December 13, 2020

Buckeyes Top Cleveland State; Enter Big Ten Play 5-0

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Box Score // Postgame Press Conference // Highlights // Photo Gallery // Season Stats // Play by Play

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Ohio State won its fifth consecutive game to open the season, 67-61, Sunday afternoon over Cleveland State University (0-3) at Value City Arena. Duane Washington Jr. hit five of six free throws in the final 43 seconds and led the Buckeyes with 17 points. Freshman Zed Key came off the bench to record his first career double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds.

The game was Ohio State’s first since the news Friday that sophomore forward E.J. Liddell, the team’s leading scorer and rebounder through its first four games, would be out indefinitely with a non-COVID-19 related illness.

“A lot of fouls. It was a really physical game and give Cleveland State credit: they were more physical than we were the whole game,” Ohio State head coach Chris Holtmann said after the game on the Ohio State Sports Network. “They really played as if they didn’t care if someone fouled out.

“This will be a great learning experience for us because we have another physical team [Purdue on Wednesday] and a physical league upcoming. We’ll have to turn the page quickly.”

C.J. Walker added 16 points and a team-high three assists for the Buckeyes. Cleveland State, which played seven players off the bench, was led in scoring by D’Moi Hodge with 14 points and Chris Greene added 12.

Ohio State led by only seven at the break, 31-24, as an aggressive and inspired Cleveland State team stayed close by working the ball inside and outscoring the home team, 18-10, in the paint. Walker led the Buckeyes with nine points in the half and Key contributed five rebounds – two of them offensive – and a blocked shot.

Ohio State extended the lead to 11 early in the second half, but the Vikings chipped away and reduced the margin to one, 38-37, behind a 9-1 scoring run with Greene contributing seven consecutive points at one juncture.

A Justin Aherns “three” stopped the run and gave the Buckeyes a 41-37 lead at the 13 minute mark.

Another “three,” this time by Walker, a blocked shot by Key followed by a steal by Key and then a “three” by Jimmy Sotos gave the Buckeyes some breathing room at 47-39 with 8:49 left to play.

The Vikings kept it close, though. A Key offensive rebound led to a bucket from close in to put the Buckeyes back up by eight with six minutes to play. Key scored again from inside with just over two minutes to play to give the Buckeyes a 62-55 lead. Key then grabbed what would ultimately be a game-clinching defensive rebound with the Buckeyes up by six, 62-56 with 43 seconds left to play.

“I thought Zed was critical for us tonight,” said Holtmann.

Washingon closed out the scoring for Ohio State by hitting five consecutive free throws in those waning seconds.

Aherns scored six points in his first start since his freshman season of 2018-19. Musa Jallow continued his five play since returning from injury with six rebounds off the bench and four points.

Ohio State opens Big Ten play Wednesday, Dec. 16, on the road against Purdue before a game Saturday at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse in Cleveland against North Carolina as part of the CBS Sports Challenge.