Analysis: Which lineups worked, and which ones didn't, in Ohio State's win against PSU

Adam Jardy
Buckeye Xtra
Ohio State Buckeyes guard CJ Walker (13) fouls Penn State Nittany Lions forward Seth Lundy (1) during the first half of their game at Value City Arena in Columbus, Ohio on January 27, 2020.

A game that looked like a blowout early, turned into a collapse mid-game and ultimately ended with a clutch finish saw No. 13 Ohio State fend off Penn State, 83-79, on Wednesday night at Value City Arena.

Here’s a look at how it all unfolded.

*With CJ Walker available for a second straight game, coach Chris Holtmann brought him off the bench and stuck with the same starting lineup of Justin Ahrens, E.J. Liddell, Justice Sueing, Duane Washington Jr. and Kyle Young. It was the fifth straight start for this lineup, which in 48:46 of Big Ten play had scored 113 points and allowed 95 (plus-18).

*The starters played for the first 3:31 before Zed Key replaced Liddell, which has been a common occurrence right before the first media timeout. Ohio State led 8-2 at this point.

*After a Key three-point play, Walker replaced Sueing with 16:05 left. That lineup with Ahrens, Key, Walker, Washington and Young hadn’t played in the last eight games and had totaled only two appearances all year entering the game. Here, it traded three-pointers before Sueing and Liddell returned, replacing Washington and Key with the lead at 14-5 and 14:25 left in the first half.

*The new lineup of Ahrens, Liddell, Sueing, Walker and Young would score five points and allow three in the next 2:13 before Eugene Brown and Seth Towns replaced Ahrens and Young with 12:12 left and the lead at 19-8.

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*This lineup of Brown, Liddell, Sueing, Towns and Walker hadn’t played together all season. It scored and allowed two points in 1:04 before Washington replaced Walker with 11:08 left and the Ohio State lead at 21-10.

*This lineup, too, was brand new. It was outscored 4-2 in the next two minutes before Liddell replaced Key with 9:08 left and the lead at 23-14. It marked the first Ohio State lineup to be outscored to this point.

*From 11:08-7:32, Ohio State went with brand-new lineups that all included Brown and Towns. The Buckeyes scored and allowed six points in this stretch while using four different lineups.

*With 7:32 left, the Buckeyes went back to the lineup of Ahrens, Key, Walker, Washington and Young that had appeared earlier in the game. In the next 1:38, it was outscored 5-2, with all five Penn State points coming from Seth Lundy.

*Here, Liddell replaced Key, joining a lineup with Ahrens, Walker, Washington and Young. It took the Buckeyes to the under-4 timeout by playing 1:58, scoring five points and allowing six as Ohio State led 34-27 and Sueing replaced Ahrens,

*This lineup of Liddell, Sueing, Walker, Washington and Young started the first four games of the season and nine of the first 11 and was only broken up by Walker’s hand injury and Liddell’s battle with mononucleosis. Here, it outscored Penn State 7-6 in the next 1:58 before Towns replaced Liddell with 1:58 to play after the forward picked up his second foul and the lead up to 41-33.

*Sueing, Towns, Walker, Washington and Young is the lowest lineup when alphabetized. Walker picked up a second foul with 1:04 to play and was replaced by freshman Meechie Johnson Jr. with Penn State within 41-35.

*That was a brand-new lineup, and it got two Young free throws in 20 seconds to make the score 43-35, and when Musa Jallow replaced Towns with 42 seconds left for defensive purposes it was another new lineup. This one gave up four points in the final 20 seconds on Jamari Wheeler steals and layups to set the halftime score at 43-39.

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*It wasn’t back to the starters to open the second half. Walker replaced Sueing for a lineup that otherwise included Ahrens, Liddell, Washington and Young. Walker would hit a three to open the half, but Penn State would pull even at 46-all with a 7-3 run to open the half before Sueing replaced Ahrens with 16:22 left.

*This lineup matched the Nittany Lions, scoring and allowing three points before Key replaced Liddell with 14:54 left and the game tied at 49. Izaiah Brockington gave Penn State a 51-49 lead after a Walker turnover, and Johnson replaced the senior with 14:24 left.

*Both teams traded buckets for much of the middle of the half. Ohio State pulled within 65-62 after a lineup of Ahrens, Liddell, Sueing, Walker and Young scored five and allowed four while playing from 10:12-8:53.

*Penn State built its biggest lead here, where a lineup of Ahrens, Key, Sueing, Walker and Young was outscored 6-2 in 1:19 as the Nittany Lions briefly led by eight. Holtmann replaced Ahrens and Key with Washington and Liddell with 7:34 left and the Penn State lead at 71-64.

*That brought the opening-day starting lineup onto the court, but in the next 2:33 it scored four points and allowed two before Young fouled out with 5:01 to play and Penn State ahead 73-68. Towns replaced Young, and after a quick 4-0 Ohio State run Jallow replaced him with 4:14 left and the Penn State lead trimmed to 73-72.

*This lineup of Jallow, Liddell, Sueing, Walker and Washington had not appeared in Big Ten play and had only two appearances to this point. In the win at Notre Dame, it scored 21 points and allowed 18 in 5:51. Here, it would play 45 seconds of scoreless basketball before Walker fouled out with 3:29 to play.

*So with 3:29 left, Ohio State went with Ahrens, Liddell, Sueing, Towns and Washington with Penn State ahead 73-72. In the next 1:03, it reclaimed the lead at 77-76 with a 5-3 edge.

*The final 2:26 of the game would be played with a lineup of Ahrens, Jallow, Liddell, Sueing and Washington. This lineup had played in just one Big Ten game, totaling 1:26 in the home win against Rutgers, but it would close out the win by outscoring Penn State 6-3 to end the game with an 83-79 win.

*The lineup of Ahrens, Liddell, Sueing, Towns and Washington has now appeared in four straight games and has been outscored 24-22 in 12:33 during that time.

*Ohio State’s starting lineup did not reappear together after the first 3:31 of the game. It’s the least amount of playing time for a starting lineup in a game this season. It is plus-24 in 52:17 of Big Ten play. It was plus-6 in this game, the best mark for any lineup.

*In limited action, the lineup of Liddell, Sueing, Towns, Walker and Washington has outscored Big Ten opponents 16-3 in 6:13.

*Ohio State’s most-used lineup in this game consisted of Ahrens, Liddell, Walker, Washington and Young. It was outscored 13-8 in 5:36.