Ohio State, Cincinnati travel to Maui to draw Buckeye State showdown
LAHAINA, Hawaii – A journey of a couple thousand miles will now bring two Ohio teams together.
After both Ohio State and Cincinnati lost their opening-round games as part of the Maui Invitational, the two perennial powers from the Buckeye State will now face each other Tuesday inside the Lahaina Civic Center with an eye on avoiding the seventh-place game. The Buckeyes and Bearcats both arrived on the island unranked and facing opening-round games as underdogs against teams in the Associated Press top 25.
First, No. 17 San Diego State handed Ohio State an 88-77 loss in the third game of the tournament Monday. Then, in a nightcap that started about 20 minutes after the final whistle, No. 14 Arizona beat Cincinnati, 101-93.
"What sticks out to me is they play incredibly hard," Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd said of Cincinnati. "If they shoot a good percentage (from 3), they're going to be a tough out, especially the way they rebound. I was impressed with their big guys today. Offensively, they delivered and they battled."
The game will be the first meeting between the two schools since they scheduled a home-and-home series to open the 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons. Ohio State won those both by an identical score of 64-56, first at Cincinnati and then in Columbus. It will also be only the fifth regular-season meeting between the schools since 1962.
Now in his second season with the program, Bearcats coach Wes Miller will be the third different Cincinnati coach to face the Buckeyes in this recent run of games. Mick Cronin coached in the 2019 game before going to UCLA and John Brannen replaced him the following year.
Immediately after losing to the Wildcats, Miller didn’t have many thoughts on the chance to face the Buckeyes.
“I mean there's not going to be game you play over these three days that's not a big-time game,” he said. “You knew that coming into it. Even though you're just going to take it, we were going to take it one at a time. So you could pick anybody within the seven teams we could play and it's going to be a big-time game and a big-time opportunity. Just so happens it's a team that's two hours away from us in our home state.
“So there probably is a little bit of extra interest there from a fan perspective, but all these games are big-time games and big-time opportunities.”
Bearcats forward Landers Nolley, who scored 33 points on 9-of-14 shooting from 3 against Arizona, similarly downplayed the in-state connection.
“I know it's a big in-state rivalry,” he said. “I know a couple of pieces that they have, so I look forward to the matchup. I look forward to the competition and hopefully we just have a different result.”
An Atlanta native, Nolley said he’s familiar with Ohio State’s Gene Brown III and Bruce Thornton, two fellow Georgians. Brown made the trip but has not yet played for the Buckeyes as he remains in concussion protocol while Thornton scored a career-high 13 points and had three assists, two steals and one turnover before fouling out against the Aztecs.
“We’ve got to turn the page quickly,” Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann said after his game and before knowing the identity of his next opponent. “I think it’s just gonna be a constant learning process for us, figuring out who we can go to late, who we can go to in different stretches, combinations we can play. It’s really a fact-finding mission right now for us because we haven’t been tested in an environment where you really needed (to overcome).
“Now you start to learn some of those things. It was good to see some guys step up overall.”
Ohio State is 8-4 all-time against Cincinnati. The last Bearcats win against the Buckeyes came in the 1962 national championship game, which marked the second straight year Cincinnati beat Ohio State for the national championship.
The Buckeyes have since won the last four meetings with the Bearcats.