Buckeyes ride Tanner Holden, new faces to win against Chaminade
It was a start that reflected what the Ohio State season could look like.
On Tuesday night at Value City Arena, the Buckeyes unofficially opened the 2022-23 season by hosting Division II foe Chaminade in an exhibition game. It’s been five years since the Silverswords defeated a Division I side, and moments into the exhibition they had taken a 5-4 lead. The only known available product for the Buckeyes, third-year center Zed Key, had been stripped of consecutive possessions to open the game and missed a 3-pointer.
It was a bit rocky. Then it got better. And in the end, Ohio State had passed Chaminade for a 101-57 win.
Wright State transfer forward Tanner Holden led all scorers with 25 points. Key finished with 15 on 7 of 9 shooting, while rookie Roddy Gayle Jr. was 14 on 6 of 7 shooting.
“I think we played really well together,” Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann said. “I thought it was really good to see. I thought we shared the ball. I thought defensively we had a really good goal for the stretchers. I thought they were really attentive today in some preparations and you saw him on the floor. It was good. I loved that we were able to give a lot of minutes to the guys who need to play.”
It was freshman guard Colby Baumann who pushed the Buckeyes past the century mark, scoring on a layup with two minutes remaining that took them to 101 points.
It wasn’t a full roster reveal, although forward Justice Sueing and Gene Brown III both missed the game. After missing all but two games last season with a groin injury, Sueing was held off as a precaution as he recovered from a sprained ankle. Brown, one of only two players to play at least three games for the Buckeyes last year, missed the game while in concussion protocol. He also missed four games last season after suffering a concussion in Ohio State’s loss to Xavier on Nov. 18.
Holtmann did not commit to either player’s availability for Monday’s season opener against Robert Morris, but said Sueing is more likely than Brown.
Without them, Holtmann left with a starting lineup consisting of Bruce Thornton, Sean McNeil, Isaac “Ice” Likekele, Brice Sensabaugh and Zed Key. Most of them were finished midway through the second half, as the lead continued to climb and running center Owen Spencer logged minutes alongside redshirt freshman striker Kalen Etzler and first-year guard Bowen Hardman. Etzler and Hardman were the last two fellows to see action.
Midway through the first half, what had been an eight-point Ohio State lead was gone as Chaminade rocked a 2-for-15 shooting start to connect on three straight possessions for shoot even at 15 with 10:40 remaining after the Buckeyes had gone empty on seven of eight possessions.
But after a 3-point Braden Olsen tied the game, Holden hit one of his own. That pushed Ohio State back on the scoreboard and sparked a Buckeyes run that saw him take center stage. Two possessions later, Zed Key connected on a hook shot that started a 20-6 run fueled by the transfer from Wright State.
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As Ohio State opened the game, Holden scored 10 of Ohio State’s 13 points during a streak and did so in a variety of ways. He drove, drew contact and completed three free throws. He found his way inside for a bucket. He went in for another 3-pointer. At the break, it totaled a team-high 19 points and a 46-23 lead for the Buckeyes.
“We have a lot of versatile players who can make plays,” Holden said. “My teammates prepared me really well. We have a lot of guys who can score like that. It will be a good season for us.”
It also made the second half academic, which suited a team that still had so much to learn. Without Sueing and Brown, the Buckeyes used an eight-man rotation with four freshmen, three transfers and Key as the lone returner.
After Chaminade called timeout with 4:08 left in halftime and Ohio State’s lead at 38-21, coach Chris Holtmann opted for a roster that included the students freshman Thornton, Roddy Gayle, Sensabaugh and Felix Okpara alongside West Virginia graduate transfer Sean McNeil. A moment later, Holden replaced McNeil and quickly scored four straight points.
Thornton finished with 11 assists. Hardman had a quick 12 points in 9:37 during the second half. As a team, Ohio State had 24 assists on 41 field goals with 11 turnovers while shooting 55.4 percent from the floor and 52.2 percent from 3-point range.
The matchup was set by Ohio State’s participation in this year’s Maui Invitational. Chaminade has won eight matches while competing in the Maui Invitational. Its most recent came in 2017, when it beat California for its last victory over Division I competition. Sueing, in his sixth career game, scored 23 points and seven rebounds in a 96-72 loss that sent the Golden Bears home after going 0-3 at Maui.
The Buckeyes officially open the season against Robert Morris on November 7. They haven’t lost a public exhibition game since Division II program Findlay won 70-68 on November 6, 2007.