Threes from three key players buoy Ohio State in win against Morehead State

Adam Jardy
Buckeye Xtra
Ohio State Buckeyes forward Kyle Young (25) passes the ball against Morehead State Eagles guard DeVon Cooper (1) and forward Jaden Stanley-Williams (13) during the first half of their game at Covelli Center in Columbus, Ohio on December 2, 2020.

By the time a 33-point win was final, No. 23 Ohio State had connected on 10 three-pointers against Morehead State on Wednesday night.

That number matched Ohio State’s total through the first two games of the season and boosted the Buckeyes to their 77-44 win in a game they largely controlled from tip to final whistle. Of the 10 made three-pointers against Morehead State, though, five of them came during the final 5:30, allowing Ohio State to stretch its lead from 18 points to as high as 35.

Not all threes are created equal, though, and Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann cited a few as being extra meaningful to a team that had gone 4 for 18 (22.2%) in its previous game.

The first came during the final minutes of the first half and the Eagles on a 6-0 run. Ohio State had led by as many as 12 points, but Morehead State pulled within 30-24 when the Buckeyes called timeout. On their next possession, senior guard and Bucknell transfer Jimmy Sotos buried a three-pointer after helping break the Morehead State press to stem the tide with 3:16 left in the half.

It started a 7-0 Ohio State run but, perhaps just as importantly, it marked Sotos’ first career points for the Buckeyes after having played 17 total minutes in the first two games of the season. It was also one of only three first-half three-pointers by the Buckeyes, who missed their first six from deep.

Midway through the second half, senior Kyle Young joined the party. After connecting on only four threes during his first three seasons, Young has been asked to expand his game and add the shot to his repertoire this season.

When he connected with 10:08 to play, it pushed the lead to 17 points and provided relief on a few fronts.

“I thought (Kyle’s) three and Jimmy’s three against the press were really big threes for us,” Holtmann said. “One increased the lead and one stemmed the tide. That was good to see from those two guys.”

Holtmann has said that Young has consistently shot it well since the summer and that they chart every practice drill and workout. Young said it felt good to see one go in.

“It’s huge,” he said. “I want to be able to consistently shoot them. In the offseason I was able to shoot it really well. It’s translating that to games now for me. Seeing one go in adds a little confidence. Hopefully I keep that going.”

He finished the game 1 for 3 from three and is 1 for 4 (25.0%) for the season. For his career, Young is 5 for 33 (15.2%) from deep.

At the other end of the spectrum, junior Justin Ahrens entered the season hoping his perimeter shooting would lead to a more significant role on a team replacing its two top three-point shooters. Through his first two seasons, Ahrens shot 39.6% (42 for 106) from three and was 2 for 4 in the season opener but played only six minutes and missed his lone three-point attempt in last Sunday’s 10-point win against UMass Lowell.

He didn’t get off the bench during the second half of a game the Buckeyes had to rally to win, but he was the first player off the bench against Morehead State. He would miss his first three three-pointers, but he nailed three in rapid fire during the span of 2:40 late in the second half.

“It was good to see him step up and make some shots today,” Holtmann said. “He’s been anxious to do that, and it was really good to see.”

Thanks to Ahrens’ outburst, Ohio State made five of its final six threes to finish 10 for 26 (38.5%). It balanced out the 0 for 6 stretch to open the game and moved the Buckeyes to 32.3% from three-point range, which ranks them 131st nationally. Last season, they were 23rd nationally at 37.3%.

If these are steps in the right direction, it would go a long way toward helping the Buckeyes keep fighting near the top of the Big Ten standings.

ajardy@dispatch.com

@AdamJardy