Ohio State's defense takes center stage in basketball road win over Cincinnati

Ohio State's defense takes center stage in basketball road win over Cincinnati

November 8, 2018 0 By admin

CINCINNATI, Ohio — When Ohio State basketball coach Chris Holtmann decided to schedule a home-and-home series with Cincinnati, he expected the game would be would draw interest.

But Holtmann admitted that even he didn’t think that 12,012 people — a sellout crowd in the newly renovated Fifth-Third Arena — would be just as excited to watch the in-state rivals face off for the first time in a regular-season game since 1921.

“I don’t even think I predicted this environment,” Holtmann said after a 64-56 road win. “It was tremendous.”

Though the environment was incredible, the game itself was far from perfect as both teams struggled to score in the first half. OSU shot 33 percent in the first half, while Cincinnati shot an abysmal 13.8 percent, making just four shots.

“I’m sure it wasn’t always aesthetically pleasing…(with) two defensive teams,” Holtmann said. “But it was a heck of a competitive college basketball game for the second night of the season.”

Ohio State (1-0) came alive in the second half as the Buckeyes made their first four shots and took control of the game, at one point leading by 16 points. While the offense shot a much improved 55 percent from the field — including 5-of-9 from 3-point range — the defense continued to strangle Cincinnati.

Outside of junior Jarron Cumberland, who 22 points all in the second half, the Bearcats could not find much offense for the majority of the second half.

“They’re in a bit of a transition year in terms of some new faces, so I don’t want to give our defense too much credit,” Holtmann said of Cincinnati’s 27.4 percent shooting night. “I think that they probably missed some shots that they normally make.”

Cumberland’s biggest points came with 59.5 seconds left when he hit a three to pull his team within four points. That shot was part of a 14-point stretch for the guard from the in the last six minutes of the game.

That was as close as Cincinnati (0-1) would get in the second half before senior guard C.J Jackson (13 points) put the game away on a contested layup over redshirt junior Tre Scott with 29 seconds to play, then knocking down two free throws a possession later.

“I knew that they had one of their better defenders and I had to shoot it a little higher than normal,” Jackson said. “You kind of live for moments like that when you get to play your in-state rival. What other way to go out?”

Despite an efficient-shooting second half, Ohio State still went through moments where it couldn’t find ways to score. On two separate occasions, the Buckeyes had stretches longer than five minutes without scoring a single field goal.

But even with its offensive struggles, that didn’t affect the way they competed on the defensive end. Along with limiting Cincinnati to a low shooting percentage, Ohio State led for all but the first the first 4:09 of the game. Holtmann said that with this team’s makeup, the defensive side of the ball must be their calling card this season.

“That has to be our identity,” Holtmann said. “I’m anxious to see when we’re 10-12 games into this if that is our identity.”

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