For a while, a series that laid dormant for nearly a century harkened back to the last time Cincinnati and Ohio State actually played on campus.
Before starting a home-and-home series with the 2018-19 season, the Buckeyes hadn’t hosted the Bearcats since a 33-17 Cincinnati win on Dec. 10, 1921. With Cincinnati at Value City Arena for the first time in Wednesday night’s season opener for both teams, the early action might as well have been played with peach baskets and too-short shorts.
It took halftime for the Ohio State offense to arrive. When it did, it wasn’t exactly the 1992 Dream Team, but it was more on par with expectations for the first Buckeyes team to open the season ranked in five years.
After an anemic first half for both teams gave Cincinnati a seven-point lead, the No. 18 Buckeyes scored nine points in the first 150 seconds of the second half, righted the ship and hung on late for a 64-56 win against the Bearcats in coach John Brannen’s debut.
Kyle Young did the heavy lifting throughout, putting up his first career double-double with 14 points and 13 rebounds. Both totals are career highs. Freshman D.J. Carton added nine points and five rebounds and Kaleb Wesson had eight points and 11 rebounds.
The start to a much-anticipated season proved to be a house of horrors. The Buckeyes opened the game by going scoreless on their first 11 possessions, a stretch in which they missed their first eight field goals, committed five turnovers and missed three free throws.
It looked as ugly as the statistics indicated, but Cincinnati didn’t fare much better. When Young’s dunk at 12:20 of the first half gave Ohio State its first points of the year, it made it a 6-2 Bearcats lead.
Young would prove to be the lone constant positive during the first half, and it came entirely through effort plays. As the offense failed to find any sort of real traction, it was the junior forward who single-handedly kept the Buckeyes in the game by cleaning the glass and scoring on putbacks.
Having never nabbed more than four offensive rebounds, Young had six during the first half alone and led all scorers with 10 points as a result.
At the break, Ohio State trailed 26-19 as Buckeyes not named Young were a combined 4-of-23 (17.4 percent) from the field. They briefly took the lead when Andre Wesson swished a three-pointer with 7:33 to play that put Ohio State ahead 11-10, but Jarron Cumberland answered with a floater at the other end to reclaim the lead. Cincinnati would grow its first-half lead as high as eight points.
The Buckeyes honored program legend John Havlicek, who died last spring, with a special jersey patch and a pregame moment of silence. Jerry Lucas, whose No. 11 jersey hangs adjacent to Havlicek’s in the arena, was in attendance and recognized during the first media timeout.