Ohio State's Justice Sueing's injury status casts pall over Bowling Green win

Adam Jardy
The Columbus Dispatch
Justice Sueing, on the left, suffered a groin injury last season that continues to affect him this year. He, Seth Towns (middle) and Kyle Young (right) missed Ohio State's exhibition against Indianapolis.

Chris Holtmann’s wardrobe choice turned out to be apt for Monday night’s events.

Donned in dark pants, a dark gray shirt and a black suit coat sans tie, the Ohio State men’s basketball coach looked straight out of a well-dressed Johnny Cash tribute band. And although No. 19 Ohio State easily dispatched visiting Bowling Green, 89-58, the man in black might’ve felt the waters of concern reaching 5 feet high and rising.

Yes, the Buckeyes had notched their first blowout win after a pair of relatively close scrapes to open the year. They did it in balanced fashion, with five players in double figures led by E.J. Liddell and Meechie Johnson topping out at 13 points apiece. Ohio State even dished out 27 assists, its most since reaching that number in a 94-65 win against the Citadel on Dec. 19, 2017.

But what surely made Holtmann want to cry, cry, cry, or perhaps walk the line right to the local healer, was the status of the boy named Sue(ing). After spending the day meeting with a specialist in Cleveland to discuss his ongoing groin injury that dates back to the end of last season, fifth-year senior captain Justice Sueing arrived midgame and watched from the team bench in street clothes.

When he will return is very much an open-ended question.

“It had gotten considerably better, almost to 100% in his words, and then really right before the Ole Miss scrimmage, he started to feel some of the same issues,” Holtmann said. “We’ve been managing it since then.”

That scrimmage was played Oct. 24 in Nashville. Sueing sat out the exhibition game against the University of Indianapolis on Nov. 1 but came off the bench in wins against Akron and Niagara. In those two games, Sueing scored two and 10 points, respectively, but had zero assists, one turnover and only two free-throw attempts.

“I’m not going to minimize the importance of Justice or Justice’s health to this team,” said coach Chris Holtmann after announcing that Ohio State does not yet have a timeline on Justice Sueing's return.

Asked if he was worried this could be a season-ending injury for Sueing, Holtmann said, “I don’t know right now that it’s season-ending. I think it is significant, but I don’t know what to make of that.”

It cast a pall over what would otherwise have been a celebratory evening for the Buckeyes, who will now take a little more confidence with them when they head down I-71 to face Xavier Thursday as part of the Gavitt Games.

A number of players were able to make their most significant contributions thus far this season as Gene Brown III scored a career-high 12 points, Zed Key came one rebound shy of a double-double with 12 points and nine rebounds in only 20:20 and Justin Ahrens added 11 points in only 17:46.

Justice Sueing injury:When did Ohio State's captain suffer his groin injury? Here's the timeline

The Buckeyes opened the contest with an 11-0 run, allowed the Falcons to score four points and then poured in 11 more to lead 22-4 less than 12 minutes in. It was at that point that Bowling Green coach Michael Huger said he realized it would be a long night for his team. Indeed, there was a moment in the game when Ohio State pushed their lead to 42 points.

On this particular evening, Sueing’s absence wasn’t that noticeable. But with the game against the Musketeers looming, followed by a two-game trip to Florida for the Fort Myers Tip-Off and a home showdown with Duke on Nov. 30, the impact of Sueing's injury could soon be felt.

“I’m not going to minimize the importance of Justice or Justice’s health to this team,” Holtmann said. “We certainly anticipated a healthy Justice to start the season and I think planned around all of what he could give us. He’s unique because there’s not another Justice-type player on our roster that has the ability at his size to play downhill and guard multiple positions. I’m hopeful and optimistic that we can have him and Seth (Towns) back.”

Until then, the Buckeyes will have to try to connect the puzzle with the players they have, one piece at a time.

ajardy@dispatch.com

@AdamJardy