Basketball Preview: Ohio State Hosts Bowling Green in First Meeting Since 2008

By Griffin Strom on November 15, 2021 at 9:20 am
Chris Holtmann
Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch/USA TODAY NETWORK

Ohio State’s third home game in a six-day stretch to start the new season will see Bowling Green take the court at the Schottenstein Center for the first time in 13 years.

The Buckeyes made it out of two tough tests against mid-major programs last week unscathed, defeating Akron and Niagara by a combined 11 points, and now the focus for Chris Holtmann and company turns to a Bowling Green team that finished fifth in the MAC last season with a 14-12 record overall.

Bowling Green (1-1) Schottenstein Center 6:30 p.m. BTN

Michael Huger is two games into his seventh season as the head coach at Bowling Green, and the Falcons are 1-1 after a nine-point season-opening upset loss to Western Carolina and a 41-point thrashing of Division III Ohio Wesleyan three days later.

While each of Huger’s Bowling Green teams have accrued double-digit losses since he took over in 2015, the 2021-22 roster has been bolstered by a few transfer additions, including former Samford guard Myron Gordon and former Old Dominion forward Joe Reece, who are both expected to start on Monday. Only four players on the Bowling Green roster actually hail from Ohio.

“Another really good MAC opponent coming in here. We’ve got some familiarity with guys on our roster, I know they do with guys on our roster as well,” Buckeyes assistant coach Ryan Pedon said Sunday. “It'll be a very challenging game, I think a very physical game. As we watch them, one of the things that sets them apart is their physicality. They’ve got some older bodies, some are new, some are veterans that have been there for a few years. But I think a really talented team, competitive team, and we’re gonna have to be ready to go.”

In three 2020-21 matchups against Akron, which Ohio State beat 67-66 last Tuesday, the Falcons lost two of three games. The final installment in the season series was a seven-point loss to the Zips in the conference tournament.

For the Buckeyes, the emphasis as the non-conference schedule continues will be improvement in the backcourt, where Ohio State has a slew of new pieces, and finding the kind of balance on offense that won’t necessitate a Herculean effort from E.J Liddell every night.

Three Things To Watch

A lot of threes from the Falcons

Given Bowling Green’s guard-centric roster makeup, the group has no problems putting up threes in a hurry. While the Buckeyes have attempted 40 3-pointers this season, connecting on 14 of them, the Falcons shot 34 in their season opener alone – and hit just five. Bowling Green reined it in during its second game and shot 10-for-24, but it’s clear that the team will be launching early and often from downtown against the Buckeyes.

Cedric Russell expected to return

The Louisiana transfer guard missed the second game of the season due to a death in the family, but Pedon said Sunday that Russell has been in communication with the coaching staff and is expected to return to the program this week. Russell played just four minutes during his Buckeye debut in the season opener and went 0-for-1 from the floor.

String of dominance against MAC opposition

Ohio State has won its last 14 games against MAC opponents with that win streak spanning back to 1999. The Buckeyes’ last loss to a MAC program came on Dec. 5, 1998, when Toledo defeated Jim O’Brien, Michael Redd and Scoonie Penn’s Ohio State team by a score of 64-63. Against Bowling Green in particular, Ohio State has won four of its six matchups dating back to 1981. The Buckeyes last played the Falcons in 2008, notching a 61-57 win, but lost the time before that, a 59-50 Bowling Green win in 1994.

Three Important Buckeyes

E.J. Liddell

In the first two games of the season, Liddell has surpassed the level of play that made him a first-team All-Big Ten performer a season ago. The junior forward is averaging 27 points per game to start the year after a 25-point season debut against Akron and a career-high 29 against Niagara, and the Illinois native is shooting .559 from the floor to boot. Liddell’s even shooting 40 percent from behind the 3-point line so far this year, and whether or not he continues this breakneck pace will certainly be something to keep an eye on.

Justin Ahrens

A senior captain and starter for the Buckeyes, Ahrens needs to increase his scoring load to help take some pressure off of Liddell. The 3-point specialist is shooting 44 percent from beyond the arc thus far, but has just 13 total points so far this season on 10 field goal attempts. To Ahrens’ credit, he has dished three assists in each of the first two games, something he hasn’t done much of in the past, but an increase in scoring average is imperative in order to lighten the load for Liddell.

Malaki Branham

The true freshman made his first career start in just the second game of his collegiate career, but the Columbus native wasn’t quite as impactful against Niagara as he was in the season opener. Still, Branham is averaging seven points a game to start out the year, and the evolution of his role will be something to watch all season as Ohio State looks for another player that can create his own shot aside from Liddell.

Three Important Falcons

Player Position Height Weight Stats
MYRON GORDON G 6-3 180 11.5 PPG, 2 APG
TREY DIGGS G/F 6-6 210 11.5 PPG, 4 RPG
JOE REECE F 6-9 215 10.5 PPG, 8.5 RPG

Daeqwon Plowden

A two-time All-MAC performer in his fifth year in the program, Plowden is leading the Falcons with 16 points and 9.5 rebounds per game to start the year. The 6-foot-6, 215-pound Philadelphia native scored 18 points and pulled down 13 boards in the season opener, and would have had a more efficient day shooting the ball had he not gone 0-for-8 from 3-point range. Plowden has already gotten to the free throw line 15 times this season, and will be a go-to option on offense that Ohio State will have to key in on.

Trey Diggs

Another 6-foot-6 guard/forward, last season’s MAC sixth man of the year bounced back from a quiet season opener with a 20-point effort against Ohio Wesleyan last time out. Now in his third year on the team, Diggs has been upgraded to a starting role after coming off the bench last season, and his career 38.6 percent mark from 3-point range could make him another dangerous scoring threat for Bowling Green.

Myron Gordon

A first-year Falcon after spending the last three years at Samford, Gordon was inserted into the starting lineup in Bowling Green’s second game of the season and had an impressive 13-point performance in 20 minutes. Another veteran guard, the 6-foot-3 New Jersey native has scored double-digit points in both games for Bowling Green so far and is not afraid to get his shot up.

How It Plays Out

Line: Ohio State -15, O/U 144.5

After one very close call against Akron and another tight, four-quarter contest on Friday, there'd be no better time for the Buckeyes to get a proper blowout under their belt before taking on a tough Xavier team on the road Thursday. However, Ohio State may continue to struggle at separating from opponents until it finds its identity this season. Still, the Falcons will be hard-pressed to find an answer for Liddell, even if their experienced guards could make things interesting in the backcourt.

Prediction: Ohio State 79, Bowling Green 66

View 11 Comments