p.m. BTN

Once more, Ohio State enters as a massive favorite to top the River Hawks who are playing their second game in two days after losing 82-72 to the Redbirds on Saturday.

UMass Lowell's lone bright spot in its opening week came in a 76-68 win against San Francisco – which subsequently toppled Virginia. On Sunday, the River Hawks will look for their own top-25 upset when they invade the Covelli Center to take on Ohio State.

Three Important Buckeyes

Justice Sueing

He made that look pretty easy, huh? In his Ohio State debut, Sueing dropped 19 points while missing only one shot and grabbing eight boards. After waiting on the bench for the entirety of last season, it was a long time coming for the Cal transfer. Now, he'll look to repeat his standout performance against UMass Lowell.

Duane Washington Jr.

Washington went just 4-of-12 from the field against Illinois State in the opener, so he'll be looking for a bounce-back offensive performance Saturday afternoon. At the same time, some of UMass Lowell's best players – namely Obadiah Noel – are guards. So it'll be important to have Washington playing his best on both ends of the court.

Zed Key

Sueing received most of the fanfare for his 19-point opener, but Key deserved praise for his 12-point, five-rebound performance in the first game of his freshman season. It sure seemed like he has the early edge on Ibrahima Diallo for backup center minutes, and he'll have a chance to follow up his first game on Sunday when he takes on UMass Lowell.

Three Important River Hawks

Obadiah Noel

If you're going to be aware of one UMass Lowell player heading into this game, make sure it's Noel. The 6-foot-4, 190-pound senior guard was a first-team All-America East honoree a year ago, led his team in scoring last year against Ohio State and is starting out strong this season.

He put up 22 points while making 14-of-21 free throws and adding eight rebounds and four assists versus Fan Francisco before a 35-point outburst against Illinois State. On Saturday, he made 12-of-19 shots from the field, 4-of-10 3-pointers and 7-of-9 free throws. Simply put, Noel can fill it up and will be the key to UMass Lowell keeping it close.

Connor Witherspoon

Nobody has come close to Noel's scoring totals so far, but Witherspoon has been the No. 2 option so far. He's averaging 13 points and 6.5 rebounds per game as a 6-foot-7, 195-pound sophomore forward. 

He recorded a double-double – 10 points and 11 rebounds, along with four steals – versus the Buckeyes a year ago.

Ron Mitchell

There's Noel, then there's Witherspoon, then...question marks.

Mitchell, a 6-foot-3, 170-pound sophomore guard, impressed as a first-year player last year by averaging 8.5 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.2 assists in 26 minutes per game. Despite starting the first two games of this season, he hasn't done a whole lot. Mitchell has scored three points in 31 minutes to go along with four rebounds, one assist, three fouls and six turnovers. 

Three Things To Watch

Knocking Off The Rust

Musa Jallow was deemed a game-time decision before going through warmups and ultimately played 12 minutes. They weren't exactly the most memorable or productive 12 minutes. He missed all four attempted shots and recorded three rebounds, a steal, a block, a foul and two turnovers. Clearly, he has some rust to knock off.

Getting Jimmy Sotos Comfortable

Somewhat lost in the excitement and positives stemming from Ohio State's return to the court was a shaky Buckeye debut from Jimmy Sotos, a senior guard who transferred from Bucknell in the offseason. In just 10 minutes of action, he fouled out with zero points, one missed shot, two assists and a rebounds. Not exactly the first impression he was going for.

On Sunday, Sotos will have a shot at some redemption for himself.

Covelli Center Debut

For the unaware: This game will be played at the Covelli Center instead of the Schottenstein Center. Why? Hockey games this weekend. It's the only game set to tip off at the Covelli Center this season, though it's an interesting venue given the lack of fans. It might, in fact, feel like a more normal arena since it's far less cavernous than the Schott. 

How It Plays Out

If this one's close, it again would be a shock. Noel is a legitimately dangerous player and Witherspoon can do some damage, too, but considering the River Hawks are playing the second half of a back-to-back, there's just too much to overcome. A more talent, more rested Ohio State team should roll.

Prediction: Ohio State 87, UMass Lowell 62

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