Buckeyes, Vikings look for responses to bad breaks

NCAA Men's Basketball

The numbers 4 and 0 represent not only No. 22 Ohio State’s unblemished record but an infamous mark that Cleveland State will try to move past when the Vikings play the Buckeyes in Columbus on Sunday.

Cleveland State (0-2), in its last game on Dec. 6m was victimized by a 40-0 run by Ohio University during a 101-46 road loss. The points streak was a record between two NCAA Division I opponents. The Vikings’ futility lasted from 0:43 mark of the first half until 8:03 was left in the game and involved missing 17 straight shots.

“I thought our guys fought,” Cleveland State coach Dennis Gates said. “They had great intentions, but when you have a veteran team that you’re playing against, you have to respond because they will go on a run at some point and time.”

The Vikings’ reward is to face the Buckeyes in their final tune-up before the start of Big Ten play in a game that was announced Monday as both teams scrambled to fill their schedules due to postponements from COVID-19 issues.

Ohio State passed its sternest test Tuesday in a 90-85 win at Notre Dame after wins against Illinois State, UMass Lowell and Morehead State.

It was a welcome challenge, as the Buckeyes set their sights on the Dec. 16 conference-opener at Purdue.

“It is a good level of competition to set us up going into Big Ten play, especially on the road,” Ohio State guard Musa Jallow said. “Especially since they had some fans there chirping at us, so that was a good thing to get out of the way for the first time. It was a good, tough win to gut it out, and it gives guys a lot of confidence and shows the younger guys what it takes to win.”

Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann was pleased how the Buckeyes responded to trailing by eight at the half vs. the Fighting Irish. E.J. Liddell drew praise for the way he bounced back from missing all five field goal attempts while scoring two points in the first half to finishing with career highs of 19 points and 12 rebounds.

If the Buckeyes are to make some noise in the Big Ten and beyond, Liddell is one of the critical pieces.

“We had a really honest, heart-to-heart conversation there at halftime because we need him to be good for us if we’re going to be good,” Holtmann said. “He is one of the best kids I’ve coached. He is a tremendous kid. He took it. It was pretty one-sided. He responds in those moments and I was proud of him.”

But now OSU will try to get by without the standout sophomore entirely. Ohio State announced Friday that Liddell is out indefinitely with a non-COVID related illness. Liddell is the Buckeyes’ leading scorer (15.5 points per game) and rebounder (7.5). Liddell’s illness was not announced by the school.

“I’m really disappointed for E.J. but we anticipate him returning here hopefully soon,” Holtmann said. “He is doing well and is going to be routinely evaluated by our medical staff.”

While Holtmann believes he’ll get a strong effort to that bad news from the Buckeyes, Gates would like a positive response from his team after the wipeout at Ohio. He didn’t dwell on the dubious record but instead accentuated the positives, such as making 15 of 18 foul shots (83.3 percent) in the second half.

“We were able to get some free throws and that was a bright spot,” he said.

The Buckeyes can shoot too. They made 21 of 24 (87.5 percent) from the line with C.J. Walker making all eight to hold off the Irish.

–Field Level Media

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