Analysis: What lineups the Buckeyes used to beat Kentucky

Adam Jardy
Ohio State's E.J. Liddell, left, and Kentucky's Tyrese Maxey (3) scramble for the ball during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Dec. 21, 2019, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

LAS VEGAS – With a 71-65 win against No. 6 Kentucky on Saturday at T-Mobile Arena, No. 5 Ohio State improved to 11-1 and entered Christmas break with a third top-10 win on its resume.

Here’s a look at what lineups coach Chris Holtmann used along the way.

*The Buckeyes regained the services of Duane Washington Jr., who missed the last two games with an injury to the cartilage around one of his ribs, but he did not slot back into the starting lineup. For a third straight game, the Buckeyes went with CJ Walker, Luther Muhammad, Andre Wesson, Kyle Young and Kaleb Wesson. This was the third straight start for these five players, who one game earlier had outscored Southeast Missouri 15-9 in 9:29.

*The starters played the first 3:26 before E.J. Liddell was the first substitute, replacing Young with the Buckeyes lead at 6-2. D.J. Carton was the next substitute, replacing Walker with 15:19 to play and the lead at 9-6. That lineup of Carton, Muhammad, Liddell and the Wesson brothers was outscored 7-2 in 2:30. Holtmann called timeout with 12:49 to play after Muhammad’s pass was easily picked off by Ashton Hagans for an undefended dunk at the other end that got him sent to the bench for Washington with Kentucky leading 13-11.

*Kaleb Wesson got his first break here as Young replaced him. This lineup of Carton, Washington, Andre Wesson, Liddell and Young had played in five prior games and was plus-22 (42 points scored, 20 allowed) in 18:02. It didn’t get a long run here, getting a pair of Liddell free throws to tie the game at 13 before Muhammad came in for Wesson 53 seconds later. When he checked in with 11:56 to play, it was the first time the Buckeyes went with a three-guard lineup in this game.

*Ohio State would stay with three guards until 8:29 remained and the lead was back to 22-21. The Buckeyes would never trail again, and it was here that they went to the back-of-the-alphabet lineup. Walker, Washington, the Wessons and Young are the last five players alphabetically on the roster by last name.

*The lineup was broken up when Kaleb Wesson picked up a second foul with 6:41 to play and would sit for the remainder of the half.

*At the break, Ohio State led 37-36. The starting lineup for eight games that was broken up by Washington’s injury did not make an appearance for a third straight game, and it was back to this game’s starters for the start of the second half.

*Liddell was again the first substitute, replacing Young with 16:18 to play and the lead at 40-39. A line change would follow 22 seconds after a Liddell layup and foul by Kaleb Wesson.

*Among those changes: Carton checked in with 15:56 to play, and he would not depart the game again.

*This lineup of Carton, Washington, Andre Wesson, Liddell and Young would get some significant run. The next substitute wouldn’t come for 4:23 when Kaleb Wesson checked back in for Young with the lead at 49-44, giving this lineup a 7-3 run.

*With 8:40 to play and the lead at 53-48, the Buckeyes would play the next 5:10 with the lineup of Carton, Walker, Muhammad, Young and Kaleb Wesson. During this critical stretch of the game, the Buckeyes maintained their lead and increased it to six before Wesson fouled out with 3:30 to play and Ohio State ahead 62-56.

*Wesson was replaced by Liddell, who would play for 27 seconds before he was replaced by Andre Wesson. This lineup would salt away the win, playing the final 3:03 and outscoring the Wildcats 9-8.

*The Buckeyes played with three guards for the final 8:40 of the game.

*No new lineups were used in the game. That’s the first time this has happened this season.

*The lineup of Carton, Walker, Muhammad, Young and Kaleb Wesson had played a total of 2:31 in two appearances earlier this year. It scored 16 and allowed 13 in 7:29 in this game and was the most-used lineup of the game.

*Ohio State played 12 of its 13 lineups for at least a minute.

*The starters were plus-4, the best margin for a Buckeyes lineup in the game.

*Five Ohio state lineups featured three guards. The Buckeyes were plus-1 in 17:47 with three guards on the floor (35 points scored, 34 allowed), which means they were plus-five when playing traditional two-guard lineups.