A deep look at the lineups Ohio State used against Cincinnati

Adam Jardy
Ohio State Buckeyes forward Kyle Young (25) and Ohio State Buckeyes forward Kaleb Wesson (34) defend against Cincinnati Bearcats guard Zach Harvey (23) during the first half of a NCAA Division I men's basketball game between the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Cincinnati Bearcats on Wednesday, November 6, 2019 at Value City Arena in Columbus, Ohio. [Joshua A. Bickel/Dispatch]

Wednesday night marked the first official look at the 2019-20 Ohio State men’s basketball team. In a home game against Cincinnati, the Buckeyes shook off a slow start and emerged with a 64-56 win at Value City Arena.

Three players made their Ohio State debuts in the win, and coach Chris Holtmann mixed and matched his lineups throughout the game. What did we learn about the team, and how did those lineups perform?

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Let’s take a look.

• The Buckeyes opened with the same starters as the Cedarville exhibition game: CJ Walker, Luther Muhammad, Andre Wesson, Kyle Young and Kaleb Wesson. This group the first 3:40 of the scoreless streak to open the game, and it was broken up at 16:20 with Cincinnati leading 5-0 when freshman D.J. Carton replaced Walker at the point. Twenty-nine scoreless seconds later, freshman E.J. Liddell also made his debut when he replaced Young at 15:51.

• It bears repeating: The first two substitutions of the season were freshmen.

• The first lineup to score consisted of Carton, Justin Ahrens, Young and the Wessons. In essence, that’s a lineup with one guard, three forwards and a center. It entered the game at 12:56 and the score still at 5-0. Young scored Ohio State’s first points on a dunk at 12:20. Until this group played together, five lineups had all seen at least one possession’s worth of playing time and come up empty. All of them were traditional lineups with either two guards, two forwards and a center or two guards and three forwards.

• Down 8-4 at the under-12 media timeout, the Buckeyes came out with a lineup of Carton, Duane Washington Jr., Ahrens, Young and Kaleb Wesson. That’s two juniors, two sophomores and a freshman. It scored two points and allowed two in 2:20 before three changes were made.

• This would be the first lineup to outscore its opponents. With Walker, Muhammad, Ahrens and the Wessons, Ohio State would outscore Cincinnati 5-2 and briefly take the lead before Carton replaced Walker with 6:56 left in the half and Cincinnati ahead 12-11.

• Liddell replaced Ahrens with 6:14 left in the half. This made the lineup of Carton, Muhammad, Liddell and the Wessons the first to be used multiple times in this game. Then Young replaced Liddell, reuniting another lineup, and it tied the game at 15 with a 4-0 run in 1:42 that forced Cincinnati to call timeout.

• Walker checked back in with two fouls with 1:13 to play and Cincinnati holding a 22-17 lead. It put the starters back on the court, but they were outscored 3-2 in the next 59 seconds before Washington replaced Young for a final offensive possession that came up empty. During the first half, Ohio State’s starters were outscored 8-2 in 4:39.

• The second half would prove to be a different story. Holtmann made no lineup changes for the first 6:22, sticking with his starters as they turned a 26-19 halftime deficit into a 30-29 lead with an 11-4 run.

• With the lead at 49-43, it was back to the starters with 7:33 to play until Andre Wesson suffered a game-ending injury with 5:57 left and the lead at 53-45. Carton replaced him, giving the Buckeyes three guards in Walker, Muhammad and Carton with Young and Kaleb Wesson in the paint. Cincinnati scored four quick points, and Muhammad was swapped out for Washington with 4:40 left and the lead down to 53-49.

• The Buckeyes played the final 7:33 with a three-guard lineup that included Young and a rotation between Liddell and Kaleb Wesson. The lineup that played the final 2:28 featured Carton, Walker, Washington, Young and Kaleb Wesson.

• In all, Ohio State used 15 lineups against the Bearcats, 12 of which saw more than a minute of playing time. In last year’s opener against Cincinnati, the Buckeyes used 11 lineups and nine of them played for at least one minute.

• The starters saw the most playing time, totaling 12:37.

• Three lineups tied for the best plus-minus at plus-3. They were:

The starters

Walker, Muhammad, Ahrens and the Wessons in 2:08

Walker, Carter, Washington, Young and Kaleb Wesson in 2:48

• Seven of the 15 lineups were of the traditional two guard, two forward and one center variety. That accounted for 29:31 of the game, or just shy of 75 percent.

• Three lineups were made of three guards, one forward and one center. That configuration was on the court for 4:19. The Buckeyes used four three-guard lineups in all, totaling 6:11.