As always, the results never officially counted when Ohio State hosted North Carolina-Pembroke in an exhibition game before the 2018-19 season. The official media guide doesn’t record the 81-63 win the Buckeyes enjoyed, and it doesn’t include the 21 turnovers committed by the home team.
That latter number was more reflected throughout the season as Ohio State turned the ball over at an alarming rate that nearly cost it an NCAA Tournament bid. The Buckeyes finished the season ranked No. 193 nationally in turnover percentage, a statistic that coach Chris Holtmann has harped on since the season ended with a second-round loss to Houston.
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On Wednesday night, the Buckeyes will dip their toes into the 2019-20 season with an exhibition against Division II Cedarville at Value City Arena. It will be the first chance to watch an eagerly anticipated four-man freshman class begin to contribute to a team that is ranked 18th in the preseason Associated Press poll.
The specifics of what happens might not mean much when the regular season gets underway in one week. But there’s at least a few hints that the Buckeyes might give in the process.
“You get some insight, but I don’t know that it’s a trend necessarily until we see it for a number of games,” Holtmann said. “We’ll see. Our rotation, we’re going to play a lot of guys. We’re going to have a lot of mistakes given our youth, and we’re going to have to teach through that and play through that.
"Part of that will be turnovers, but I’m interested to see how committed our guys are to playing the way we want to play on both ends.”
Everyone is scheduled to be available, Holtmann said Tuesday, except Musa Jallow, who had an arthroscopic procedure on his right ankle and is in a walking boot.
Junior CJ Walker, who transferred from Florida State and sat out last season, will suit up. It’ll be his first game played in front of a paying crowd in 584 days, a number Walker said he calculated himself.
He said the team’s defensive effort will be telling.
“We want to be a great defensive team, be locked in on details, playing in our gaps, doing things like that, communication,” he said. “If Kaleb (Wesson) catches the ball on the block, we know what he’s doing to do (in practice). Going against somebody else, you never know what is going to happen. It’ll be a good learning experience for us to get better. Defensively, I would say is one of our biggest things we want to learn from.”
The plan is for Ohio State to host a different Ohio team for a preseason exhibition game each year, Holtmann said. Cedarville sold roughly 1,500 tickets within an hour of putting them on sale, he said, and has since sold at least 1,000 more.