The official firsts of the Chris Holtmann era won’t go into the books until Friday, when Robert Morris comes to Value City Arena. Sunday afternoon’s exhibition game against the College of Wooster was approached like a practice, the first-year Ohio State coach said, with a chance to get some semblance of a game-day routine established.
That goes for the new coach, too, who found himself a little disoriented as the starting lineups were announced.
“I was trying to figure out where my wife and daughter were sitting,” he said. “I actually had trouble figuring out where our bench was, so I was a lost puppy there to start the game. Thank God for (director of basketball operations Dave Egelhoff), because I’d have sat over by the expensive seats next to a major booster and thought that was our bench.”
Holtmann eventually found his way, and so did his players. It wasn’t always pretty, but Ohio State beat the Fighting Scots 88-63 behind 17 points from Keita Bates-Diop and 16 from freshman Kaleb Wesson.
The Buckeyes won by 25 points in spite of missing 21 of 24 three-point attempts, having as many assists as turnovers (14) and winning the rebounding battle against a spirited-but-undersized Division II foe by two (46 to 44). Ahead 39-22 at the half, Holtmann called a timeout just shy of two minutes into the second half to address what he described as a soft start.
None of the Ohio State starters — C.J. Jackson, Kam Williams, Jae’Sean Tate, Micah Potter and Bates-Diop — played more than eight second-half minutes as the lead ballooned as high as 34 points before a combination of freshmen and walk-ons finished things.
Bates-Diop scored the first points of the game and looked comfortable in his first appearance since taking a medical redshirt after playing nine games last season. Wesson, who entered the game as part of a complete line change with 14:15 left in the first half, added seven rebounds but fouled out in 15 minutes of playing time.
“I felt good,” the Westerville South product said. “I had butterflies at the beginning of the game, but then the first one went in and I was like, ‘Oh, it’s just basketball.’ It was fun.”
He checked into the game alongside fellow freshmen Musa Jallow and Kyle Young, graduate transfer Andrew Dakich and older brother Andre Wesson, a sophomore. Dakich logged 24 minutes, primarily at the point, and had five assists and no turnovers.
A crowd of 11,499 — bigger than eight home games last season, thanks to a large, vocal Wooster contingent — saw the Buckeyes start a new tradition of singing “Carmen Ohio” on the court after the postgame handshake.
“No question, we’ve got a long way to go and we’re very much a work in progress, but there were some good things I think we can build off of,” Holtmann said.