A freezing cold first half couldn’t stop the Buckeyes from securing their third straight double-digit win on Wednesday.
After taking just a six-point edge into halftime, Ohio State caught fire in the second half to finish with a 65-43 win over Eastern Illinois at the Schottenstein Center. The Buckeyes had their worst half of the season in the first 20 minutes, hitting just 9-of-29 shots and 6-of-18 3-pointers, but ultimately thawed out when it mattered most.
It was a closer-than-expected contest against a winless mid-major opponent, but perhaps it will serve as a wakeup call for an Ohio State team that should face tougher tests during next week’s Maui Invitational.
Freshman wing Brice Sensabaugh led the way for the Buckeyes with 20 points against the Panthers, carrying Ohio State in the first half and providing a spark in the final frame as well. The Buckeyes’ leading scorer through three games, Wednesday was his first performance with at least 20 points.
Buckeye big man Zed Key turned in his third straight double-double (10 points, 14 rebounds) to start the season, but he was the lone starter to consistently make a major impact for Ohio State.
Things were ugly on offense early, and that goes for both teams. Eastern Illinois started 0-for-7 from the floor by the media timeout at 15:11, but the Buckeyes failed to capitalize. Ohio State hit just one of its first six shots, a Key 3-pointer, and the big man scored the first four points of the game following a free-throw make.
Ohio State didn’t hit its second shot from the field until the 13:47 mark, and the Buckeyes didn’t start finding their rhythm until Sensabaugh and Tanner Holden combined to go on a 14-0 run from 12:32 to 9:15. Ten of those points came from Sensabaugh alone, and his last shot in that sequence put the Buckeyes up 21-5.
But that wasn’t exactly a sign of things to come. Eastern Illinois answered back with a 10-0 run as Ohio State went more than five minutes without a bucket. The Panthers finished the half on a 15-5 run to take a 26-20 deficit to halftime.
Ohio State’s 31% clip from the field represented its worst half of the season, and the Buckeyes committed seven turnovers. Sensabaugh scored half of Ohio State’s first-half points by himself as the rest of the team combined to shoot 4-for-18 from the floor. Outside of Key, no Buckeye starter scored.
Still, Eastern Illinois shot just 25% from the floor to end the half trailing.
The Panthers scored the first three points of the half to cut the Buckeye lead to three points, but Ohio State got its act together after that. The Buckeyes went on a 9-0 run over the next 2:30 to extend the lead back out to doubled-digits as they retook control of the contest.
By the media timeout at 12:43, Ohio State made it a 15-2 run to give the Buckeyes a 16-point cushion, 41-25. A little over four minutes later, Holden gave Ohio State its first 20-point edge of the game at the free-throw line. With that point, the Wright State transfer hit 1,500 for his college career.
Much like the first half, Sensabaugh and Holden had another stretch where they combined to score nine straight for the Buckeyes midway through the period. Seven of those points came from the free-throw line as Eastern Illinois got into foul trouble early.
Roddy Gayle came alive late, and back-to-back buckets by the freshman guard gave Ohio State a 24-point lead, 55-31, with 6:30 to go. From there, it was academic.
Despite a solid effort early, the Panthers finished with a sub-30% field-goal rate for the game as they moved to 0-4 on the year.
- Eugene Brown missed his third straight game for Ohio State as he continues to go through concussion protocol.
- Bruce Thornton, Sean McNeil, Isaac Likekele, Justice Sueing and Zed Key started the game for Ohio State for the third straight time to open the year.
- Eastern Illinois suffered a defeat to Illinois State in its second game of the season, and that contest represented the first win of longtime OSU assistant Ryan Pedon’s career as a college head coach.
- Sophomore panther guard Dan Luers grew up in Lebanon, Ohio, and went to high school at Bishop Fenwick.
- Eastern Illinois senior Jermaine Hamlin, a 6-foot-10 forward, spent his first two seasons at Illinois. Hamlin played on the Illinois team that beat Ohio State in the Big Ten Tournament championship game in 2020-21.