In its heyday, St. John Arena was recognized as a place to be feared by Ohio State opponents.
Revived for one night, albeit against a pedestrian opponent, it did not disappoint. No. 23 Ohio State, playing at its former home, never trailed and cruised to an 89-62 win against Cleveland State that felt equal parts nostalgia trip and current reminder of this team’s potential. The Buckeyes (6-0) hit nine of their first 11 second-half shots to pull away from the Vikings (2-4).
On the court where his father, Keith Wesson, played, Kaleb Wesson led all scorers with 19 points, tying a career high for the second straight game. C.J. Jackson scored 17, shaking a slump that saw him score 21 total points in Ohio State’s prior three games.Join the conversation at Facebook.com/groups/BuckeyeXtraFans and connect with us on Twitter @BuckeyeXtra
“It was special,” Kaleb Wesson said. “There was a lot of hype around this game. We even got new jerseys for this game.”
The game was Ohio State’s first at its former arena, where it played for 42 seasons, since an 85-60 win against Western Carolina on Dec. 12, 2010, and the environment matched the history. The Buckeyes wore throwback scarlet uniforms and took the court in front of a capacity crowd of 13,276 that spent much of the pregame festivities taking photos and selfies while navigating to their wooden, fold-out seats as the public-address system played exclusively classic songs from the years when this arena was home. Behind the Ohio State bench sat a pair of 2019 five-star signees, Alonzo Gaffney and DJ Carton.
The court, brought over from Value City Arena, bore a white decal that read “ST. JOHN” in black lettering to temporarily replace the logo of its primary home. Fans seated at the south end saw a video display featuring a significant panel of off-colored lights as they were treated to what looked like throwback graphics. Even coach Chris Holtmann got into the vibe, wearing a classic-looking, salmon-colored jacket.
“I got it about a month ago and finally put it on today, walked downstairs, looked in the mirror and I had some serious second thoughts,” said Holtmann, who came to postgame interviews wearing a No. 45 football jersey.
The Buckeyes never trailed, building an early 12-4 lead that was never in serious jeopardy. A 10-1 run to open the second half made it a 48-29 Ohio State lead as the Buckeyes focused their attention inside and took care of the boards. After pulling down 10 first-half offensive rebounds, Cleveland State did not get one in the second half until 14:21 remained and the Buckeyes were ahead 54-36. The lead would grow as high as 30 points.
Jackson, who was 2 for his last 12 from three after hitting three in a 66-second span against Purdue Fort Wayne in the second game of the season, hit his first two against the Vikings to give him 100 for his Ohio State career.
“This was a fun night and something we anticipate doing on a regular basis,” Holtmann said.