For a second straight game, a key ingredient was missing for Ohio State.
Two days removed from a disjointed effort at Minnesota that marked their first loss, the No. 5 Buckeyes were playing Tuesday night at Value City Arena against Southeast Missouri State, picked to finish last in the 12-team Ohio Valley Conference. And yet, like against the Golden Gophers, Ohio State found itself trailing midway through the first half after some uncharacteristically sloppy basketball.
Then junior center Kaleb Wesson said the players realized what was amiss.
“We just weren’t playing Ohio State basketball,” he said. “I feel like we were pressing a lot instead of moving the ball and playing how we’ve been playing the whole year. We got out of our ways a little bit.”
In spite of their efforts at self-sabotage, they eventually found their way. The Buckeyes overcame a season-high 21 turnovers by assisting on 23 of 30 field goals and outscored the Redhawks by a 36-point margin the rest of the way in an 80-48 win.
Along the way, Ohio State (10-1) dealt with a few clock malfunctions, an injury scare to Wesson and a surprising aversion to holding onto the ball. Although the Redhawks (3-8) deflected some of Ohio State’s passes, they finished with only three steals on the 21 turnovers.
Southeast Missouri State turned those miscues into only three points.
“It was passing turnovers, it was catching turnovers, it was feeding the post turnovers, it was catching it with one hand,” Holtmann said. “We had a couple times where we didn’t run the right play and ran into bodies when we had three freshmen out there at one time.”
Already without sophomore guard Duane Washington Jr., who missed a second straight game because of a rib injury, the Buckeyes briefly lost Wesson when he slipped on the floor and felt his left knee hyperextend less than three minutes in. He went to the locker room under his own power, returned moments later and finished with his fourth double-double of the season at 18 points and 10 rebounds.
Wesson also suffered a bloody nose and a rolled ankle.
“It was a tough one, but I’m good,” he said with a smile.
The game turned with less than three minutes to play in the first half when Luther Muhammad found Alonzo Gaffney with a bounce pass from the top of the circle to the right block for an athletic finish behind the defense. One possession later, Gaffney fed a streaking Kyle Young for a dunk.
Wesson followed with a layup off a feed from Young that didn’t earn an assist, but Walker continued the run with a three-pointer off an extra Justin Ahrens pass. The 9-4 run helped the Buckeyes to a 35-26 halftime lead.
Then the fun could resume.
“It was really just a matter of passing and catching,” Young said. “It was simple stuff for us. Once we were able to do that, we were back to playing basketball like we do.”