Behind Musa Jallow, brand-new lineups carried Ohio State to win at Notre Dame

Adam Jardy
Buckeye Xtra
Ohio State's E.J. Liddell (32) and Musa Jallow (2) work together to knock the ball away from Notre Dame's Dane Goodwin (23) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020, in South Bend, Ind. (AP Photo/Robert Franklin)

In order to hold off Notre Dame on Tuesday night, Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann leaned heavily on a bunch of new lineup combinations.

The end result was a 90-85 win in what was the first true road game of the season for the No. 22 Buckeyes, who improved to 4-0. Here’s a detailed look at how they got there.

*Ohio State opened with the same starting lineup for the fourth straight game: CJ Walker, Duane Washington Jr., Justice Sueing, E.J. Liddell and Kyle Young. Through the first three games, that lineup had logged 39:02 of playing time, scored 88 points and allowed 49 for a team-best plus-39 rating. No other lineup had logged more than six minutes together entering the Notre Dame game.

*Against the Irish, the starters played the first 6:07 of the game before Justin Ahrens and Zed Key replaced Washington and Liddell with 13:53 to play and Notre Dame ahead 12-11. This lineup of Ahrens, Key, Sueing, Walker and Young had outscored opponents 8-0 entering the game but was outscored 6-2 in 2:29 before Holtmann made three subs. It was also the only playing time for Key.

*This was where junior Musa Jallow first entered the game, with the Buckeyes trailing 18-13 with 11:24 left in the first half. This lineup of Washington, Jallow, Ahrens, Sueing and Liddell hadn’t played together yet this season, and in the next 2:15 it pulled the Buckeyes one point closer at 22-18 before Young replaced Sueing with 9:05 left.

*This, too, was a new lineup. With Washington and Jallow as guards and Ahrens, Liddell and Young all as forwards, Ohio State put together an 8-4 run to take a 26-25 lead before freshman Gene Brown entered the game for the first time with 6:14 left. He subbed in alongside Walker and the two gave Ahrens and Liddell a break after a 2:51 shift for that lineup.

*Jallow’s play made it hard for Holtmann to take him off the court, and the result was a third straight new lineup. With Walker, Washington, Brown, Jallow and Young on the court, Notre Dame scored four straight points to take a 29-26 lead before Ahrens returned to replace Washington with 4:58 left. Sixteen seconds later, Jallow got a break with the Notre Dame lead at 29-28.

*This lineup of Walker, Brown, Ahrens, Sueing and Young tied the game at 34 in the next 1:46 with a 6-5 scoring advantage going into the under-4 media timeout with 2:56 remaining. At the break, Young replaced Liddell and Notre Dame pulled ahead 36-34 before Washington and Jallow replaced Walker and Brown with 1:39 to play.

*Although the lineup of Ahrens, Jallow, Liddell, Sueing and Washington had outscored the Irish 5-3 in a shift lasting 2:15 earlier in the game, it was outscored 6-0 in 1:07 before Jimmy Sotos entered for Washington with 32 seconds left and the Notre Dame lead at 42-34. That would be the halftime score.

*Ohio State used nine different lineups during the first half and seven of them were brand new. Five of those seven featured Jallow.

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*It was back to the starters for the start of the second half, but things would get worse before they got better. In the first 4:57, the starters were outscored 11-10 as the Irish upped their lead to a game-high nine points at 53-44 before Sotos replaced Walker with 15:03 to play.

*When Sotos checked out with 11:27 to play, he had helped Ohio State cut that nine-point deficit to six points at 59-53.

*With 10:23 to play and Notre Dame ahead 61-56, Holtmann made two substitutions when Liddell and Washington entered in place of Sueing and Young. That gave the Buckeyes a lineup of Walker, Washington, Jallow, Ahrens and Liddell. It was one that had never been used before, and it would play for the next 4:32 while giving the Buckeyes a 69-67 lead thanks to a 13-6 run.

*With 5:51 to play and the lead at 69-67, Holtmann brought Sueing back in for Ahrens. It would be the final substitution of the game. They would hold on, outscoring Notre Dame 21-18 to secure the 90-85 win.

*Those 21 points in 5:51 equaled the scoring output from the starting lineup, which finished with 21 points scored and 23 allowed in 11:04.

*Of the 15 lineups the Buckeyes used against Notre Dame, 13 of them had not seen any action during the first three games.

*Ahrens and Jallow had a lot to do with that. Jallow played 13 minutes in the opener before missing the next two games with a leg injury, then played 22 minutes off the bench in this game. Ahrens’ 20 minutes were a season high.

*The Buckeyes played the final 15:03 of the game with lineups they had never used before. From that point, they outscored Notre Dame 46-32.