On a night when Ohio State rolled out the welcome mat for former coach Eldon Miller, it didn’t extend the same courtesy to his current team.
Miller, who coached the Buckeyes from 1977 to ’86 and is now a volunteer assistant for his son, Ben, at Division II UNC Pembroke, was courtside as the Buckeyes blitzed the Braves early and cruised to an 81-63 win in Ohio State’s lone public exhibition game of the season.
Although there was plenty to celebrate, coach Chris Holtmann was particularly rankled by Ohio State’s 21 turnovers.Join the conversation at Facebook.com/BuckeyeXtra and connect with us on Twitter @BuckeyeXtra
“Lot to improve on,” he said. “We have some significant, significant areas that need improvement.”
Then he paused before repeating, “Significant areas.”
The elder Miller was recognized with a pregame announcement, and more than a dozen former players including Clark Kellogg, Dennis Hopson and Tony Campbell were introduced at halftime of an event organized by Ron Stokes. Earlier in the day, he described the day’s activities as “a magic moment.”
By that point, the Buckeyes led 42-24 and all 11 recruited scholarship players had played. The Buckeyes went with a starting lineup of C.J. Jackson, Luther Muhammad, Andre Wesson, Kyle Young and Kaleb Wesson, and that group jumped out to a 9-0 lead thanks to a pair of baskets by both Kaleb Wesson and Muhammad. Holtmann credited that lineup as being the team’s best defensive option, along with graduate transfer Keyshawn Woods.
“It’s been a learning process, learning how to play our defense … and just being a great teammate,” Muhammad said of making the start. “It’s very important to set the tone on defense. If you come out with the right intensity and the right energy, it trends down to everyone on the team.”
Junior Micah Potter and Woods were the first two substitutions of the night, and sophomore Musa Jallow and freshman Duane Washington Jr. followed less than a minute later.
The final freshmen to see action were Justin Ahrens and Jaedon LeDee, who entered the game with 4:23 and 3:15 remaining, respectively. Holtmann mixed up his lineups, occasionally going with three-guard lineups and another that included Potter at power forward and Kaleb Wesson at center.
Potter in particular was impactful, scoring while being fouled four times and finishing with 13 points. Kaleb Wesson had a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds in only 16 minutes and every recruited scholarship player scored at least two points.
“Micah did some really good things,” Holtmann said. "I thought he rebounded the ball really well. It’s defense and defensive rebounds for him at the end of the day (that are key). He did a great job of attacking the rim.”
Since losing to Division II opponent Findlay in an exhibition game in 2007, Ohio State has won 11 straight exhibitions against opponents from lower divisions. The Buckeyes will officially open the season Wednesday at Cincinnati, and Holtmann said that looming game likely contributed to his postgame demeanor.
“I think it’s the schedule, it’s the season coming, frustrated to a degree because the turnover issue is something we’ve dealt with (in practice) so our expectation is higher,” he said.