The first blemish on Ohio State’s record has come just four games into the season.
The Buckeyes faltered in their first road contest of the year in a game that came down to the wire on Thursday, falling 71-65 to Xavier in a hostile environment at the Cintas Center in the first meeting between the two programs since 2007. Ohio State never led in 40 minutes of play in Cincinnati.
|#19 OHIO STATE||26||39||65|
Ohio State made it a game late, as five straight points for Meechie Johnson cut the Xavier deficit to 57-54 at the 3:20 mark. A pair of free throws from Jack Nunge put Xavier back ahead seven points with two minutes to play.
A subsequent layup through contact from star guard Paul Scruggs kept the Musketeers up six in the final 90 seconds. After an E.J. Liddell three cut the lead back to three, Scruggs dunked the ball over Liddell in traffic with less than 30 seconds remaining to put the dagger in the heart of the Buckeyes.
Ohio State stayed within striking distance for most of the second half, and when Liddell split a pair of free throws with 6:12 to play, the Buckeyes’ star forward put his team down just five points. Xavier went ice cold from the floor in the second half, and left the door open for Ohio State despite building up a double-digit lead early in the closing period of play.
Zed Key had a chance to put Ohio State down just three points with a one-and-one opportunity at the free throw line in the final five minutes, but missed the front end, and Xavier countered with a 3-pointer to make it 57-49 at the other end.
Liddell scored seven of the first nine points of the second half for the Buckeyes in the opening five minutes and change, and that flurry helped cut the Xavier advantage from 11 points to five in a four-minute span.
However, a pair of free throws from Nunge at the 11:05 mark put the Musketeers back ahead by 11, and back in control of the contest as it approached its final quarter of play.
The Musketeers went to halftime up nine points with a 35-26 advantage after 20 minutes, and led by as many as 11 during the opening period. The Buckeyes shot just 33.3 percent from the field in the first half, and turned the ball over nine times as well.
Xavier shot just 45.7 percent in the first half, but out-rebounded the Buckeyes 22-16 and outscored Ohio State in the paint by a margin of 22-12.
|23-61 (37.7%)||FGM-FGA (PCT.)||26-65 (40%)|
|8-21 (38.1%)||3PM-3PA (PCT.)||5-24 (20.8%)|
|11-13 (84.6%)||FTM-FTA (PCT.)||14-17 (82.4%)|
Ohio State did itself no favors with a 1-for-10 start from the floor to open things up in Cincinnati, and the Buckeyes turned the ball over on three straight possessions during a 94-second stretch midway through the first half. Two of those turnovers came from Kyle Young alone, and the second of those was followed by a Nate Johnson layup on the other end that give Xavier a 17-11 lead before a timeout at 10:54.
Xavier was threatening to go up double digits with an eight-point lead three minutes later, but Buckeye guard Malaki Branham hit a well-timed 3-pointer to silence the home crowd and cut the deficit to five points at 24-19.
That three was part of a stretch for Ohio State in which Branham and Johnson combined to score 13 straight points for the Buckeyes. The pair finished the half with 16 points for the scarlet and gray, while the rest of the Buckeyes had just 10 combined.
With a little over three minutes left to play in the half, Colby Jones hit a wide open three off an extra pass from the Musketeers to give Xavier a 29-21 lead. A transition layup by Scruggs after a blocked shot attempt from Johnson at the other end put Xavier up 11 points with 29 seconds to go, but two free throws from Young cut the lead to nine by the end of the half.
Liddell scored just four points in the first half on 2-for-7 shooting. He finished with a game-high 17 points as well as seven rebounds and seven blocks, but it wasn’t enough for the Buckeyes on Thursday night.
What's next: Ohio State heads to Florida to take on Seton Hall as part of the Fort Myers Tip-Off on Monday. The game is scheduled for a 6 p.m. start in Fort Myers, Florida.
- Ohio State and Xavier have not played one another since 2007, when a Ron Lewis 3-pointer sent a NCAA tournament matchup into overtime for an eventual Buckeye victory.
- Starting Xavier forward Jerome Hunter, a former Indiana Hoosier, is a native of Pickerington, Ohio. Hunter is the only Ohio native on the Musketeers roster.
- Both the Buckeyes and Musketeers played Greg Paulus’s Niagara program in the first two games of the season, and both only beat the Purple Eagles by 10 points or less.
- Ohio State forward Justice Sueing was ruled out for “an extended period of time” by the Buckeye program Thursday due to an abdominal injury.
- Former Ohio State guard Danny Peters is a first-year assistant on Travis Steele's Xavier staff.