COLUMBUS — In its final tuneup before heading to Hawaii for the annual Maui Invitational next week, Ohio State stumbled early for easily dispatching Eastern Illinois, 65-43, on Wednesday.
Freshman guard Brice Sensabaugh recorded the first 20-point game of his young career to lead all scorers, and Zed Key recorded a double-double with 10 points and 14 rebounds to lead Ohio State.
Ohio State recovered from a miserable shooting performance over the opening 10 minutes to shoot 40% on the evening, but Eastern Illinois never was able to solve its offensive woes. Despite Yaakema Rose’s 17 points, the Panthers were held to just 25% shooting, including a 4-20 effort from three.
Key got the scoring started with a three-pointer in the opening minute to give Ohio State the lead, but it would be a while before another field goal was made by either team.
Key added a free throw to increase the lead to 4-0, but baskets continued to be elusive as the two teams combined to go just 1-13 from the field over heading into the first media timeout.
The lead grew to 11-5 heading into the second media timeout of the half, and Ohio State began to establish full control of the game after the slow start.
An 11-0 Ohio State run, led by seven points from Sensabaugh, appeared to have blown the game wide open midway through the first half as Eastern Illinois fell behind 18-5. An Eastern Illinois timeout did little to slow the run as Sensabaugh connected on a three out of the break to increase the lead to 21-5.
Eastern Illinois finally found some offense, however, mounting a run of its own to get right back into the game. Rose’s jumper ended the Panthers’ scoring draught and Ohio State’s run, and he added a three on the next possession to cut the deficit to 21-10.
Rodolfo Rufino Bolis’ layup capped off the 10-0 Eastern Illinois run as Ohio State saw its lead shrink to just 21-15 as the first half clock ticked under six minutes, and the lead stayed at six points heading into halftime.
Sensabaugh finished the half with 13 points to lead Ohio State, and Key’s six points represented the only points Ohio State received from its starting five over the first 20 minutes of action.
Eastern Illinois got as close as 26-23 early in the second half as Ohio State again struggled to score to begin the half, but a layup by Key and a three from Bruce Thornton quickly pushed the lead to 31-23.
Layups by Justice Sueing and Isaac Likekele capped off a 9-0 run as Ohio State took a 35-23 lead five minutes into the second half, and the lead never fell below double digits as the Buckeyes began to cruise.
Ohio State’s lead ballooned to 49-30 midway through the second half after four consecutive free throws from Sensabaugh, and it grew to as many as 22 in the final minutes as Ohio State improved to 3-0 on the season.
Now 3-0, Ohio State will open play in Maui on Monday evening with a 9 p.m. tipoff against No. 17 San Diego State (3-0). The game will be televised on ESPN2.