Analysis: How did Kyle Young's return, Malaki Branham's start impact OSU against Niagara?

Adam Jardy
The Columbus Dispatch

Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann has been adamant that his lineups will be fluid this season. And with that, it’s unlikely that the Buckeyes will stick with the same consistent starting group for perhaps as much as half the season.

“The starting lineup will be fluid all throughout the year,” he said after Friday night’s 84-74 win against Niagara. “We may not have the same lineup as many as 10-15 games. That’s just the way this year is. It doesn’t really mean one thing over another.”

Ohio State Buckeyes guard Malaki Branham (22) makes a shot during the OSU mens basketball game against Niagara in Columbus, Ohio, on Friday, Nov. 12, 2021.

Holtmann’s answer came to a question about replacing second-year guard Meechie Johnson Jr. with first-year guard Malaki Branham in the starting lineup. While the rest of the team’s starters remained the same, here’s a look at how the Buckeyes substituted and how the win against the Purple Eagles unfolded.

Buckeyes basketball:Kyle Young announces return with alley-oop slam dunk in Ohio State win

To check out the same review of last Tuesday’s season-opening win against Akron, a 67-66 game that ended on a last-second winning basket by second-year center Zed Key, you can click here.

*To start, the Buckeyes went with Jamari Wheeler at the point, Branham at shooting guard, Justin Ahrens at small forward, E.J. Liddell at power forward and Key at Center. That lineup had starred against the Zips, outscoring them 14-5 in 5:47. Against Niagara, the starters stayed together for the first 4:21 and were outscored 14-8.

*Johnson replaced Branham here with 15:39 left in the half, and the first game’s starters got a basket in the paint from Liddell to pull within 14-10 before Kyle Young entered the game for his season debut with 14:41 left in the half. This lineup of Johnson, Ahrens, Young, Liddell and Wheeler put together an 11-3 run in the next 1:24 before Niagara called timeout with 13:17 left and the Buckeyes now leading 21-17.

*Justice Sueing made his game debut here, subbing in with 13:17 left in place of Ahrens. Ohio State was outscored 4-2 in the next 1:04 before Gene Brown replaced Liddell with 12:13 left and the lead at 23-21.

*With 11:37 left, Jimmy Sotos made his season debut as part of a lineup with Johnson, Brown, Sueing and Young. This lineup scored and allowed three points in 1:14.

*Sotos checked out with 8:23 left and the Buckeyes ahead 34-30, and the next three lineups would log between 31 seconds and 1:25 and each get outscored 2-0 as Niagara pulled back ahead, 36-34.

*With 6:58 left and the Buckeyes still ahead 34-32, Holtmann reinserted Branham despite having already picked up two fouls. After 31 seconds, Ahrens replaced Sueing to put the starters back on the court with 6:27 left in the half and the score tied at 34.

*The starters played together for 58 seconds and gave up two points without scoring themselves before Young gave Liddell a break with 5:29 left.

*Niagara led 37-36 with 2:56 left in the half when the Buckeyes used a lineup of Johnson, Ahrens, Key, Young and Wheeler. It would reclaim the lead with a 4-2 run in 1:45 before coming off with 1:11 left and the lead at 40-39. Joey Brunk replaced Key and Sueing replaced Ahrens here. This lineup of Johnson, Sueing, Young, Brunk and Wheeler played 63 seconds of scoreless basketball before Brown replaced Brunk for the final eight seconds. Ohio State would take a 42-41 lead into the half.

*Ohio State used 13 different first-half lineups and 11 of them did not see action against Akron.

*Holtmann used the same starters to open the second half, and they fared better this time. After being outscored 16-8 in 5:19 during the first half, the lineup outscored Niagara 11-5 in the first 4:24 to build a 53-46 lead with 15:36 left when the Golden Eagles called timeout.

*Johnson and Young checked in here, replacing Branham and Key. This lineup led the Buckeyes during the first half with an 11-3 run in 1:24, and it outscored Niagara 3-2 in 1:27 to push the lead to eight points at 56-48 with 14:09 left.

*Ohio State would make 11 more substitutions and no lineup either outscored or was outscored by Niagara by more than three points.

*The lineup to see the most minutes consisted of Johnson, Ahrens, Sueing, Key and Liddell. In 3:02, it scored four points and allowed six before Young replaced Key and Wheeler replaced Johnson with 8:31 left and Ohio State ahead 64-57.

*A lineup of Sueing, Branham, Young, Liddell and Wheeler outscored Niagara 6-4 in 2:30, playing together from 7:54 until 5:24 remained and Ohio State was ahead 70-62.

*The starters finished the game minus-2 (19 points scored, 21 allowed) in 9:43. The starters from the season opener only played together for 58 seconds and scored two points while not allowing any. Those two lineups are the only two to see action in both games.

*Johnson and Branham did not play together at any point in the game.

*Johnson and Wheeler were together for 11:45 and were plus-8 (31 points scored, 23 allowed). Johnson and Branham were together for 19:22 and had an even plus-minus with 33 points scored and allowed.

*In Young’s return, he was on the court with Liddell for 9:50. Ohio State was plus-10 (32 points scored, 22 allowed) with them on the court together.

*Liddell and Key were on the court together for 13:44. Ohio State was minus-2 (25 points scored, 29 allowed) during that time. Through two games, Ohio State is minus-4 (63 points scored, 67 allowed) in 35:55 with Liddell at power forward and either Key or Brunk at center.

*Young had the best individual plus-minus at plus-13.

ajardy@dispatch.com

@AdamJardy