For the first time in nearly a month, Ohio State ran into problems it couldn’t overcome when it faced No. 5 North Carolina on Dec. 23 in New Orleans. Against the Tar Heels, the Buckeyes fell behind during a seven-minute stretch in the first half and couldn’t overcome it, matching their opponent in second-half points but falling, 86-72, in the CBSSports Classic at Smoothie King Center.

For a second straight game, coach Chris Holtmann went with a starting lineup of C.J. Jackson, Musa Jallow, Jae’Sean Tate, Keita Bates-Diop and Kaleb Wesson. That group started a four-game stretch earlier in the year and was plus-56 (153 points for, 97 against) in 72:13, making it the group to have logged the most minutes all season for the Buckeyes.

But when Bates-Diop picked up two fouls in the first 4:41, it forced Holtmann to adjust. Kam Williams and Kyle Young replaced Jallow and Bates-Diop, and that lineup of Jackson, Tate, Kaleb Wesson, Williams and Young had appeared just once all season: a stretch of 1:09 against Northeastern in the fourth game of the year.

Ohio State held an 18-17 lead with 7:46 left in the first half when Holtmann made a pair of substitutions to use a lineup of Andrew Dakich, Micah Potter, Tate, Andre Wesson and Williams. It was the first time that group had been on the court together all year, and in the next 2:09 it was against that group that North Carolina pulled ahead for what would be the final time. Those five players were outscored 6-5 and left the court tied at 23 with 5:37 to play thanks to a free throw by Tate that pulled the Buckeyes back even.

This was when North Carolina made its game-changing run. After the Tate free throw, Jackson came back into the game to replace Williams, and that group of Dakich, Jackson, Potter, Tate and Andre Wesson surrendered a pair of threes to fall behind 29-23 in 1:12. It was only the second time all year that group had been on the court together.

Holtmann made two more changes with 4:25 remaining, bringing in Jallow and Kaleb Wesson for Tate and Potter. That group only lasted 33 seconds and allowed a layup as the deficit climbed to eight points at 31-23. With 3:52 to play, Holtmann called timeout and yanked Jallow from the lineup after he turned what should have been an easy layup into a missed dunk attempt and then as he jogged back on defense his man scored at the other end.

That brought Williams in for Jallow. The lineup of Dakich, Jackson, the Wesson brothers and Williams hadn’t been used all year. In the next 2:17, it was outscored 6-4 as the Tar Heels’ lead continued to climb. With Bates-Diop still on the bench with two fouls, Holtmann had little choice but to bring Jallow back into the game in place of Dakich with 1:35 left and the deficit at 10.

It meant another never-used-before lineup, and the Tar heels closed the half on a 4-0 run to hold a 41-27 halftime lead. Clearly the loss of Bates-Diop was felt throughout Holtmann’s substitutions, as no group was used more than once before the break and two new lineups were used.

Williams replaced Jallow to open the second half, giving the Buckeyes a lineup of Bates-Diop, Jackson, Tate, Kaleb Wesson and Williams that has two starts this season and was plus-12 (83 points scored, 71 allowed) in 39:57 entering the game. Interestingly, after having started two games together, this lineup did not appear against the Citadel four days prior.

It could do little more than trade buckets as North Carolina increased its lead from 14 points to 15 in the first 4:37 of the half. Holtmann then made two subs, bringing in Jallow for Williams and Potter for Kaleb Wesson, and that lineup of Bates-Diop, Jackson, Jallow, Potter and Tate put together a 6-0 run in the next 3:21 to cut the lead to nine points. Interestingly, that lineup started the first two games of the season.

Ohio State never got any closer. The Buckeyes went without a center with 5:31 to play when Williams replaced Kaleb Wesson with the deficit at 68-55, but the lineup of Bates-Diop, Dakich, Jackson, Tate and Williams was outscored 6-0 as North Carolina put the game well out of reach during the next 1:58.

In all, the Buckeyes used a season-high 21 different lineups, only two of which were new. The starting lineup did not reappear during the game, and the group’s final total of 4:41 of playing time was the lowest for a starting group this season.