Native son Justice Sueing says aloha to Hawaii with career game for Ohio State in Maui
LAHAINA, Hawaii – Justice Sueing might never leave his home state again.
Playing his third game in three days as part of the Maui Invitational, the sixth-year Ohio State forward had been mostly solid if unspectacular in his return to Hawaii. With a loss to San Diego State and a lopsided win against Cincinnati under his belt, Sueing made his final impression count. Sueing finished with a career-high 33 points and Ohio State (5-1) handed No. 21 Texas Tech (4-2) a 80-73 loss in the fifth-place game inside the Lahaina Civic Center.
After scoring 17 points in the first two games, Sueing opened the game with a dunk, frequently drew fouls on the Red Raiders and helped Ohio State keep Texas Tech at bay. The Buckeyes led for all but 1:49 and took the lead for good 3:34 into the game, answering every charge the Red Raiders threw at them.
"It means a lot, especially because I was able to play in front of my family," Sueing said. "The past couple of games I've been struggling a little bit just trying to get back into the flow of things, coming back from injury, but my teammates and coaches continue to give me support and just believing in God and His path for me.
"I'm really proud of this team."
Sueing was everywhere. His put-back of a Sean McNeil 3-point heave at the end of the shot clock put the lead back to seven points in the final two minutes, and after Texas Tech pulled within five again Sueing got loose for a wide-open slam dunk on the inbounds play to put the Shoyu sauce on the chicken -- his favorite food from back home.
He added eight rebounds and five assists while shooting 12 for 19 from the floor and hitting all eight of his free-throw attempts. Ohio State was perfect on 18 free throws, their best performance since at least going 16 for 16 from the line against Penn State on Jan. 25, 2018.
"Players win games and it was great to see Justice (like this)," coach Chris Holtmann said. "I told him I got emotional talking about him on the radio because he’s been through a lot. I wanted him to see a few shots fall, because he’s a better shooter than what he’s shot it and I think he needed that."
A Honolulu native who missed all but two games with a groin injury last year, Sueing came out flying. He opened the game with a dunk against Kevin Obanor off a designed play, laid in a pass from Key after he dove for a loose ball and then collected a Key miss and scored to give him Ohio State’s first six points and his team’s first lead of the game at 6-5.
West Virginia transfer Sean McNeil, who had six career games against Texas Tech under his belt from the previous three seasons, picked up from there, scoring nine straight points including consecutive 3-pointers, and when Sueing scored on another offensive rebound the two had combined to give Ohio State a 17-7 lead and fuel a 10-0 run.
Freshman Brice Sensabaugh’s 3-pointer with 11:46 to play in the half pushed the lead to 23-10, the biggest of the half for the Buckeyes. But with the score at 28-17 after a Sensabaugh baseline jumper a few moments later, Texas Tech’s sizeable fan contingent got vocal and the Red Raiders started to charge. Obanor drew a flopping technical on Roddy Gayle and was also fouled by Key, giving him three free throws that he swished to pull within eight points.
It gave Texas Tech some momentum that was furthered when Daniel Batcho scored on a tip-in baseline out of bounds play with just one second left on the shot clock to pull the Red Raiders within 31-25 and when Ohio State’s Sean McNeil was whistled for a personal foul after he pushed Batcho on a fast break that led to a three-point possession that made it a 33-31 Ohio State lead.
The Buckeyes responded and pushed it back to six points when Sensabaugh scored on a baseline out of bounds play with 48 seconds remaining, and when Pop Isaacs missed at the other end Ohio State had a chance to add to its advantage before the half. Instead, Sensabaugh was whistled for an illegal screen with 5.4 seconds left and De’Vion Harmon’s layup at the buzzer made it a 41-37 Ohio State lead.
Sensabaugh scored 10 points in 11:48 and was pulled during the second half after giving up buckets on back to back possessions. He is the first Ohio State freshman to score in double figures in his first six games since Michael Redd did so for his first 12 games of the 1997-98 season.
Texas Tech never had the ball with a chance to tie or take the lead for the final 34:36.
"Looking at the stat sheet, they were just a little better than us in every category, and that's kind of how the game went," Texas Tech coach Mark Adams said. "Just, they're a really good team, very hard to guard and well-coached, good players. I think they're going to have a great year."