Before the No. 15 Ohio State men’s basketball team hosted Bucknell, coach Chris Holtmann said on the official pregame radio show that he’s still waiting on final grades from his entire team.
Then against the Bison, Holtmann found himself waiting on some defense from the Buckeyes. In the first game in 10 days for the Buckeyes owing to final exams, the Buckeyes (9-1) built a first-half lead, saw it completely evaporate and then held on in the final seconds of the second half for a 73-71 win against the Bison (4-4) at Value City Arena.
Avi Toomer hit a leaning three-pointer with 20.1 seconds left to pull Bucknell within 73-71, and when the Buckeyes inbounded the ball to C.J. Jackson the senior couldn’t hold onto the pass. It deflected from one Bison to another before the visitors grabbed possession and called timeout with 14.0 seconds left.
With the Ohio State crowd on its feet, the Buckeyes defense tightened and all Bucknell could master was a contested Bruce Moore three-pointer that was well off the mark.
Bucknell opened the second half with a three-pointer on its first possession, picking up right where it left off, and grew a three-point halftime advantage to a game-high eight-point lead when Nate Sestina hit 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 a loose ball and lost three front teeth in the process. When he returned, he was wearing a protective mouth guard, according to a team spokesman.
The Sestina free throws capped what had been a 24-4 run dating back to the first half and gave the Bison a 49-41 lead, but it was the high-water mark.Join the conversation at Facebook.com/BuckeyeXtra and connect with us on Twitter @BuckeyeXtra
Luther Muhammad’s jumper got things started, and when C.J. Jackson scored with 13:40 to play it restored the lead at 53-52 through a combination of Ohio State starting to hit some shots and Bucknell actually missing a few. It would max out at a 15-3 run for the Buckeyes during which Keyshawn Woods scored eight of 10 Ohio State points, building a 58-52 lead.
Kaleb Wesson scored his 12th and 13th points on a layup with 4:04 left in the first half, and the game-high 12-point lead looked poised to only grow. Instead, like during the final minutes of the first half in each of Ohio State’s two prior games, Bucknell got on a roll.
It was impressive. Starting with a Kimbal Mackenzie three-pointer, the Bison hit their final six shots of the half – three of which were three-pointers – to put together a stunning, 15-0 run. It gave Bucknell its first lead of the game at 40-37 when Jimmy Sotos hit a three-pointer over Woods with 36 seconds remaining, and Woods answered with a jumper at the other end to set the halftime score at 40-39. It ended a scoring drought of 3:58 for the Buckeyes wherein they missed four field goals and two free throws and had two turnovers.
The Buckeyes trailed despite shooting 58.6 percent from the floor, assisting on 10 of their 17 field goals and holding a 10-2 advantage in second-chance points. Bucknell, which entered the game getting 37.3 percent of its points from three-point range to rank No. 62 nationally, got 67.5 percent of them from deep during the first half while going 9 for 17.
Kaleb Wesson led all scorers with a career-high 22 points and added 10 rebounds for his second career double-double.