Men’s Basketball: No. 21 Ohio State pulls away in second half to down Towson 85-74

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The Ohio State men's basketball team huddles up prior to the Ohio State-Towson game Wednesday. Ohio State won 85-74. Credit: Mackenzie Shanklin | Photo Editor https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=2lnOxA_0dHyDBmF00 Ohio State sophomore forward Zed Key (23) tips off for the Buckeyes during the Ohio State-Towson game Wednesday. Ohio State won 85-74. Credit: Mackenzie Shanklin | Photo Editor https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=0M9Wzm_0dHyDBmF00 Ohio State junior forward E.J. Liddell (32) goes up for the layup during the Ohio State-Towson game Wednesday. Ohio State won 85-74. Credit: Mackenzie Shanklin | Photo Editor https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=49w5l3_0dHyDBmF00 Ohio State senior forward Justin Ahrens (10) celebrates after hitting a three during the Ohio State-Towson game Wednesday. Ohio State won 85-74. Credit: Mackenzie Shanklin | Photo Editor https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=010BES_0dHyDBmF00 Ohio State graduate forward Kyle Young (25) dribbles the ball around Towson junior forward Charles Thompson (32) during the Ohio State-Towson game Wednesday. Ohio State won 85-74. Credit: Mackenzie Shanklin | Photo Editor https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=355lZE_0dHyDBmF00 Ohio State graduate guard Jamari Wheeler (55) dribbles the ball down the court during the Ohio State-Towson game Wednesday. Ohio State won 85-74. Credit: Mackenzie Shanklin | Photo Editor https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=1Rtf9S_0dHyDBmF00 Ohio State sophomore forward Zed Key (23) goes up for the layup during the Ohio State-Towson game Wednesday. Ohio State won 85-74. Credit: Mackenzie Shanklin | Photo Editor https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=1jwizL_0dHyDBmF00 The Ohio State Buckeyes celebrate during the Ohio State-Towson game Wednesday. Ohio State won 85-74. Credit: Mackenzie Shanklin | Photo Editor https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=092P2A_0dHyDBmF00 Ohio State graduate guard Jamari Wheeler (55) celebrates after recovering the ball during the Ohio State-Towson game Wednesday. Ohio State won 85-74. Credit: Mackenzie Shanklin | Photo Editor https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=4gG8tF_0dHyDBmF00 Ohio State head coach Chris Holtmann directs players from the sidelines during the Ohio State-Towson game Wednesday. Ohio State won 85-74. Credit: Mackenzie Shanklin | Photo Editor https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=0OB03v_0dHyDBmF00 The Ohio State Buckeyes celebrate on the sidelines during the Ohio State-Towson game Wednesday. Ohio State won 85-74. Credit: Mackenzie Shanklin | Photo Editor https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=1j505T_0dHyDBmF00 Ohio State graduate guard Jamari Wheeler (55) prepares to throw the ball in during the Ohio State-Towson game Wednesday. Ohio State won 85-74. Credit: Mackenzie Shanklin | Photo Editor https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=0f068G_0dHyDBmF00 Ohio State sophomore guard Eugene Brown III (3) shoots from behind the 3-point line during the Ohio State-Towson game Wednesday. Ohio State won 85-74. Credit: Mackenzie Shanklin | Photo Editor https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=0HzN2U_0dHyDBmF00 Ohio State senior forward Justin Ahrens (10) shoots from behind the arc during the Ohio State-Towson game Wednesday. Ohio State won 85-74. Credit: Mackenzie Shanklin | Photo Editor https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=0FHKJD_0dHyDBmF00 The Ohio State Buckeyes sing Carmen Ohio after the Ohio State-Towson game Wednesday. Ohio State won 85-74. Credit: Mackenzie Shanklin | Photo Editor https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=27vYkF_0dHyDBmF00

After a competitive first half, which saw Towson in front for most of it, the Buckeyes regrouped in the second half to power past the Tigers 85-74.

No. 21 Ohio State (7-2, 1-0 Big Ten) used a 16-4 run throughout the middle stages of the second half to keep the upset-minded Tigers (6-4, 0-0 CAA) at bay. The Buckeyes outscored Towson 52-42 in the second half.

“Give Towson a lot of credit. They’re a good team; they’re going to have a really good season.” Ohio State head coach Chris Holtmann said. “I thought we played with more force and energy in the second half and we needed to.”

Senior forward Justin Ahrens paced the Buckeyes second-half surge, scoring 13 of his 16 points in the final 20 minutes — including a four-point play which pushed Ohio State to its biggest lead of the night at 16. Ahrens connected on 5-of-10 3-point attempts, while hitting four in the second half.

Sophomore forward Zed Key said when Ahrens is hitting shots from deep, it allows Ohio State to do a lot more on the offensive end.

“It opens up a lot for us. Teams can’t really double,” Key said. “It’s good when he’s shooting well.”

Helping the Buckeyes’ second half offense was a barrage of free throws, thanks to Towson entering the double bonus with over seven minutes in regulation. Ohio State cashed in on 18-of-21 free throw attempts in the final 20 minutes.

Holtmann said pointed to his team’s increased offensive aggression as a reason that the Buckeyes were able to get to the line.

“It says we were attacking more and we were not in the first half,” Holtmann said. “It was critical for us to be able to get to the foul line and get to there earlier. We made our free throws for the most part tonight, which was great to see for our guys.”

Ohio State jumped out to a 12-3 lead heading into the first half under-16 timeout, but that fast start didn’t hold. Towson came out of the first stoppage with a vengeance, going on an 18-5 run to rip the lead away from the Buckeyes.

The Tigers held the lead for most of the first half, until Key splashed a fadeaway midrange jumper with seven seconds remaining in the frame to give Ohio State a 33-32 lead heading into the locker room.

Key’s efforts were unparalleled in the first half, hitting all five of his shot attempts and dropping 11 points. The Bay Shore, New York, native finished with 13 points alongside nine rebounds.

Although Towson kept things close in the first half, Ohio State’s defense held the Tigers to 39 percent from the field and 33 percent from 3 in the game’s first 20 minutes. The Buckeyes remained stout defensively, holding Towson to 44 percent from the field.

Leading Ohio State defensively was the low-post dup of Key and junior forward E.J. Liddell, who racked up three combined blocks in the first half. Key finished with two blocks, while Liddell added one.

Liddell was also efficient on the offensive end for Ohio State, dropping 15 points on 3-for-6 shooting while adding seven boards and three assists. However, Liddell struggled to keep possession — accounting for seven of Ohio State’s 13 turnovers.

Adding to the stellar play of Ohio State’s frontcourt was graduate forward Kyle Young, who followed up his 4-for-4 3-point shooting performance against Penn State with an 2-for-2 outing from beyond the arc against Towson. Young finished with a team-high 18 points and two rebounds.

As Young has strung together two consecutive 100 percent games from 3, he said this stretch has been a boost for his confidence.

“It’s been feeling good. It helps when you have teammates that really believe in you and have confidence in you,” Young said. “Getting back into this rhythm has been nice, seeing those shots go through the net.”

Senior guard Cam Holden led the Tigers’ offense behind 16 points —  13 of which came in the second half — on 3-for-4 shooting from 3-point range. Supporting Holden’s scoring output was junior guard Jason Gibson, who added 19 points on 50 percent from the 3-point range.

Gibson canned 3-of-4 3-point attempts in the second half, keeping Towson within striking distance down the stretch.

The Buckeyes return to action Saturday against No. 22 Wisconsin at 12 p.m at the Schottenstein Center. The game will be televised on Big Ten Network.

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