In its first return to the only home court it has hosted a national championship season in, Ohio State did not disappoint.
After failing to pull ahead substantially to open the game, the No. 23 Buckeyes poured it on in the second half, defeating Cleveland State 89-62 in the team’s first game in St. John Arena since 2010.
In front of the sold-out crowd, Ohio State shot 53.1 percent, made seven 3s and forced 16 turnovers against the Vikings.
For junior forward Kaleb Wesson and sophomore forward Andre Wesson, the moment was even greater because of the history that their dad, Keith, had as a player for the Buckeyes in the 1980s.
“It was special, just everybody, there was a lot of hype around this game,” Kaleb Wesson said. “It was even more special for me and [Andre] because my dad played here.”
After starting the second half with a nine-point lead the Buckeyes opened the half with a 10-1 run, extending the lead to 48-30 with 16:44 to go in the game.
From there, Cleveland State began to bring the pressure with a few buckets on the other end. But Ohio State countered all of them, connecting on seven of its first nine shots from the field in the second half.
Ohio State head coach Chris Holtmann still was not pleased about the play in transition.
“We had three or four possessions where it was, we score they score, we score they score, and we got beat in transition a couple times,” Holtmann said. “I thought we were really fatigued, and we got really loose defensively.”
That was all it took for the Buckeyes to take charge.
Ohio State shot 59.4 percent and 5-of-8 from deep to outscore the Vikings 51-33 in the second half to seal the victory.
Of the Buckeyes first 56 points, 51 were scored by the starters. All starters except sophomore forward Kyle Young, who had eight, scored in double figures. The bench shot 8-of-20 and 3-of-7 from 3.
Kaleb Wesson led all scorers with 19 points, followed closely by senior guard C.J. Jackson, who had 17.
Wesson shot 8-of-16 and brought in six rebounds, tied for the team high, while Jackson shot 7-of-10 and 3-of-4 from 3.
Wesson said he has found a stride this year because of the play of the guys around him.
“I feel I have more opportunities because of my teammates, you know my teammates stepped up really in a year,” Kaleb Wesson said. “I feel like if more people step up I’ll get more shots.”
Ohio State led Cleveland State 38-29 at the half, with Jackson leading all scorers with 10 points.
The Buckeyes held the Vikings to 34.4 percent shooting overall in the first half, but struggled from behind the arc, making only two of their 11 3-point attempts.
“I thought they really, physically challenged us and were the tougher team, certainly for 20 minutes of the game,” Holtmann said. “It was good for us, good to see us respond.”
Young started the momentum early for Ohio State, making all three of his shots for six points and three rebounds in the first nine minutes of the game.
The Buckeyes’ defense started out hot as well, forcing five turnovers in the first 10 minutes and nine overall in the first half.
Ohio State moves on to face Syracuse at the Schottenstein Center at 7 p.m. on Wednesday.