Never one to back down, a confident Keyshawn Woods was engaged in some banter before the final possession of Saturday’s game.
Having led by 10 points with less than four minutes to play against Bucknell, the graduate transfer for Ohio State was on the court as the Bison took possession with 14 seconds to play and the Buckeyes leading 73-71. Woods was already familiar with Bucknell, having played the team last season with Wake Forest, and he knew what was coming.
“Well, because I was talking to one of the players, I knew they wanted to end the game,” Woods said. “They have a certain play they like to run when it comes to the baseline drift and trying to get the shooter to come off.”
Join the conversation at Facebook.com/BuckeyeXtra and connect with us on Twitter @BuckeyeXtra
It’s one the Buckeyes had scouted. And in a game in which Bucknell made more threes than twos, it was one they finally defended with purpose. Bruce Moore’s three-point attempt with a second left was well off the mark, and No. 15 Ohio State (9-1) held off the Bison (4-4) in front of 14,241 at Value City Arena who were roaring for the final seconds.
To get to that point, the Buckeyes built a 12-point first-half lead, endured a collapse leading into the half and a slow start to the second before building a lead to set up the finish.
“Give our guys a lot of credit for pulling this one out and surviving,” said coach Chris Holtmann, who was repeatedly critical of the job he did preparing the Buckeyes. “Long ways to go. We’ve got a lot to learn.”
Bucknell opened the second half with a three-pointer on its first possession and grew a three-point halftime advantage to a game-high eight points when Nate Sestina made two free throws with 17:19 to play.
Making matters worse, junior forward Andre Wesson briefly left the game when he went face-first on the court while stretching out for the ball and lost three front teeth in the process. When he returned, he was wearing a protective mouth guard, and he finished with a career-high nine rebounds.
Sophomore Kaleb Wesson, Andre’s younger brother, downplayed the severity of the fall and its ramifications.
“He’s going to be good,” he said. “Ain’t nothing wrong with him.”
The Sestina free throws capped a 24-4 run dating to the first half and gave the Bison a 49-41 lead, marking the third straight game in which the Buckeyes allowed a large run leading into halftime.
Bucknell was 9 of 17 from three-point range in the first half but 1 of 10 in the second until it made two of its final three close to the end of regulation.
“(Holtmann) was telling us they were hitting too many shots and they weren’t feeling us at the time on D and we weren’t in their face enough,” Kaleb Wesson said of the halftime adjustment. “We had to get into them.”