Wednesday was the paying public’s first opportunity to see the Ohio State men’s basketball team, albeit in a muted test against a Division II Cedarville team that was asked to give the Buckeyes certain looks in order to prepare them for the regular season.
The result was a 95-52 win for Ohio State, in a game that they actually trailed 23-22 midway through the first half.
Kaleb Wesson led the Buckeyes as expected, scoring 23 points on 9-of-11 shooting.
The starting lineup featured the Wesson brothers, Luther Muhammad, Kyle Young, and CJ Walker at point guard.
Walker had a rough start, but finished with 10 points on the night.
Young was as expected — energetic and productive with 10 points and nine rebounds.
The star of the night was arguably freshman point guard DJ Carton, who scored 15 points and led the team with five assists and three dunks.
The game wasn’t aired on cable, it was only available via PPV streaming. It is now, however (for who knows how long), available on YouTube.
If you haven’t been able to watch the game, I’ll embed it right here.
I’ll let you watch it and then you can continue on with my five takeaways from what I saw and see how well they match up with your own.
1. The new three-point line is going to be an issue.
The Buckeyes weren’t great from behind the three-point line last year, and now the NCAA has moved the line back another 16 inches to the international three-point line. One-game sample sizes are pointless, but on Wednesday the Buckeyes went 6-of-19 from behind the line, and a few of their attempts were not close. When your best shooter is your post player, that’s not a great sign. Ohio State obviously needs sophomore guards Duane Washington and Luther Muhammad to be consistent from the perimeter — inside and outside the line, but on Wednesday they combined to make 2-of-12 field goal attempts.
2. Kaleb Wesson is better again.
Kaleb Wesson is again a lesser version of himself in terms of size, but is a better version of himself in terms of game. He is comfortable everywhere on the floor and able to get from one spot to another with or without the ball. There’s a very good reason he was a unanimous pick as a preseason All-Big Ten player. He’s a 20-point scorer on a near-nightly basis this year and his ability to hit from deep will still make him effective even when he matches up with longer and more athletic post players.
3. DJ Carton is a difference maker.
DJ Carton brings a clear energy to the game when he gets on the court. In one viewing, he seemed like the second-best player on the team. Chris Holtmann wants him pushing the ball at every opportunity and he did that. But he also had some nice assists in the half-court, just with easy post passes. He wasn’t forcing things like an out-of-control freshman. That will still happen this year, but Carton will produce much more good than bad this season. On offense, he reminded me of Mike Conley with more desire to score. He’s a lefty like Conley, but may be a better shooter. We won’t compare the two as defenders just yet, however. Carton reminds me of a dynamic dual-threat quarterback. He can do the drop-back stuff that you want, but when he’s running, he’s at his very best.
4. CJ Walker needs to shake off some rust.
Point guard CJ Walker had a rough start on Wednesday. He scored 10 points, but had no assists. After the game, Chris Holtmann said Walker was probably too amped for this game. The rust needs to come off. Six-hundred days without a game can do that to a guy. We’ll see how much rust he’s lost when the Buckeyes tip Wednesday night against Cincinnati. We can also then begin to have a clearer picture of what Walker brings and how long he’ll be able to hold off Carton as the starter.
5. EJ Liddell is an alpha.
Freshman forward EJ Liddell played 15 minutes, scored nine points on 3-of-6 shooting, grabbed four rebounds, and led the team with three assists. He missed his first jumper, but didn’t hesitate in taking it. He was completely comfortable on the court even though he talked about how nervous he was after the game. Liddell didn’t play nervous and it showed. As a 6-foot-6 guy playing the four, he is going to have some nights where his shot gets blocked, but he doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who is going to let that stop him from playing his game. He was just fine shooting from the elbow and is able to drive from there as well. Even in the postgame when all four freshmen spoke with the media, Liddell did a great job speaking for the group. When a question was asked “for all” or “for any of you,” Liddell took no time leaning forward into the microphone and answering questions. In a situation where some players defer — both on the court and off — EJ Liddell doesn’t look like the deferring type.
EJ Liddell … the EJ stands for Elbow Jumper. Very prescient naming imo.
— Tony Gerdeman (@TonyGerdeman) October 31, 2019