Balanced scoring leads Ohio State to blowout win against Bowling Green

Adam Jardy
The Columbus Dispatch
Ohio State Buckeyes forward Justin Ahrens (10) drives a lane after getting around Bowling Green Falcons guard Trey Diggs (11) during the first half of the NCAA basketball game at the Schottenstein Center in Columbus, Ohio Nov. 15.

Through two games against mid-major opponents, the question had yet to be answered by Ohio State. Could these Buckeyes, with so many new pieces, put enough together to properly blow out a team.

Monday night, we got our answer: Aye, Ziggy Zoomba.

After needing a last-season basket to fend off Akron in the opener, and struggling to put away Niagara in the follow-up, the No. 19 Buckeyes delivered what is typically expected of the home team at this point in the season: an old-fashioned whoopin’. Ohio State (3-0) opened the game by scoring the first 11 points, allowed Bowling Green (1-2) to score four and then scored 11 straight again to seize control on its way to an 89-58 win Monday night at Value City Arena.

A tougher challenge awaits Thursday as Ohio State heads to Xavier as part of the Gavitt Games, which pits Big Ten and Big East teams against each other. But after not leading by more than 14 points in either of their first two games, the Buckeyes will likely take a little more confidence with them when they head down I-71.

There was little suspense in this one. Ohio State’s length affected everything Bowling Green tried to do on offense, pressuring the Falcons into 18 misses on their first 20 shots. By the time Bowling Green connected on a third field goal, Ohio State led 24-6 and the home crowd let out a groan as if seeing the Falcons score anything was a shock. It was the first points scored by the visitors in 7:38.

At the half, Ohio State led 41-18 after shooting 53.1% (17 for 32) from the floor. Bowling Green, picked to finish sixth in the 12-team Mid-American Conference, hit its final two shots to climb to 25.8% (8 for 31).

The only thing keeping it even that close was Ohio State’s eight first-half turnovers. Six Buckeyes had between 4-8 points at the break, and the lead would stretch as high as 42 points.

Asked where he felt the game got away from his team, Bowling Green coach Michael Huger said when Ohio State led 22-4.

"I just thought their physicality and mentality going into the game was the difference in the game," he said. "I don’t think we were ready physically or mentally to play the game. We can’t go through the motions and expect to beat a team like this."

After averaging 27.0 points in the first two games, third-year forward E.J. Liddell didn't have to do much against the Falcons. He finished with 13 points on 6-of-8 shooting, tying Meechie Johnson Jr., who had a career-high 13.

Gene Brown III had a career-high 12 points, Zed Key finished with 12 points and nine rebounds and Justin Ahrens had 11 points. Ohio State’s 27 assists were its most since it had that many in a 94-65 win against the Citadel on Dec. 19, 2017.

"I feel like we had a lot of ball energy today," Brown said. "We had a lot of assists."

Ahrens now has 356 career points, one more than his older brother, Kyle, scored during his four years at Michigan State.

The Buckeyes were without Justice Sueing, who has been dealing with what is now being described as a lower body injury but known to be a groin injury since the end of last season. On the official pregame show, coach Chris Holtmann said Sueing wouldn’t have felt healthy enough to play and was seeing a specialist for the injury that, if he hadn’t gone Monday, wouldn’t have been able to see him until December.

“He is frustrated,” Holtmann said. “I think he's wondering when he'll feel completely healthy. He's had a whole offseason of rehab.”

Sueing missed the exhibition game against Indianapolis but came off the bench during the first games. Clearly looking rusty, he had averaged 6.0 points and 3.5 rebounds in 15.0 minutes per game. Sueing arrived mid-game and watched from the bench while wearing jeans and a gray shirt.

Ohio State has now won 12 straight games against Ohio teams and 26 straight at home during the regular season. Its last loss to an Ohio team came in the first round of the 2014 NCAA Tournament when Dayton won, 60-59. The last Buckeyes regular-season home loss to an Ohio team came Dec. 22, 1994, when Bowling Green won, 59-50, at St. John Arena.

ajardy@dispatch.com

@AdamJardy