Buckeyes Win Opener 79-73 Over Oakland: Three-Point Recap

COLUMBUS — The Ohio State Buckeyes (1-0) kicked off their 125th men’s basketball season with a 79-73 win over Oakland (0-1) of the Horizon League.

The Buckeyes were led on the scoreboard with 17 points by sophomore point guard Bruce Thornton, sophomore shooting guard Roddy Gayle, and senior center Zed Key. Thornton and Gayle were both in the starting lineup, while Key got his points in 27 minutes off the bench.

Oakland starting guards Jack Gohlke and Blake Lampman combined for 32 points, making 10 of their 25 combined three-point attempts.

The Golden Grizzlies led for much of this game, but Ohio State’s offense finally took over in the second half, outscoring Oakland 45-38 over the game’s final 20 minutes.

True freshman Scotty Middleton made his anticipated Ohio State debut. He scored 13 points on 4-of-7 shooting.

The Key To The Solution

Before the season began, many openly wondered exactly how Ohio State centers Felix Okpara and Zed Key would be able to coexist. Okpara is just a sophomore, but the more he plays, the better he is going to get. Head coach Chris Holtmann was adamant that Okpara would get his opportunities, and he opened the season as the Buckeyes’ starter. Foul trouble kept him on the bench, however. Before the season, Okpara felt that 20 minutes a night would be attainable for him, and it is, which is why he can’t allow foul trouble to keep him on the bench. The good news for Ohio State, however, is that they can turn to a veteran like Zed Key. Key scored 12 of his 17 points in the second half, doing so with just three made baskets. He was 6-of-7 from the free throw line in his 17 minutes of second-half play. Perhaps the playing time issue will have a way of sorting itself out from game to game. However it continues to shake out this season, it’s clear that both Okpara and Key are going to have to fight hard to get the minutes they both want. That should only help the Buckeyes in the long run (and short run).

Roddy To The Rescue

With the Ohio State offense struggling and stagnant in the second half, sophomore guard Roddy Gayle began taking matters into his own hands to lead his team to victory. Trailing 52-47 with just over 10 minutes to play in the game, Gayle went on a 9-0 run by himself, featuring several easy jumpers in the paint. He attacked Oakland’s defense off the dribble and pulled up before he got too deep into the paint. His perimeter game wasn’t falling — he was 0-for-3 from three-point range in the first half, so he changed his approach in the second half and it may have been the difference in the game. Gayle finished with 17 points on 6-of-11 shooting, pulling down seven rebounds and handing out five assists. If Gayle can give the Buckeyes scoring even when his outside shot isn’t falling, that would mean he’s pretty close to taking another step as a guy this team can lean on. He just needs to stay aggressive.

Man In The Middleton

Scotty Middleton was the prize recruit in Ohio State’s 2023 signing class. He made his Buckeye debut on Monday night and he lived up to the billing. He scored nine of his 13 points in the second half, which featured back-to-back threes from the corner to turn an Oakland lead into a tie. He also hit three free throws in the final seconds to keep the Golden Grizzlies at an arm’s length. Middleton also added eight rebounds — five offensive — in his 28 minutes. Perhaps coincidentally (and perhaps not), he also led OSU in +/- with a +19. The second best +/- for the Buckeyes was Dale Bonner’s +7. Middleton never forced anything and let the passes come to him. He chased down the rebounds, however. He’s also a talented defender, which means he can stay on the court more than most freshmen, unlike what the Buckeyes experienced with Brice Sensabaugh last year.

The Box Score

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