COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann was interested to see how his team would bounce back after suffering its first loss of the season on Sunday at Minnesota.
Holtmann was not impressed, however, after his Buckeyes committed 13 first-half turnovers and led struggling Southeast Missouri State by just nine points at halftime.
But the fifth-ranked Buckeyes pulled it together with a commanding 22-2 second-half run and pulled away for an 80-48 victory over the visiting Redhawks.
“I’m frustrated with the turnovers,” Holtmann said. “I’m disappointed and frustrated, and we’ve got to figure out how to correct it. But I also recognize we had some youth out there, too.”
Kaleb Wesson scored 18 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to lead Ohio State (10-1), which dropped two spots in the AP Top 25 after the loss to Minnesota.
“We just weren’t playing Ohio State basketball,” Wesson said of his team’s play at Minnesota, as well as the first half against Southeast Missouri State. “We had to get out of our own way a little bit. We needed to go back to having fun.”
Andre Wesson scored 14 points, while Kyle Young and D.J. Carton each had 10 points for the Buckeyes.
D.Q. Nicholas and Isaiah Gable each had 10 points for Southeast Missouri State (3-8), which shot 27% from the floor (16 of 60) in losing its fourth straight game.
“There’s a reason they are a top-five team,” Southeast Missouri State coach Rick Ray said. “I imagine they will stay that way with all the weapons they have and how locked in they are defensively.”
Ohio State hit 64% of its shots from the floor (14 of 22) in the first half. But the Buckeyes only led 35-26 at the break because of turnovers.
“We didn’t play with enough force and strength in the first half,” Holtmann said. “It was passing, catching, feeding the post, catching with one hand or we didn’t run the right play and we ran into bodies. It’s all stuff we need to work through.”
The teams traded baskets to start the second half before Ohio State went on a 22-2 run. Carton hit two 3s while Luther Muhammad and Kaleb Wesson each hit one during the burst, and Young and Andre Wesson each had three-point plays as the Buckeyes went ahead 59-30 with 11:33 left.
Andre Wesson hit three 3-pointers in a 90-second span to push the lead to 78-40 with 3:15 remaining.
The Buckeyes hope to carry momentum from the second half into Saturday’s showdown with No. 6 Kentucky in Las Vegas.
“I feel like tonight helped us get back in our rhythm,” Kaleb Wesson said. “We hit shots. We were finding the open man in the second half. But you don’t know till you get in those big games and guys are pulling through in those situations.”
Southeast Missouri State: This has been a rough 1-6 stretch for the Redhawks, who have not played a home game since Nov. 22. Southeast Missouri State has one more road game before getting back home against Missouri Baptist on Dec. 29.
Ohio State: The Buckeyes will need to be at their best as they play three ranked teams among their next four games. Getting the injured Washington back to ease the offensive burden will help.
Ohio State played its second straight game without sophomore guard Duane Washington Jr., who was sidelined with an apparent rib injury. Washington is the team’s second leading scorer at 11.4 points per game. His status remains unclear for Saturday’s game against Kentucky.
“I don’t know right now,” Holtmann said. “He is still day-to-day. He could not have played today. He has been out a significant amount. He has not done anything significant in practice since the Penn State game (on Dec. 7).”
Kaleb Wesson also was banged up. He suffered a knee injury early in Tuesday’s game. Later, he sustained a busted lip and a slight ankle sprain.
Southeast Missouri State: At Southern Illinois on Saturday.
Ohio State: Plays No. 6 Kentucky in Las Vegas on Saturday.
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