Men’s Basketball: Key’s buzzer beater lifts No. 17 Buckeyes to season-opening 67-66 win over Akron

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Ohio State sophomore forward Zed Key (23) celebrates with graduate guard Jamari Wheeler (55) during the Ohio State-Akron Game Tuesday. Ohio State won 67-66. Photo Credit: Mackenzie Shanklin | Photo Editor https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=0gADnc_0crqef7j00 Ohio State junior forward E.J. Liddell (32) dribbles past a Akron defender during the Ohio State-Akron Game Tuesday. Ohio State won 67-66. Photo Credit: Mackenzie Shanklin | Photo Editor https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=0qXE8U_0crqef7j00 Ohio State junior forward E.J. Liddell (32) and freshman guard Malaki Branham (22) high-five during the Ohio State-Akron Game Tuesday. Ohio State won 67-66. Photo Credit: Mackenzie Shanklin | Photo Editor https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=0Ym92e_0crqef7j00 Ohio State sophomore forward Zed Key (23) celebrates with senior forward Justin Ahrens (10) during the Ohio State-Akron Game Tuesday. Ohio State won 67-66. Photo Credit: Mackenzie Shanklin | Photo Editor https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=42WgVz_0crqef7j00 Ohio State sophomore forward Zed Key (23) dunks the ball during the Ohio State-Akron Game Tuesday. Ohio State won 67-66. Photo Credit: Mackenzie Shanklin | Photo Editor https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=2fxzTr_0crqef7j00 Ohio State freshman guard Meechie Johnson Jr. (0) dribbles the ball towards the net during the Ohio State-Akron Game Tuesday. Ohio State won 67-66. Photo Credit: Mackenzie Shanklin | Photo Editor https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=38B4qV_0crqef7j00 Ohio State sophomore forward Zed key (23) celebrates with fans during the Ohio State-Akron Game Tuesday. Ohio State won 67-66. Photo Credit: Mackenzie Shanklin | Photo Editor https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=1GITi0_0crqef7j00 Ohio State freshman guard Malaki Branham (22) pushes through the Akron defense during the Ohio State-Akron Game Tuesday. Ohio State won 67-66. Photo Credit: Mackenzie Shanklin | Photo Editor https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=2Bjmec_0crqef7j00 Ohio State junior forward E.J. Liddell (32) shoots a free-throw shot during the Ohio State-Akron Game Tuesday. Ohio State won 67-66. Photo Credit: Mackenzie Shanklin | Photo Editor https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=3GRTnF_0crqef7j00 Ohio State head coach Chris Holtmann yells from the sidelines with less than thirty seconds left on the clock during the Ohio State-Akron Game Tuesday. Ohio State won 67-66. Photo Credit: Mackenzie Shanklin | Photo Editor https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=3juqYa_0crqef7j00 Ohio State redshirt senior forward Justice Sueing (14) prepares to pass the ball to senior forward Justin Ahrens (10) during the Ohio State-Akron Game Tuesday. Ohio State won 67-66. Photo Credit: Mackenzie Shanklin | Photo Editor https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=3UKak5_0crqef7j00 Ohio State graduate center Joey Brunk (50) attempts a floater during the Ohio State-Akron Game Tuesday. Ohio State won 67-66. Photo Credit: Mackenzie Shanklin | Photo Editor https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=2UrRad_0crqef7j00 Ohio State graduate guard Jamari Wheeler (55) dribbles the ball down the court during the Ohio State-Akron Game Tuesday. Ohio State won 67-66. Photo Credit: Mackenzie Shanklin | Photo Editor https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=1H0Tcv_0crqef7j00 Ohio State freshman guard Malaki Branham (22) goes for the layup during the Ohio State-Akron Game Tuesday. Ohio State won 67-66. Photo Credit: Mackenzie Shanklin | Photo Editor https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=3GU31q_0crqef7j00 Ohio State senior forward Justin Ahrens (10) dribbles the ball through the Akron defense during the Ohio State-Akron Game Tuesday. Ohio State won 67-66. Photo Credit: Mackenzie Shanklin | Photo Editor https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=0lLy1h_0crqef7j00

Although Akron gave No. 17 Ohio State all it could handle, a buzzer-beater by sophomore forward Zed Key and a strong performance from junior forward E.J. Liddell powered the Buckeyes past the Zips 67-66.

The Buckeyes (1-0, 0-0 Big Ten) were carried by Liddell throughout Tuesday’s contest, as his 25 points and 11 rebounds were enough to keep the Zips (0-1, 0-0 MAC) at bay.

Outside of Liddell, Ohio State’s offense collapsed in the second half. Although Liddell shot 5-of-12 from the field in the final frame, the rest of the Buckeyes offense could only muster six made field goals combined — including three makes from Key.

Although the Buckeyes were without the services of graduate forward Kyle Young, Ohio State’s frontcourt showed out behind sound performances from Liddell and Key.

Liddell was stellar in all facets of the game Tuesday, producing on the offensive and defensive ends of the floor. The junior forward shot 52.6 percent from the field while adding a team-high three assists.

The Belleville, Illinois, native also gave the Buckeyes some juice with two thunderous slams in the first half.

On the defensive end, Liddell added one steal and two blocks.

The sophomore Key got off to a quick start, hitting his first four shot attempts. The Bay Shore, New York, native finished with 12 points on 7-of-11 shooting — including his game-winning lay-up.

Similarly to Liddell, Key was a factor on the defensive end — racking up two blocks.

As the Buckeyes frontcourt feasted, their starting backcourt struggled to find an offensive rhythm.

Sophomore guard Meechie Johnson Jr. and graduate transfer guard Jamari Wheeler combined for just six points on zero percent from the field.

Ohio State also struggled to maintain possession throughout the game, turning the ball over 11 times — which the Zips turned into 20 points.

Akron was led by three double-digit scorers, including graduate guard K.J. Walton — who turned in a 16-point performance. Sophomore forward Ali Ali and junior guard Xavier Castaneda added a combined 28 points.

While Liddell and Key manned the paint, Ohio State locked in from the perimeter — holding the Zips to 31.8 percent from beyond the arc.

Despite the poor three-point shooting trends, Ali continued to fire from deep — shooting 2-of-4 from deep including a go-ahead three with six seconds left.

Ohio State returns to the floor Friday, when the Buckeyes host Niagara at 7 p.m. on BTN+.

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