Ohio State opened the 2018-19 season Wednesday night with a road win at Cincinnati. If you missed the game, or if you just want to revisit it, I’ve got you covered after I re-watched the ESPN2 broadcast featuring Jason Benetti on play-by-play and Dan Dakich providing analysis.
Love him or hate him, Dakich is as knowledgeable of the Ohio State program as any announcer in college basketball, so his public thoughts on the program carry a little extra weight and I’ve included some of them from throughout the game.
Don't forget: Dispatch photographer Adam Cairns' gallery from the game is available here.
*I forgot how timid Ohio State came out. Luther Muhammad’s first shot was easily blocked, Andre Wesson and C.J. Jackson stared as Cincinnati took a wide-open three, Kyle Young had the ball easily knocked out of his hands and Wesson got away with a travel before then throwing the ball away back upcourt all in the first 47 seconds.
*Dakich: ”The truth of the matter is, Thad Matta would still be here as head coach if Keita Bates-Diop didn’t get hurt two years ago. But, Chris Holtmann has recruited well, he’s brought the right guys into his program and they play hard as heck.”
*Muhammad got a rude welcome to college basketball when he was blindsided on a hard screen on the play that led to Cincinnati’s first basket.
*Wesson’s second foul came when he dove for a loose ball, landed on a Cincinnati player and drew a whistle. Dakich didn’t agree with the call, and I’d agree with him.
*Dakich called Woods, “A good shooter, not a great shooter,” and said the two guys who can really shoot it for the Buckeyes are Jackson and Woods. I thought Woods looks surprisingly timid early on. He didn’t box out for a rebound on the defensive end and had the ball slapped out of his hands on the other end in quick succession. Later, when he hit his first jumper, he appeared to wag his finger in the direction of the Cincinnati bench.
*Kaleb Wesson showed a lot defensively, especially early. On one possession, he got a deflection on a ball screen at the top of the circle, relocated and found his man on the block and got there in time to contest his shot. When that presence helped force a miss, he grabbed the rebound from two Cincinnati players. One possession later, he helped hand Jarron Cumberland his second foul not even six minutes into the game. Big sequences for the big man.
*Duane Washington Jr. looked like he’s hit a million threes when he calmly took the pass in the left corner and buried his first career shot for the Buckeyes. Dakich called him “the one guy who can go get his shot, who isn’t afraid to get his shot, fearless going to the rim.” He later also grabbed a rebound out of a crowd.
*Young had a nice defensive sequence where he stayed even with his man as he drove, jumped straight up to avoid the foul and contest the shot, then helped come up with the rebound.
*Jallow followed that by coming up with the rebound, and then on the very next defensive possession had an impressive block from the weak side. He continues to look like the best overall athlete on this team, which he showed when he crashed the offensive boards after a miss and laid in the rebound. Dakich lauded the effort especially given what he showed in the exhibition when he was “a walking turnover. He’s worked really hard. Good to see him rewarded by being tough.”
*Woods took a charge after having switched onto a big man on the other side of the paint. It was a smart play by the veteran, although the basket wouldn’t have counted anyway because Young blocked it into the stands. Two heads-up defensive efforts on the same play for the Buckeyes.
*Ahead 14-10 with the shot clock winding, Woods buried a contested jumper and then put a finger to his lips and shushed everyone as he ran back upcourt. I thought I saw it happen live and the video confirmed it.
*Woods twice had a jumper blocked, once as the shot clock was expiring. He showed some solid court awareness and some attitude, but I’m not sure he’s got a lot of explosiveness in his game.
*Jackson drew a foul by boxing out, jumping and “attacking for the rebound,” as Dakich put it.
*One observation from a quick on-court huddle after a foul: Jackson is talking to his teammates, as expected, but Washington is clearly chatting too.
*Whenever Cincinnati would start to get the crowd involved, Ohio State would seemingly have one or two offensive possessions where movement was scarce and each player seemed to be looking for someone else to make a play. It’s clear roles are far from defined at this point.
*Cincinnati did miss some wide-open shots.
*After picking up two early fouls, Andre Wesson was back on the court before the end of the half. Matched up in the post, he was able to force his man into a travel call rather than pick up a third foul with 2:18 to play in the first half. A third foul for Wesson there would have been significant.
*Whether this was a defensive directive or not, Muhammad was close enough to his man to consistently go over screens and not force the Buckeyes to switch.
*Up 27-18 with 21.4 seconds left, Ohio State could plan for the final shot of the first half. Last year, this was Keita Bates-Diop territory. This year, Jackson ran off two screens and got off a three-pointer that only drew backboard.
*Muhammad had the first two baskets of the second half for the Buckeyes. On the second, he pointed to a spot where he wanted a teammate for a screen, didn’t get it and drove anyway to finish with a floater. He answered the bell early, both times negating Cincinnati baskets.
*Kaleb Wesson’s post game has developed. He showed a few nice spin moves on the block and some nifty feet, not to mention a (gasp) dunk. After he spun over his right shoulder and scored on the right block, he denied a post feed at the other end to start an Ohio State fast break. Dakich called him “the best player on the court” immediately after.
*What a sequence. Muhammad nearly flies out of bounds to get a loose ball and manages to get it to Young, who is falling upcourt but keeps his dribble to avoid the travel call. He gets the ball to Andre Wesson, who crosses halfcourt and gets it to his brother on the right block. Kaleb Wesson then throws a perfect bounce pass to Young who catches it in stride and is fouled going to the hoop. I’ve got to think Holtmann particularly loved that possession, because the bench clearly did. As Kaleb Wesson came off the court for the timeout, Washington sought him out and congratulated him.
*My favorite moment of the night: after Andre Wesson buries a three to make it a 16-point lead, Cincinnati brings it across halfcourt to call timeout. As they do so, Muhammad is right there and swipes at the ball to try and get a steal before the timeout is granted. Talk about being a tenacious defender.
*Jackson drove the left block, stutter-stepped, picked up his dribble, shot-faked and then fed Andre Wesson at the top of the circle. He faked a shot, then buried a wide-open three.
*With the lead at 11 and Cincinnati gaining momentum, Ohio State called timeout. The execution out of that huddle was … lacking. After barely getting the ball inbounds against the Bearcats’ pressure, Jackson wound up with it in no man’s land late in the shot clock and wound up turning it over. Last year’s Ohio State team was proficient out of timeouts and that was a big part of its success.
*Washington spent significant time talking with the officials throughout the game on multiple occasions.
*Andre Wesson’s fourth foul looked ridiculous live but less egregious on the replay. He leaned into the Cincinnati player he was screening and drew contact a second before a different Bearcat flew into Woods and knocked him over. Holtmann was livid when this was called as a foul on Andre Wesson and nearly got called for a technical, which would have set the crowd ablaze.
*Jallow played some important defense. With a little more than 11 minutes left, he shadowed Jarron Cumberland across the court and blocked his shot out of bounds. Then he helped seal off his man after he picked up his dribble late in the shot clock and forced him to turn it over while trying to make a pass. Jallow gets no statistic for that play, but I’m sure the coaches took note.
*But then Jallow had a second shot blocked at the rim. He’s got to find a way to finish those.
*Young did an incredible job finishing a Kaleb Wesson miss. He spun around his defender, nabbed the rebound and laid it in all while in the air and being fouled. He was especially impactful down the stretch.
*Jackson with a dagger of a three-pointer with 6:51 to play that pushes the lead back to 14 points. It came against a much bigger defender, but Jackson somehow hoisted it over him and buried it for his biggest shot of the game – to that point. Dakich: “He’s a clutch kid.”
*Ohio State might not have needed any late heroics had Kaleb Wesson not turned it over with about six minutes to go. The big fella had just dunked (!) to make it a 16-point lead, and the Buckeyes forced a miss and had possession but he was off target with a quick pass to Woods. The turnover led to an extra Cincinnati possession, and Cumberland hit a contested three as the shot clock buzzed to re-energize the crowd.
*When Muhammad hit his three-pointer with 5:21 to play and then was called for a technical, Jackson and Andre Wesson were immediately talking to him in the huddle. Then on the sideline, Holtmann addressed him with his hand over his mouth. At the end of the exchange, Muhammad smiled as he got a pat on the back. Dakich: “That’s not a technical foul. Are we supposed to wrap people up in saran wrap and not have emotion? That’s a nonsense call.” It did ignite the crowd and provide the spark for a tight final five minutes.
*Ahead 10 with about four minutes left, Woods traveled as he drove the basket. Surprising turnover in that situation from such a veteran.
*Holtmann likes to run a backdoor cut play that results in one layup/dunk per game. Cincinnati blocked it twice. Jallow had one blocked and then Muhammad did with about three minutes to play.
*Muhammad got called for a bogus foul with 2:21 to play. Dakich called it bad officiating. I’d have to agree.
*Ohio State did a pretty good job of handling Cincinnati’s full-court pressure until Jackson threw it away with about 90 seconds to play and the Buckeyes clinging to a six-point lead.
*With Cumberland providing all of the offense late for the Bearcats, it was Andre Wesson who drew him as his defensive assignment.
*Jackson’s game-sealing scoop shot off the glass came after a Kaleb Wesson ball screen and among two Cincinnati defenders. Huge shot, and that won’t be the first time he makes a play like that this season.