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Basketball Preview: Ohio State hosts Eastern Illinois in the final warmup before the Maui Invitational

Ohio State has one more warmup on the agenda before heading to Maui for a real test next week.

WHO WHERE IF TV

Eastern Illinois (0–3)

Schottenstein center

19 o’clock

BTN

After dominant victories over Robert Morris and Charleston Southern to open the 2022-23 season, the Buckeyes host a 0-3 team from eastern Illinois at 7:00 p.m. Wednesday at the Schottenstein Center. Ohio State is 345th on the nation’s schedule with two games, according to KenPom, and Wednesday’s competition won’t help boost that number. The Panthers sit 354th on KenPom’s adjusted efficiency margin, making them one of the 10 worst teams in the country.

But during a season in which teams like Syracuse, Louisville and TCU have dropped all buy games against mid-majors, Chris Holtmann has made it his mission to emphasize that every game must be taken seriously.

“Of course we are preparing for our next game against Eastern Illinois. Had a chance to watch them quite a bit. They play against some common opponents,” said Holtmann on Tuesday. “They played really well in the opener against Illinois, it was a hard fought game for most of the game. Got a really tough defensive minded group and especially in the backcourt. They’re converting people at a really high rate, which – as we mentioned after the last game – is something we’re continuing to work on with this group. So I’m looking forward to tomorrow night.”

The Fighting Illini edged the Panthers by 30 in their season opener, and that will be the standard by which Ohio State will be measured, at least as far as oddsmakers are concerned.

In the second game of the season in eastern Illinois, it suffered a five-point loss to Illinois State, whom longtime Ohio State assistant Ryan Pedon is now coaching. Holtmann said he used his former right hand to talk about the Buckeyes’ opponent, who served as first team when Pedon scored a win as college head coach.

The bottom line shouldn’t be as close as it was for Pedon and Co. in Wednesday night’s matchup, however, and Holtmann said Ohio State still has plenty of streaks to earn as it finds its identity early in the season.

“I’m sure our boys understand that we have a lot to prove and that we have another opportunity tomorrow,” said Holtmann.

What to look out for

Bad shooting from Panthers

In all honesty, Eastern Illinois put up one of the worst offenses in the country in three games. KenPom lists the Panthers as the fifth-worst team in the nation when it comes to adjusted offense. Eastern Illinois ranks 344th on offense in the nation with 55.3 points per game and scores just 33.1% of its field goals (No. 346). From the 3-point range, the Panthers’ 22% clip is slightly better in terms of national rankings, but not by much as it lands at No. 336.

Brown still paused

Ohio State will be without third-year winger Eugene Brown III for a third straight year to open the season as the returning high schooler is still working through concussion protocol. The Buckeyes may not need Brown to defeat Eastern Illinois, but they would like to have him ready for the Buckeyes’ trip to Maui at the end of the week.

Three important horse chestnuts

zed key

The big Buckeye starter just finished one of the best performances of his career when Key became the first player in three years to hit a double-double by halftime in a single game. With 17 points and 13 boards against Charleston Southern, Key joined Buckeye greats Evan Turner, Jared Sullinger and Keita Bates-Diop as the only Ohio State player since 2004 to hit double-doubles in consecutive games to open a season. Against Eastern Illinois, Key should have ample opportunity to maintain that momentum in the early non-conference schedule.

Brice Sensabaugh

Two games into the 2022-23 season, true freshman Brice Sensabaugh is the top scorer (15.5 points per game) for the Buckeyes. That’s an interesting development considering that speculation about who will be Ohio State’s top scorer is likely to linger much further into the year. So far, however, Sensabaugh has shown he has little trouble putting the ball in the net, even if his two big goalscoring days have come against underperforming competition. That will not change on Wednesday.

Bruce Thornton

Thornton is the only true freshman with a starting role for the Buckeyes in two games, but he didn’t come early to match the offensive win of Sensbaugh or Roddy Gayle. While Sensabaugh leads the Buckeyes in goals and Gayle came on successfully from the bench and averaged eight points per game, Thornton is averaging just 5.5 points and 3.0 assists per game in his first two games. Thornton should only get more comfortable as the season progresses, but he certainly hasn’t found a real groove so far.

Three important panthers

Kinyon Hodges

ESTIMATED STARTING LINEUP

player

position

Height

weight

Statistics 2021-22

YAAKEMA ROSE

G

5-9

185

7.7PPG, 5.3RPG

KINYON HODGES

G

6-2

180

12.7PPG, 4.3RPG

CALEB DONALDSON

G

6-5

195

4.0 PPG, 1.0 RPG

SINCERE MALONE

f

6-8

210

5.0 PPG, 3.0 RPG

Nick Ellington

f

6-8

220

3.3PPG, 4.0RPG

Kinyon Hodges, the lone panther averaging double digits this season, is in his first season in Eastern Illinois after three years at Three Rivers Community College in Missouri. Hodges, a 6-foot-2 guard, has at least 10 points in three games this season and 14 each against Illinois and Illinois State. Hodges has knocked down 50% of his 3-point attempts so far this season.

Yaakema Rose

At his fourth stop in his sixth year of college basketball, Yaakema Rose was the second-leading scorer in eastern Illinois, averaging 7.7 points in his first three games. Despite standing just 5-foot-9, the Illinois native was one of two Panthers to score at least 10 points against the Fighting Illinois in the season opener. Rose is struggling to shoot the ball consistently, hitting just 35.7% of his shots, and he has yet to put down a 3-pointer.

Sincerely Malone

Eastern Illinois has some size to throw Ohio State with three players who are at least 6-foot-8 and Sincere Malone is the most prolific of the bunch so far. Malone doesn’t have many standout numbers, but his 5.0 points per game makes him the third-best scorer on the team yet, despite shooting just 27.8% from the field. Malone cracked the starting lineup in Eastern Illinois’ last game for the first time this season and appears to be doing so again against the Buckeyes.

how it plays

Line: OSU -30, O/U: 132.5

Eastern Illinois doesn’t have nearly enough offense to match a team from Ohio State, which ranks 18th in the country in adjusted offensive efficiency, according to KenPom. We should see a third straight dominance in Columbus on Wednesday.

Forecast: State of Ohio 84, Eastern Illinois 55

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