If Kaleb Wesson attempted a 3 in a game during his freshman campaign, Ohio State head coach Chris Holtmann likely had something to say about it after the game.
The 6-foot-9, 270-pound center, without a doubt, is known more for his interior presence than his shooting ability after all, and his attempted 3s during his first collegiate campaign trended more toward bricks than splashes.
This season, however, Holtmann has noted the improving 3-point shooting of the now-sophomore forward. And it showed off in Ohio State’s 89-61 victory Sunday against South Carolina State, with Wesson drilling a career-high 3-of-4 shots from beyond the arc, leading to a game-high 18 points.
“He was hunting those 3s today, and I think most of them were good,” Holtmann said, examining the numbers after putting his glasses on to review the stat sheet. “I thought Kaleb really set the tone with his aggressiveness offensively.”
South Carolina State head coach Murray Garvin said after the game there was little his team could really do to prepare for Wesson. The focus had been on Ohio State’s guards given their success early. Not to mention, he doesn’t have the size to defend someone like Wesson.
“We tried, but unfortunately, we can’t grow a guy to be 6-foot-9, 270 right now,” Garvin said, noting the only athletes at South Carolina State capable of guarding Wesson might be suited up in pads on the football team. “I haven’t seen that before where a post player that big, it’s almost like [Shaquille O’Neil] in the late 90s.”
When the clock finally hit 0, and the two teams were mercifully allowed to return to their respective locker rooms, Ohio State (4-0) had been successful on 55 percent of its shots from the field, while South Carolina State (1-4) made just 37 percent. Junior forward Damani Applewhite led the Bulldogs with 15 points while tying a team-high with six rebounds.
The Buckeyes generated offensive success with fluid ball movement throughout the night, with the team racking up 18 assists compared to three from the Bulldogs.
The charity stripe also proved particularly generous to Ohio State, with the Buckeyes knocking down 26-of-35 free-throw attempts, surpassing the previous season-high of 16 from Nov. 7 against Cincinnati.
The Buckeyes took their time before establishing control of the game. At 15:46, Ohio State led just 8-6, having already committed three turnovers.
That all changed after the media timeout. Ohio State proceeded to go on a 12-0 run to push its lead out to 20-6, with freshman guard Duane Washington Jr. contributing five of the team’s points, including a 3 from the wing. Washington finished the game with 14 points.
A pair of free throws from South Carolina State freshman guard Allen Hatchett broke up the run, but the Wesson show continued, this time with Kaleb’s older brother, junior forward Andre Wesson, scoring four points on a mid-range jumper and dunk to put his team ahead 28-12.
Ohio State slumped, as much as a team can when ahead 33-12, with 6:15 remaining, going without a field goal for the next 4:34. But the Buckeyes still managed five free throws to limit the Bulldogs’ run to 9-5 before Kaleb Wesson splashed home his third 3 of the game with 1:41 left in the half.
A dunk 31 seconds later from sophomore forward Kyle Young on a perfect feed in front of the basket from redshirt senior guard Keyshawn Woods pushed Ohio State’s halftime lead out to 43-21.
With the game well in hand at an early point, the second half became an opportunity for Holtmann to give minutes to some of the bench players, including freshmen forwards Jaedon LeDee and Justin Ahrens, who made his first shot attempt on a 3 from the top of the key with 8:50 left to play. LeDee finished with 12 points, the same as fellow freshman guard Luther Muhammad.
For a team that lost several key veterans a season ago with freshmen and a transfer, Ohio State needs to find time for its new players to see the court and feel more comfortable in a Scarlet and Gray uniform.
“It certainly helps to be able to play multiple guys, different lineups and young guys and new guys,” Holtmann said. “Having five new guys that are playing consistently for us. To be able to do that is really important early in the year, and we’ve seen some good things.”
As if there needed to be any more convincing as to the more dominant team on the court Sunday, sophomore guard Musa Jallow halted a dunk from Applewhite, pressing the ball out of Applewhite’s hands and giving the Buckeyes possession with 7:37 remaining.
On the other end, Jallow passed the ball up the left side of the court to freshman guard Luther Muhammad, who placed the ball exactly where it needed to be for Washington to attempt a dunk. The one-handed slam attempt was slowed, but after a bounce on the rim and a whistle from the referee, Washington had his two points with the and-1. The three-point play pushed Ohio State’s insurmountable lead to 73-43 with 7:33 left to play.
Ohio State will try and extend its four-game winning streak to start the season Tuesday at home against Samford.