There on the bench, beside all of his Ohio State teammates, was E.J. Liddell. Alongside him were Seth Towns and Meechie Johnson, watching Ohio State battle Cleveland State at the Schottenstein Center on a late Sunday afternoon.
|#22 OHIO STATE||31||36||67|
Surely, head coach Chris Holtmann looked over at the trio of unavailable players at least once or twice and wished he could insert one of them into the game. The leading scorer/rebounder dealing with mononucleosis, the 2018 Ivy League Player of the Year still working his way back from a knee injury and the mid-year enrollee who arrived on campus this weekend weren't the difference between a win or a loss, but they might've made it less of an unexpected nail-biter.
Still without Towns and Johnson and in their first game that Liddell had to sit out, the Buckeyes eked out an unconvincing 67-61 victory to remain unbeaten and improve their record to 5-0.
To start the second half, Ohio State threatened to pull away from Cleveland State with buckets from Justice Sueing and Duane Washington Jr., giving the team an 11-point lead. But within four minutes of inspired basketball from the Vikings, they held just a one-point edge.
|OHIO STATE||STAT||CLEVELAND STATE|
|21-52 (40.4%)||FGM-FGA (PCT.)||24-56 (42.9%)|
|6-21 (28.6%)||3PM-3PA (PCT.)||6-15 (40%)|
|19-26 (73.1%)||FTM-FTA (PCT.)||7-13 (53.8%)|
The Vikings hung around, and hung around, and hung around, and hung around. Going 12-deep on his bench, head coach Dennis Gates never once allowed his team to trail by more than eight points, but Cleveland State also couldn't get over the hump.
CJ Walker's team-high 16 points and a first career double-double from Zed Key – with 12 points and 10 rebounds – helped give them the win.
Ohio State, with a shaky an inconsistent offense in its first game sans Liddell, shot 40.4 percent from the field and hit only 6-of-21 3-pointers (28.6 percent). Justice Sueing, the second-leading scorer this season, managed only nine points on 2-of-8 shooting.
Up Next: Ohio State begins Big Ten play on Wednesday when it faces Purdue on the road. The game tips off at 7 p.m. in West Lafayette, Indiana, and will be shown on Big Ten Network.
- Mid-year enrollee Meechie Johnson was on the bench for the first time. The point guard from Garfield Heights arrived on campus this weekend and has begun the process to start his college hoops career. Expect him to make his debut for the Buckeyes in January.
- Seth Towns, a graduate transfer from Harvard, remains inactive. It's been more than 1,000 days since he's played a college basketball game. He didn't go through pregame warmups.
- Liddell, dealing with mononucleosis, sat on the bench to watch the game. He does not yet have an estimated date for a return to the court.
- This was the final low-major opponent of Ohio State's schedule – as of now. If the Buckeyes replace the canceled Alabama A&M game with another opponent, that could change. But for now, their only remaining non-conference opponent is North Carolina.
- This is the third season in a row that Ohio State has won five games in a row to start the season.