Analysis: Which Ohio State lineups did and did not work against West Virginia

Adam Jardy
West Virginia's Miles McBride (4) drives on Ohio State's Luther Muhammad (1) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019, in Cleveland. West Virginia defeated Ohio State 67-59. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane)

Against a West Virginia team with a well-earned reputation, Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann had to substitute liberally throughout Sunday's 67-59 loss inside Cleveland's Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.

Those decisions were complicated further with junior forward Kyle Young, a starter all season, dealing with an illness that after the game had him returning to Columbus to be evaluated for appendicitis. He could only be used sparingly, also helping to alter Holtmann's rotations.

Here's a breakdown of what personnel Ohio State used against the Mountaineers.

*For a fourth straight game, Holtmann went with a starting lineup of CJ Walker, Luther Muhammad, Andre Wesson, Kyle Young and Kaleb Wesson. That group turned it over on the first three possessions of the game but built a 5-2 lead before D.J. Carton, the first sub of the game, replaced Walker with 16:24 to play.

*It was a quick break for Walker, who re-entered the game 42 seconds later in place of Andre Wesson to give the Buckeyes a three-guard look. That didn't last long, though, and a traditional lineup with Carton and Duane Washington Jr. as the two guards would play from 15:02 until 11:41 as an 8-4 Ohio State lead was trimmed to 16-13. This group also turned it over twice.

*With 11:16 to play and the lead at 16-14, Muhammad re-entered the game for Carton. It marked the first time the lineup that had started eight straight games had appeared together in four games. The lineup of Walker, Muhammad, Washington, Young and Kaleb Wesson was put together when Andre Wesson went out with an injury in the first game of the year and was broken up when Washington missed two games with an injury. In this game, it was on the court here for 1:23 and got a pair of Muhammad free throws to push the lead to 18-14.

*While this group was on the court, Washington forced a three-pointer that he misfired badly. Holtmann turned to the bench but didn't want to put Carton back into the game because he had two fouls, so he replaced him with freshman – and Cleveland native – Alonzo Gaffney. The lineup of Gaffney, Walker, Washington and the Wessons was outscored 4-0 thanks to a wide-open three-pointer, a play during which Gaffney was the closest defender and appeared to have lost his man. Liddell would replace him 39 seconds later, and Gaffney would not appear again.

*Ohio State did not re-use a lineup until 1:37 remained in the first half, when Muhammad, Walker, Washington, Kaleb Wesson and Young were on the court to close out the half. Holtmann used 13 different lineups during the half alone, equaling the total number of different lineups in the entire Kentucky game the last time the Buckeyes were on the court.

*It was back to the starters for the second half, but Young could only go for the first 3:26 before Carton replaced him and the lead at 40-34. The scoring droughts would pick up from here.

*That lineup got a missed three from Muhammad, a turnover by Andre Wesson and another from Carton before Young, Liddell and Washington replaced Muhammad and both Wessons with 14:54 left and the lead still at 40-34.

*This lineup, which hadn't seen action during the last nine games, got turnovers from Walker and Washington before Muhammad replaced Walker with 13:07 to play and West Virginia now ahead, 41-40. The Buckeyes allowed a 7-0 run with this group.

*This group then lasted 33 seconds and a Liddell turnover before Young had to check back out. Kaleb Wesson relieved him with 12:34 to play and the West Virginia lead still at 41-40.

*The lineup of Carton, Liddell, Muhammad, Washington and Kaleb Wesson got some significant run by this game's standards. They would play the next 2:49 and regain the lead at 47-46, a 7-5 run that ended when Young replaced Liddell with 9:45 to play.

*From 8:20 until 5:24, a lineup of Carton, Walker, Young and the Wessons didn't allow a point but could only muster a pair of Kaleb Wesson free throws to pull within 52-49.

*Young and Carton were replaced by Liddell and Muhammad at that point. The duo joined Walker and the Wessons, and this group wouldn't be broken up until the final minute. It briefly reclaimed the lead at 54-53 with 4:40 to play but ultimately was outscored 7-5 as the Mountaineers led 59-54 when Washington replaced Muhammad with 58 seconds to play.

*The Buckeyes played the final 33 seconds with a four-guard lineup as they sought for a miracle. Carton, Walker, Washington, Muhammad and Kaleb Wesson finished out the game together.

*Ohio State tied a season high with 20 different lineups. Only 13 of those lineups were on the court for more than one minute.

*Of those 20 lineups, 14 of them utilized three or more guards. The Buckeyes were minus-4 (13 points scored, 17 allowed) in 13:16 with two guards on the court, accounting for 33.2 percent of the game. They were outscored by the same margin, 50-46, with at least three guards on the floor.

*With non-conference play complete, the lineup with the best plus-minus is the one that started games 2-9: Muhammad, Walker, Washington, Kaleb Wesson and Young. That group was plus-44 (124 points scored, 80 allowed) in 56:07.


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