CJ Walker helps Ohio State to balanced victory against Morehead State

Adam Jardy
Buckeye Xtra
Ohio State Buckeyes guard CJ Walker (13) dives for the ball against Morehead State Eagles forward Johni Broome (4) during the first half of their game at Covelli Center in Columbus, Ohio on December 2, 2020.

CJ Walker entered his senior season with as much responsibility as Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann will give him. So when Holtmann said his point guard and team captain is expected to lead better at both ends of the floor than he did in Sunday’s win against UMass Lowell, it put the onus on Walker to respond.

Wednesday evening at the Covelli Center, Walker had his hand in a little bit of everything. He took a charge on a player three inches taller than him. He went full-on Superman to dive for a ball he poked loose defensively. And in a game-high 33 minutes, he was one of five Buckeyes to score in double figures as they improved to 3-0 with a 77-44 win against Morehead State (1-3).

Ohio State Buckeyes forward E.J. Liddell (32) scores against Morehead State Eagles forward James Baker (3) during the second half of their game at Covelli Center in Columbus, Ohio on December 2, 2020.

Walker finished with 11 points, four rebounds, four assists and three steals before being removed with 3:07 to play and the lead at 71-42. Sophomore E.J. Liddell had a team-high 16 points while Walker, Duane Washington Jr. and Justice Sueing all had 11 points.

Kyle Young hit his first three-pointer of the season and came within one rebound of his third career double-double, finishing with 10 points and a team-high nine rebounds.

Ohio State closed the game on a 19-2 run.

Unlike Sunday’s afternoon matinee against UMass Lowell, this one was never really in doubt for the Buckeyes. Morehead State took a brief 7-6 lead, Duane Washington Jr. reclaimed it for the Buckeyes on a mid-range jumper two possessions later and the Eagles would never lead again.

The Buckeyes created breathing room with an 11-2 run, scoring on five straight possessions past the midpoint of the first half to take a 28-16 lead. From there, Morehead State would occasionally threaten but never get within five points the rest of the way. Ohio State led by double figures for the final 18:25 of the game when Walker gave it a 39-29 lead on a fast-break layup.

Ohio State had pushed its lead to 13 points in the final minutes of the first half with a 7-0 run that began with the first Ohio State points for Jimmy Sotos, when he swished a three-pointer with 3:16 to play, and ended with four straight points from E.J. Liddell. They had a chance to extend it before the break, too, when the Eagles turned the ball over with 46.5 seconds left to give Ohio State the opportunity for two possessions to close the half.

Instead, Walker and Sotos mixed each other up and Walker threw the ball out of bounds with 34.9 seconds to play for his only turnover of the game. Morehead State then got a three-pointer from Julius Dixon with 14 seconds left, and Walker could only manage a contested three at the buzzer to send the Buckeyes into the locker room with a 37-27 lead.

Holtmann was able to substitute liberally to that point. Nine players saw first-half action and each of them played for at least six minutes with Liddell leading all scorers at 12 points.

The three-point shooting woes that hampered Ohio State in its previous outing carried over. After going 4 for 18 against UMass Lowell, the Buckeyes were 10 for 26 (38.5%) - numbers buoyed by a 5-for-7 stretch in the final minutes.

ajardy@dispatch.com

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