Year In Review: Dishing Out Superlatives For Ohio State's 2019-20 Basketball Season

By Colin Hass-Hill on March 24, 2020 at 8:56 am
Duane Washington Jr.
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Not much about the 2019-20 college basketball season made any sense.

So it’s a bit poetic that this is the year the prevention of a quickly spreading virus led to the cancellation of the entirety of the sport's postseason.

For Ohio State, no Big Ten or NCAA tournament means Chris Holtmann’s team prematurely wrapped up its season with a 21-10 record, sitting at No. 19 in the final Associated Press top-25 poll. Like the rest of college basketball, the Buckeyes had a bit of a weird year, rising early before collapsing mid-season only to ascend again down the stretch.

As we reflect on the season, let’s take a look at some Ohio State hoops superlatives.

Best Individual Performance

This could go a number of ways.

Kyle Young could make a case with 16 points and seven rebounds versus Purdue. Luther Muhammad’s 22 points while defending Anthony Cowan Jr. in a win against Maryland sticks out. E.J. Liddell’s 17-point, 11-rebound performance while beating Illinois was memorable. DJ Carton scored an important 15 points to help top Kentucky. 

Ultimately, though, it’s hard not to pick one of Kaleb Wesson’s standout performances.

Among them all, his 23 points and 12 rebounds in 36 minutes to lead Ohio State to a three-point victory at Michigan was the best. He was efficient offensively, stout defensively and impactful on the glass.

Most Painful Injury

If Kyle Young wants to lodge a formal complaint to the one-man voting panel about not earning the top spot in this category, he should do so. Many would consider throwing up into a trash can shortly before recording two points and 11 rebounds in 22 minutes in a loss to West Virginia on Dec. 29 then getting his appendix removed that night a lock for the most painful injury suffered this season.

But, no. Andre Wesson already wrapped the category up a month prior.

Unlike in December of 2018 when he got three teeth knocked out then returned to the court three minutes later, Wesson couldn’t get back so quickly this season. In the season-opening win against Cincinnati, he reportedly suffered a fractured eye socket. Let me repeat that. A fractured eye socket

Most Inexplicable Offensive Explosion

Ohio State played remarkably well with the ball in Columbus, ending the season with the nation’s third-best adjusted offensive efficiency in home games. Yet against Penn State on Dec. 7, Chris Holtmann’s bunch took it to another level.

In the 32-point victory, the Buckeyes cracked 100 points for the first time against a Big Ten opponent since 1991, scoring 106 points. They shot 57.4 percent from the field and made 14-of-26 3-pointers. 

Most Devastating Loss

A couple runner-up nominees have strong cases. Namely, Ohio State’s 84-71 loss at Minnesota on Dec. 15 less to keep it from a No. 1 ranking and the 61-57 loss to Wisconsin on Jan. 3 stand out.

Neither of those rose to quite the level of the gut punch delivered by the Golden Gophers at the Schottenstein Center on Jan. 23, though. In an imminently winnable game that Ohio State led for almost the entirety of regulation, Marcus Carr hit a game-winning triple with just seconds remaining. The loss in front of a home crowd was the sixth in seven games.

Biggest Late-Season Rise

Throughout the first 2/3 of the season, E.J. Liddell generally only showed flashes. Typically, he played between 12 and 20 minutes off the bench, every so often offering an abbreviated look at his scoring and shot-blocking prowess.

However, as the season wrapped, he began to round into form.

Liddell had career highs in points (17) and rebounds (8) in a loss to Iowa then secured five key rebounds the next game against Maryland. He responded with five blocks in a blowout of Nebraska. Then after a quiet performance versus Michigan, he recorded his first career double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds to help beat the Illini. Liddell ended the season with 12 points against Michigan State.

Next season, he’ll have a chance to be the team’s leading scorer.

E.J. Liddell

Most Clutch Shot

If shots from opponents are eligible, Minnesota’s Marcus Carr sinking the 3-point dagger into Ohio State would be a shoe-in for the best of 2019-20. But if not, Duane Washington Jr. deserves it.

The sophomore guard buried a 3-pointer to turn a two-point deficit into a one-point advantage with 57 seconds remaining in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Free throws from CJ Walker and Kyle Young might’ve been just as important. But Washington’s shot gave Ohio State cam exactly when Ohio State needed it.

Biggest Disappointment

It’s been well-documented by this point. But in a season recap, what happened in the middle of Ohio State’s 2019-20 season can’t get overlooked.

Despite beginning the season with an 11-1 record and ending it with a 9-3 mark, the Buckeyes sputtered to a 1-6 record between Dec. 29 and Jan. 23 with the sole victory coming at home against Nebraska. The collapse took them from a top-five team to unranked in a matter of weeks. 

Most Important Rise To Occasion

Not having DJ Carton for the final month and a half of the regular season suddenly thrusted CJ Walker to the forefront. He had already been the starting point guard. But suddenly, due to Carton’s leave of absence, he didn’t have a backup.

Without a safety net, Ohio State needed Walker to step his game up, and he obliged.

As his point and assist totals increased, his turnovers dropped. Walker ended the season having scored in double figures in the final six games. When the Buckeyes needed him, he was there.

Most Exciting Victory

Wins against Cincinnati, Villanova, Penn State, Kentucky, Michigan, Rutgers, Purdue, Maryland and Illinois legitimately each might earn some picks if this was a popular vote. But the dictatorship known as the one-man selection committee for these superlatives has instead opted to head south.

On Dec. 4 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, a pair of teams ranked in the top-10 at the time duked it out. What was close for a while turned into a historic mauling at the Dean E. Smith Center, with Ohio State topping the Tar Heels, 74-49. North Carolina shot its lowest percentage in that building ever and lost by the second-largest margin in Dean E. Smith Center history.

Also, for a bit of a peek behind the curtains, those were the most-read postgame stories of the season. You folks were locked in, loving it all.

No, the Tar Heels didn’t put together much of a memorable season from their end, going 14-19. But the win in Chapel Hill won’t be forgotten by Ohio State.

Biggest Unanswered Question

What would have happened in the postseason?

We’ll never know.

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