Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann believes his No. 18 Buckeyes got the opening game jitters out of the way against Cincinnati and will have a better start against the University of Massachusetts Lowell on Sunday afternoon in Columbus, Ohio.
The Buckeyes (1-0) defeated visiting the visiting Bearcats 64-56 on Wednesday despite trailing 26-19 at the half after going nearly the first eight minutes without scoring, a span that included 11 possessions resulting in eight missed shots, five turnovers and shooting 0 for 3 from the foul line.
"We were wound pretty tight. I sensed it all day," Holtmann said. "You try to address it, but it has to play out."
The nerves were probably to be expected in the first game, but facing an in-state rival was also a factor as Ohio State won for the second straight season in the series.
"Just being able to grind out that win is something a lot of teams can't do," Ohio State forward Kaleb Wesson said. "And that feeling, doing it with a young group like we've got, a grind-it-out game, everybody's got bumps and bruises, you cheer about that."
There's no such history between the Buckeyes and the River Hawks, whose only meeting resulted in a 92-55 win for OSU in Columbus on Nov. 14, 2014.
But there is local connection of sorts. UMass Lowell graduate forward Josh Gantz is from the Columbus suburb of Grove City and attended nearby Bishop Ready High School.
Last season he had career bests in points (10.6 per game), rebounds (4.4) and assists (3.0) but is looking to bounce back against the Buckeyes after being held to five points in each of the River Hawks' first two games, a 79-64 loss to Massachusetts in their season opener on Tuesday and an 87-74 win Friday in Brooklyn against Long Island University.
He got into early foul trouble and played only 24 minutes after being the focus of the Minutemen on Tuesday, and took only six shots, making one, in 34 minutes on Friday
"I was very concerned going into the game about Gantz popping back, shooting threes," Massachusetts coach Matt McCall said. "I thought our guys did a really good job."
The River Hawks were 15-17 last season for their best record at the Division I level.
"I think everybody around the program is excited for the year," seventh-year UMass Lowell coach Pat Duquette said. "It's one of the first years where we feel like we've got a core, talented group of upperclassmen, who bring some really good game experience, along with as talented a freshman group we've had."
He probably wishes the Buckeyes didn't eventually get untracked against Cincinnati. After shooting 31 percent from the floor in the first half, Ohio State connected on 55 percent after halftime.
In a sign of how the Buckeyes settled down, after missing all five free throws in the first half, they were 19 for 24 (79.2 percent) in the second.
"I'm sure it wasn't aesthetically pleasing to a lot of people, but I don't really care," Holtmann said.
--Field Level Media