Kaleb Wesson comes up big vs. Michigan for Ohio State men’s basketball team

Adam Jardy
Kaleb Wesson had 23 points and 12 bounds in Ohio State‘s 61-58 victory over Michigan on Tuesday night. [Paul Sancya/The Associated Press]

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — The most productive game of Kaleb Wesson’s career came with a price that seemed to stretch from ear to collarbone.

The junior had 23 points and 12 rebounds Tuesday to help carry Ohio State to a 61-58 win over Michigan that bumped the team’s winning streak to three games. Along the way, he paid the price with a nasty-looking deep scratch that Wesson shrugged off like it was a Michigan defender.

That flesh wound? It was just part of a physical game that swung Ohio State’s way when Kyle Young literally had his jersey ripped by Zavier Simpson during the final minute.

“I don’t know if you can put that into words,” Wesson said when asked about the physicality of the game. “Boy got his jersey ripped off, I got scratched by a sabertooth.”

It didn’t slow him down. When the Ohio State offense struggled to get going early, Wesson scored seven straight points on a three-pointer and two fadeaway jumpers against 7-foot-1 Wolverines center Jon Teske. When Michigan adjusted its defense at halftime and started to take away his ability to pick-and-pop off screens, he started rolling to the basket instead.

His old-fashioned three-point play with a little more than two minutes to play saw him catch the ball, feel the defender and control his drive to the basket. It’s a situation that has often resulted in Wesson picking up a charge, but against Michigan, it was another indication that Wesson is turning a corner in his development.

“Kaleb, I thought was who he is and that is one of the best bigs in the country,” coach Chris Holtmann said. “Sometimes he can have games where he struggles, just like everybody else, but he played like one of the best big men in the country.”

For that, coach and player credited Wesson’s offseason work on his body. It allowed him to play 35 minutes while finishing with his 10th double-double of the season and third in a row. During that stretch, Wesson has averaged 16.3 points and 11.0 rebounds. When the season seemed to be slipping away, Wesson stepped up and is playing his most impactful minutes when the Buckeyes have needed him the most.

“He couldn’t have played this long last year,” Holtmann said. “He just couldn’t have done it. Now he’s able to get off a body and go get the ball.”

Given the state of the season, the opponent and the location of the game, was this the best performance of Wesson’s career? He demurred when asked, saying it was one of his better ones.

Standing to Wesson’s left, Young answered for his teammate, he of the freshly earned battle scar.

“We expect a lot out of him,” he said. “He’s a great player, and when he comes to play like that, we’re just happy for him.”


Listen to the BuckeyeXtra Basketball podcast: