Which Ohio State lineups worked and which didn't in loss at Xavier?

Adam Jardy
The Columbus Dispatch
Ohio State Buckeyes forward E.J. Liddell (32) blocks a shot by Xavier Musketeers guard Colby Jones (3) in the first half of the NCAA basketball game between the Xavier Musketeers and the Ohio State Buckeyes at the Cintas Center in Cincinnati on Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021.

The first Ohio State loss of the season came on a Thursday night in Cincinnati. Playing in front of a sold-out crowd there to watch Xavier host the Buckeyes for the first time in nearly 87 years, the Musketeers scored on the opening possession, built a double-digit lead and held off a late charge in a 71-65 win.

The game was Ohio State’s second without forward Justice Sueing, who will miss an extended period of time with an abdominal injury that has hampered him since the final weeks of last season and limited him through the first two games of the 2021-22 season.

Without Sueing, and playing in front of a hostile crowd for the first time since the end of the 2019-20 season, here’s a look at how Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann substituted throughout the game.

*For a third straight game, Holtmann opened with a lineup of Jamari Wheeler, Malaki Branham, Justin Ahrens, E.J. Liddell and Zed Key. Through the first three games of the season, this lineup had scored 47 points and allowed 28 (plus-19) in 20:51. Of the 49 lineups of only scholarship players used entering the game, this was the one with the best plus-minus and the most minutes together. In the first 3:06, it was outscored 6-2.

*Kyle Young was the first substitute off the bench, replacing Key with 16:54 to go in the first half as part of a lineup that saw no action in the prior game against Bowling Green. For the next 2:30, this lineup both scored and allowed two points.

*Meechie Johnson Jr. was the second substitute when he replaced Branham with 14:24 left and Xavier ahead 8-4. This lineup of Johnson, Ahrens, Young, Liddell and Wheeler had outscored Niagara 15-9 in 3:55, its only appearance of the season, and here it outscored Xavier 3-2 in 1:17.

*The first lineup debut of the night came with 13:07 left and Ohio State trailing 10-8. Holtmann went with a lineup of Johnson, Gene Brown, Key, Young and Wheeler. In the next 2:41, it was outscored 7-4 as Xavier pushed its lead to 17-12.

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*Branham returned and gave Wheeler his first break here with 10:26 left in the half, and this lineup of Johnson and Branham in the backcourt, Brown and Liddell on the wing and Key down low matched Xavier 5-5 in the next 2:46 until the under-8 timeout.

*With 7:40 left and Xavier ahead 22-16, it was back to the starters but only for the next 49 seconds. Xavier scored in the paint, Ahrens missed a three and Key was replaced by Young with 6:51 left and the score at 24-16.

*This reunited the second lineup of the game, and for the next 3:58 it scored and allowed five points while taking the Buckeyes into the under-4 media timeout. With 2:53 left in the half, Johnson and Key replaced Ahrens and Young as Xavier led 29-21.

*Joey Brunk made his first appearance of the game with 2:06 to play and the score still at 29-21. This lineup of Johnson, Branham, Young, Brunk and Wheeler hadn’t appeared together before this season, and it scored five points and allowed six in the next 2:02 to set the halftime score at 35-26.

*The Buckeyes opened the second half with four of the same starters but Young in place of Key but it wouldn’t stay on the court long. Ahrens fouled Colby Jones on a 3-pointer, he hit two of his three free throws, Ahrens missed a 3 of his own and he was removed for Johnson only 56 seconds into the half with Xavier now ahead 37-26.

*This lineup of Johnson, Branham, Young, Liddell and Wheeler had not played together this season, but in the next 3:09 it outscored Xavier 7-3 to claw back to 40-33 with 15:55 left. Brown replaced Branham, and in the next 1:27 it made it a 40-35 game on a Liddell bucket before a pair of substitutions with 14:28 to play.

*Branham and Key replaced Wheeler and Young, but this lineup of Johnson, Brown, Branham, Key and Liddell gave up a bucket inside to Jack Nunge and Key was subbed out after only 47 seconds and Xavier now ahead 42-35 with 13:41 left. He was replaced by Brunk.

*With 11:05 left and Xavier ahead 43-35, Ohio State went with the second-half starting lineup of Ahrens, Branham, Young, Liddell and Wheeler. In the next 2:46, it would score nine points but allow eight while only pulling the Buckeyes one point closer at 51-44.

*Ohio State would pull closer with a lineup of Johnson and Wheeler in the backcourt, Liddell at small forward, Young at power forward and Key in the paint. This new combination took the court with 8:10 left and outscored Xavier 5-1 in the next 1:58 to make it a 54-49 game when Brown replaced Liddell with 6:12 to play.

*Brown would have to leave the game with 5:14 left after the back of his head struck the court while grabbing an offensive rebound. The score was still 54-49. Brown was replaced by Liddell, and he would not return.

*This brought back the lineup of Johnson, Key, Young, Liddell and Wheeler, and in the next 3:14 it would score and allow seven points.

*With exactly two minutes to play and Xavier ahead 61-56, Branham would replace Key. This previously unused three-guard lineup with Johnson, Branham and Wheeler alongside Liddell and Young would score and allow six points in the next 1:34 and pull within two points at one point until Ahrens subbed in with 25 seconds left and Xavier ahead 67-62.

*The final lineup of Johnson, Ahrens, Young, Liddell and Wheeler was outscored 4-3 in the final 25 seconds to set the final at 71-65.

*Young and Johnson both had the best individual plus-minus for the Buckeyes at plus-2.

*The starters only played together for 3:55 and were outscored 8-2.

*Ohio State used a season-low 14 lineup combinations, 10 of which were new.

*Ohio State’s most-used lineup consisted of Ahrens, Branham, Young, Liddell and Wheeler. In 10:10, it was outscored 17-16.

*Ohio State’s most successful lineups were both plus-4. Johnson, Key, Young, Liddell and Wheeler outscored Xavier 12-8 in 5:12 and Johnson, Branham, Young, Liddell and Wheeler outscored the Musketeers 13-9 in 4:43.

*The lineup with the lowest plus-minus consisted of Ahrens, Branham, Key, Liddell and Wheeler. It was outscored 8-2 in 3:55.

*Johnson and Branham teamed together without Wheeler in the backcourt for 4:08. Ohio State was minus-2 (five points scored, seven allowed) during this time.

*The Buckeyes used a three-guard lineup with Johnson, Branham and Wheeler for 6:45 and outscored Xavier 18-15 (plus-3) while doing so.

ajardy@dispatch.com

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