Ohio State men's basketball | Analysis: What surprise lineup powered the Samford win?

Adam Jardy
Ohio State guard Luther Muhammad (1) celebrates, left, as teammate Andre Wesson (24) looks back on the court after a basket against Samford Bulldogs during their basketball game at Value City Arena on Nov. 20. [Kyle Robertson]

Ohio State went through a stretch of four games in nine days and came out unscathed with a 6-0 record and a spot in the national polls. The frequency of the games, coupled with the holiday last week, means it’s taken a little bit longer to digest some of the goings-on for the Buckeyes.

Before turning our full attention to Syracuse on Wednesday, here’s a look at what lineups were successful last week in wins against Samford and Cleveland State.

Coach Chris Holtmann shook things up when a few players weren’t on time for pregame responsibilities, and that meant a new starting lineup of C.J. Jackson, Duane Washington Jr., Keyshawn Woods, Musa Jallow and Jaedon LeDee.

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The altered starting lineup against Samford had a ripple effect as the half continued. When Kaleb Wesson and Luther Muhammad replaced LeDee and Washington Jr., respectively, it brought a lineup to the court that had played only 2:45 together all season but had outscored its opponents 9-0. This time, it scored two and allowed four in 1:48. It would not return to the court again.

The next lineup, which featured Jackson, Muhammad, Woods and the Wessons, got the first extended run of the game and got the Buckeyes back into it with a 7-2 run during the next 3:35.

When Kyle Young entered the game for the first time, there was 10:40 left in the first half and Samford led 15-12. He joined Muhammad, Washington, Andre Wesson and Woods, marking the first time those five had been on the court together all year. Washington hit a free throw, Muhammad made a three-pointer and the 4-0 spurt gave Ohio State a 16-15 lead.

The aforementioned lineup of Jackson, Muhammad, Woods and the Wessons was the first lineup to be used a second time, and it took the court with 6:20 left in the first half and the Buckeyes trailing 20-18. Again, this group stuck together on the court for an extended period: 4:48, during which it scored 11 points and allowed 13 as the Bulldogs lead grew slightly to 32-29. The group was broken up with 1:32 left in the half.

Having played 8:23 of the first half, this same group started the second half with Ohio State trailing 32-29. It was on the court for 5:21 this time and scratched out a 36-35 lead with a 7-3 run.

The lineup that changed the game had been used in just one of the first four games. Muhammad, Washington, Kaleb Wesson, Woods and Young played for 3:53 together, turning a 38-all tie into a 50-38 lead. That’s a 12-0 run, and the opposite of the group’s only prior experience: 2:52 played against Cincinnati while being outscored 6-0.

The Buckeyes closed the game on a 12-2 run with Jackson, Muhammad, Woods and the Wessons on the floor together for the final 3:49. This was clearly Holtmann’s go-to lineup for Samford. It scored 60.1 percent of Ohio State’s points, the most for any group in a game through the first five games, and logged 19:58 together. That was also the most for any single lineup in a game this year.

Entering the game, that fivesome had played together for a combined 3:55, scoring six points and allowing five.

The starting lineup for the first four games of the season did not play together in this game. Holtmann used a season-low 10 different lineups of recruited scholarship players.

For the Cleveland State game, it was back to the customary starting lineup of Jackson, Muhammad, Young and the Wessons as the Vikings came to St. John Arena, and they got some significant run. Holtmann went nearly five minutes before breaking up the group, and when he did with 15:02 left it was a 12-4 Ohio State lead.

Cleveland State made a 7-2 run to pull within 20-17 with 8:40 to play and force Holtmann to call a timeout. The offending lineup was Jackson, LeDee, Muhammad, Andre Wesson and Woods, which was outscored in 1:57 after inheriting an 18-10 lead. Holtmann replaced LeDee with Kaleb Wesson and Andre Wesson with Justin Ahrens.

This marked the earliest appearance for Ahrens and the first time this lineup was used, and it went well. During the next 3:26, it put together an 11-2 run to push the lead up to 31-19. From this point, the game was never really in doubt again.

The lineup that played so well against Samford took the court for the first time in this game with 5:14 left in the first half, and it lasted only 33 seconds before Jallow replaced Woods. The only scoring was a Muhammad free throw.

That group was broken up with 4:41 to play and the lead at 32-19 when Woods replaced Jallow. During the next 2:50, the lineup of Jackson, Jallow, Muhammad and the Wessons was outscored 7-1 as Cleveland State pulled within seven points at 33-26.

It was back to the starters for the second half with the lead at 38-29. It was another long run of play, too. This shift lasted 5:16 and saw the Buckeyes grow their lead to 18 points at 54-36 after a 16-7 run.

Joey Lane checked in with 5:26 to play and the lead at 80-55.

The surprise starting lineup against Samford did not play together against Cleveland State.

This was the best game for the customary starting lineup. That group scored a season-high 28 points and was a season-best plus-17 in a season-high 10:14. It was only plus-5 in the first four games.


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