Between last week’s exhibition and Monday night’s season opener, Ohio State hasn’t yet met an opponent that’s pushed it beyond a 38-point margin of victory.
|Charleston Southern (1–0)||Schottenstein Center||6:30 p.m.||BTN|
Charleston Southern could make things a bit more competitive Thursday at the Schottenstein Center, although a 31-point victory over Toccoa Falls to start the year doesn’t quite ensure the Buccaneers can muster a wholesale turnaround from last season’s 6-25 record.
While the 6:30 p.m. tip-off marks the first-ever matchup between Ohio State and Charleston Southern, Chris Holtmann has tasted defeat at the hands of the Buccaneers before, having gone 4-2 in meetings with the program while coaching Gardner-Webb from 2010-13. Holtmann has high regard for 18th-year Charleston Southern head coach Barclay Radebaugh, a two-time Big South Coach of the Year recipient.
“Looking forward to another test tomorrow night against Charleston Southern, we've been in the midst of preparing for them. I have some familiarity with them from years ago, great respect for their coach, who's a friend,” Holtmann said Wednesday. “Barclay does a really good job. They've got a young group, they've got two young all-conference players that are really gifted. They're an athletic team, beat Missouri a couple years ago.”
But Radebaugh’s last two seasons have been his least successful at the helm of the program, and while still untested, Holtmann’s young Buckeyes possess more than enough talent to handle Charleston Southern with relative ease.
What to Watch For
No Gene Brown
The third-year wing missed both Ohio State’s exhibition win over Chaminade and the season opener against Robert Morris due to concussion protocol, and Holtmann confirmed Brown will be sidelined again on Thursday. Once Brown is back in the lineup, he’ll add length and versatility, defensive prowess and rebounding for the Buckeyes, but his season debut will be put off until at least next week.
Big second half for Bucks
In both the Buckeyes’ exhibition win and Monday’s opener, it took Ohio State some time to get going. With 7:19 to play in the first half against Chaminade, the Buckeyes held just a four-point lead. Robert Morris was actually ahead of Ohio State nearly midway through the first period three days ago, and still stood within seven points of the Buckeyes at the 4:14 mark. In the second halves of those games, though, Ohio State outscored its opponents by a combined margin of 104-59. The Buckeyes shot 59.5% from the floor and 56.3% from 3-point range in the second half of the exhibition and knocked down 60% of its total shots in the final 20 minutes on Monday.
If that trend continues, Ohio State could face some turbulence early against Charleston Southern but should ultimately find its groove in emphatic fashion.
Plenty of bench scoring
The fluidity of Ohio State’s personnel this season has facilitated massive numbers from the Buckeye bench so far. Against Chaminade, non-starters scored as many points for the Buckeyes (57) as the entire Silversword roster put up all game. In the season opener against Robert Morris, Tanner Holden and Brice Sensabaugh both hit double-digit scoring numbers off the bench to help the reserves outpace the Colonials’ backups by a 40-14 spread.
Three Important Buckeyes
After a year-long layoff, Monday’s return for Justice Sueing exceeded all expectations. The sixth-year forward led Ohio State with 20 points on 8-for-14 shooting as he knocked down two 3-pointers, got to the bucket and drew multiple fouls. Sueing also dished key assists for the Buckeyes, tallied three steals and even blocked a shot on defense. Sueing looked like the best player on the court in the first game of the season, although Holtmann expects him to show some rust at some point this season. In game one, though, Sueing looked as good as ever – if not better.
Some may have thought the Wright State transfer would earn a spot in the starting five for the season opener after dropping 25 points in the Buckeyes’ exhibition against Chaminade, but it looks like Holden will begin the year as the first man off the bench. That didn’t slow him down against Robert Morris, as Holden scored 12 points on 5-for-5 shooting in just 18 minutes. Holden was one of four Buckeyes to hit double-digit scoring numbers, and he might just keep that roll going into game two.
The true freshman’s first-game stat line is a bit deceiving. Sensabaugh dropped 17 points as the second-leading scorer for Ohio State, but 12 of those came in the second half of a blowout, including nine in the final 4:22. At that point, the Buckeyes had already mounted a 30-point lead over the Colonials. Sensabaugh clearly has the talent to put up big numbers at the college level, but his next challenge will be doing so at more consequential stages of the game and against stiffer competition.
@roddy_gayle @bricepsensa #Team124 pic.twitter.com/RuDtLI3gY6— Ohio State Hoops (@OhioStateHoops) November 8, 2022
Three Important Buccaneers
Claudell Harris Jr.
Harris was a double-digit scorer for Charleston Southern as a true freshman in 2021-22, earning Big South All-Freshman Team honors with an average of 10.3 points per game. The Hahnville, Louisiana, native shot just 37% from the floor in his first year, but his offensive production in 28 minutes a night was impressive nonetheless. Harris appears to have gotten even better over the offseason, given his 26-point showcase in the season opener.
|TAHLIK CHAVEZ||G||6-2||160||5.0 PPG, 1.0 RPG|
|R.J. JOHNSON||G||6-1||175||2.0 PPG, 7.0 RPG|
|TYEREE BRYAN||G||6-6||202||4.0 PPG, 10.0 RPG|
|CHEIKH FAYE||F||6-7||210||14.0 PPG, 3.0 RPG|
|TAJE' KELLY||F||6-8||250||12.0 PPG, 9.0 RPG|
Last season’s leading scorer for Charleston Southern, Chavez averaged 11.7 points per game in 31 appearances and 29 starts. The 6-foot-2 guard has leveled up his game in each season of his college basketball career thus far. Beginning at Garden City Community College in Kansas three years ago, Chavez averaged just 3.2 points for Iona in 2020-21 before joining the Buccaneers ahead of last season. Chavez had three 20-point outings in his final 11 games in 2021-22, although the redshirt junior scored just five points in a quiet season-opening effort Monday.
Another second-year standout for the Buccaneers, Kelly averaged 9.2 points and 4.0 boards per game as a true freshman. The 6-foot-8, 250-pound forward is the third-leading scorer among returning players for Charleston Southern. Kelly put up 12 points and nine boards in the season opener, and will give Ohio State some real size to contend with down low on Thursday. Kelly averaged 14.6 points while shooting 61.2% from the field in the final five games to end last season, and he’s already off to a solid start in year two.
“He is a really good big kid, and he is a load in there,” Holtmann said.
How It Plays Out
The Buccaneers have playmakers on the perimeter and both talent and size down low, but perhaps not enough of either to truly test Ohio State in its early non-conference slate.
Prediction: Ohio State 86, Charleston Southern 62