A thought flashed through his mind as Kaleb Wesson launched his 6-foot-9, 255-pound frame toward the loose ball.
“I gotta go get it,” he said. “It hurt though, but I had to go get it.”
The play came a little more than three minutes into the second half of a game18th-ranked Ohio State was comfortably leading, but it was at the directive of the coaching staff.Get the news delivered to your inbox: Sign up for our BuckeyeXtra newsletter
Against a tired-looking UMass Lowell team that had just played not even 48 hours prior in a win over Long Island, the Buckeyes were leading 38-25 at the half and Wesson already had a double-double. But assistant coach Terry Johnson wanted more when the team left the locker room.
Wesson was just the first of three Buckeyes players with full-extension, second-half dives for loose balls in what would become a 76-56 win that was more lopsided than the final score indicated.
“You’re constantly trying to talk about playing to a standard,” coach Chris Holtmann said. “The elite teams do that. It’s building habits, so our habits have to be formed in every practice and every game. We talked about that with them, but we had stretches in the second half where it was great.”
It helped the Buckeyes (2-0) take control against the River Hawks (1-2) thanks to a balanced attack and despite the absence of senior Andre Wesson, who missed the game with an eye injury and watched while wearing glasses. Wesson and freshman D.J. Carton led five scorers in double figures with 13 points each, while sophomore Luther Muhammad had 11 and junior Kyle Young and freshman Alonzo Gaffney each added 10.
By the half, Wesson had already notched his seventh career double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds, becoming the first Ohio State player to do so by halftime since Jae’Sean Tate had 13 points and 10 rebounds on Feb. 23, 2017, against Wisconsin.
Ohio State again shook off a slow start, but it didn’t take more than seven minutes to score or lead to a deficit like it did in the opener against Cincinnati.
CJ Walker broke through with a layup at 16:31 for Ohio State’s first points after four missed field goals and three missed free throws. UMass Lowell led 6-2 at that point, in part on a three-pointer by Ready graduate Josh Gantz. But Walker’s layup was the first of four straight possessions on which the Buckeyes scored, the last a Carton layup to give them a 9-8 lead.
They would take the lead for good moments later when Gaffney made the first shot attempt of his college career. An unused substitute against the Bearcats, he checked in 15:31 of the first and swished a three-pointer from the left corner at 13:04 for a 12-10 lead. Classmate Ibrahima Diallo also made his debut with six minutes to play.
Muhammad spent much of the night shadowing Christian Lutete, who scored a school-record 51 points Friday night. He finished with nine points on 4-of-12 shooting, scoring five of his points in the final 6:29 with the game already well in hand for the Buckeyes.