COLUMBUS, Ohio — Led by freshman Brice Sensabaugh and a stout defensive effort, the Ohio State men’s basketball team pushed their early-season record to 3-0 with a 65-43 victory over Eastern Illinois on Wednesday evening.
The game opened with a solid defensive effort from both sides. The Buckeyes held the Panthers to 2-of-10 shooting from the field in the first nine minutes, while canning three triples to snag an 11-5 lead. Junior Zed Key, Sensabaugh and freshman Roddy Gayle, Jr. all dialed in from long distance in the game-opening run.
The Scarlet and Grey would extend their lead to 16, using a 10-0 swing. Sensabaugh totaled three buckets in the run and was the first player to reach double figures. His second three-pointer of the evening would push the lead to 21-5 with 9:15 to play in the half.
Eastern Illinois responded with a 10-0 run of their own to close the advantage back to six. Second-leading scorer, Yakeema Rose, Jr. sparked the run, knocking down a pair of threes and scoring eight of the ten points to help the Panthers narrow the gap to 21-16.
The Buckeye lead would remain six at the break (26-20) as both teams struggled from the field. Ohio State shot just 31% but did knock down six three-point buckets. Sensabaugh, who came in tied for the team lead in points per game (15.5), scored 13 of the hosts’ 26 points. The defense held the Panthers to 8-of-32 shooting in the first 20 minutes while pulling down 26 boards. Key and Isaac Likekele paced Ohio State on the glass, pulling down six rebounds, each.
Staying patient, the Buckeyes put the offense together in the second half, shooting 50 percent from the field and converting on nearly 70 percent of their free throws to pull away. Freshman Felix Okpara would put an exclamation point on the second stanza, putting down a two-handed jam to give Ohio State their largest lead of the night at 25 points (57-32) with 5:52 to play. They would then coast to the 22-point win.
The Buckeye reserves were the key in the ball game, as the Ohio State bench outscored the Panther reserves 40-7. Sensabaugh notched his first 20-point game, adding seven to his first-half total. The first-year guard is averaging a team-best 17 points per game through the opening three contests of the season.
In addition to Sensabaugh, Gayle and senior Tanner Holden added eight points, each, while Okpara finished with four. Key posted another double-double, totaling 10 points and finishing with a career-high 14 rebounds.
Defensively, Ohio State held Eastern Illinois to 25 percent shooting (16-of-64) for the game. The 43-point output by the Panthers marked the tenth time in the Chris Holtmann era that the Buckeyes have held their opponent under 50 points. It’s also the third-lowest scoring output by an Ohio State opponent in that same time period.
Having finished their season-opening three-game home stand, the Buckeyes will now travel for the first time this season. Ohio State will next participate in the 2022 Maui Invitational, starting with a matchup against San Diego State on Monday, November 21. Tipoff is scheduled for 9 p.m. ET and will be televised on ESPN2.