Ohio State started the game on a 13-2 run and never looked back, defeating UNC Pembroke 81-63 in its final exhibition before the start of the regular season.
Ohio State used the exhibition game to its advantage, bringing out a variety of lineups, each showing a strong defensive intensity and willingness to move the ball. Every player active on Ohio State’s roster saw time on the court during the exhibition.
“A lot to take from this game for us, good and bad, a lot to take from it, so I was glad we got to play a lot of different guys,” head coach Chris Holtmann said. “We’ll move forward, a lot to improve on, we have some significant, significant areas that need improvement, significant areas.”
The Buckeyes held the Braves to 32.8 percent shooting, and allowed 20 free throw attempts in the game, 16 of which came in the second half.
Among the multiple switches in lineup, freshman guard Luther Muhammad stood out, finishing a plus-32, the highest on the team.
Muhammad finished the game with nine points on 3-of-5 shooting to go along with three assists.
The freshman guard said he sees his role as mainly a defensive player that can work well with senior guard C.J. Jackson.
“I’ve been known for my defense, so that comes first,” Muhammad said. “Be a high-intensity guy and try and set the tone with C.J. and the rest of the three other guys that’s on the floor, and basically just be yourself.”
Late in the first half, Muhammad drove to the basket, forced contact, earned the foul and finished the layup while falling to the ground, one of several strong drives to the basket by the Buckeyes throughout the game.
The Buckeyes used their size advantage, especially through junior and sophomore forwards Kaleb and Andre Wesson, to gain a massive edge on the boards.
UNC Pembroke, a 27-win team and Peach Belt Division II conference champion in 2018, was held to 35 rebounds on the night.
“I think it’s a solid defensive team that we have to start the game,” Holtmann said. “We don’t have the versatility that we have with last year’s group in [Jae’Sean Tate] and Keita [Bates-Diop], and that’s significant, we’re gonna have to figure some things out as coaches because we don’t have that versatility.”
Kaleb Wesson led the team with 10 rebounds, helping the team total 56 boards, including 21 offensive rebounds.
Ohio State went up 42-24 in the first half, led by Muhammad’s nine points. Junior center Micah Potter scored eight on 3-3 shooting in the half, each of the three shots coming with an and-one opportunity.
Potter led the team with 13 points, making all four of his attempts. He added a fourth and-one chance in the second half, getting a pass down low and finishing a tough layup before adding the free throw, putting the Buckeyes up 61-31.
Even with an 18-point lead halfway through the game, the Buckeyes had nine turnovers and shot 2-10 on its three-point attempts.
The second half was more of the same. Ohio State totaled 21 turnovers, and shot 5-of-25 from three on the night.
“I’m not as worried about our shooting, because I think some of that is just you’re getting a feel and jitters,” Holtmann said. “But certainly turnovers, certainly, way too careless with the ball today.”
Holtmann said he will not play guys extended minutes moving forward that don’t take care of the ball.
Ohio State will officially open the season Wednesday when the Buckeyes take on Cincinnati at 6 p.m.
Story updated at 10: 28 p.m. to include quotes from postgame interviews.