Which brand-new Ohio State lineup led the Buckeyes past Duke?

·5 min read

With a team that boasts unparalleled experience in college basketball this year, Ohio State men’s basketball coach Chris Holtmann has no shortage of options on his 2021-22 team. The Buckeyes opened the season with a roster boasting a combined 1,001 career collegiate games, a list led by fifth-year Penn State transfer Jamari Wheeler at 127 games.

Given all that, it’s no surprise that Holtmann has repeatedly said that his lineups and rotations figure to be fluid for most of the season. The situation has been further complicated by the ongoing absence of Justice Sueing, expected to be one of the team’s primary playmakers, due to an abdominal injury. Recently, the loss of Gene Brown III to a concussion that has cost him three games has altered things even further.

Tuesday night against the No. 1 team in the nation, Holtmann rolled out a brand-new lineup that pulled off a comeback during the final minutes of a 71-66 win against Duke in front of a sold-out crowd.

Here’s how the Buckeyes got there and which lineup got it done in crunch time.

Zed Key returns to the starting lineup

*After starting a lineup of Jamari Wheeler, Malaki Branham, Justin Ahrens, E.J. Liddell and Joey Brunk for last week’s two games in the Fort Myers Tip-Off, Holtmann moved Zed Key back into the starting lineup in place of Brunk at center. In the win against No. 21 Seton Hall and loss to No. 23 Florida, those starters were a combined plus-11 (26 points scored, 15 allowed) in 11 minutes of playing time.

*This lineup of Wheeler, Branham, Ahrens, Liddell and Key started the Niagara, Bowling Green and Xavier games and entered Tuesday at plus-15 (56 points scored, 41 allowed) in 28:01. Against the Blue Devils, the lineup played the first 5:05 of the game and held an 8-7 lead when Kyle Young replaced Key with 14:55 left.

*A lineup of Meechie Johnson, Ahrens, Young, Liddell and Wheeler outscored Duke 5-2 to build a 13-9 lead when Brunk replaced Liddell with 12:35 to play. That group was outscored 4-0 before Liddell returned in place of Brunk and Jimmy Sotos replaced Wheeler with 11:46 left in the half and the game tied at 13.

Duke pulls away during the first half

*With 11:46 left, a lineup of Johnson, Sotos, Ahrens, Young and Liddell was outscored 4-2 during the next 1:10 as Duke took a 17-15 lead. Branham replaced Ahrens with 10:36 left, and Duke scored two more points to make it 19-15 during the next 48 seconds before Wheeler replaced Johnson with 9:48 left. This lineup gave up a point as Duke’s lead grew to 20-15 with 9:27 left and Ahrens replaced Sotos, who would not see any more playing time.

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*Ahrens, Branham, Key, Young and Wheeler were outscored 5-2 in the next 1:08 as Duke pushed its lead to 25-17. This lineup hadn’t played together in any of the prior three games.

*The starters were reunited here with 8:19 left, and in the next 2:10 they scored four points and allowed two before Johnson replaced Branham with 6:09 left and Duke ahead 27-21.

*Cedric Russell first entered the game with 5:16 left in the half and Duke ahead 27-22. In a lineup with Johnson, Ahrens, Young and Liddell, the Buckeyes were outscored 5-3 in 51 seconds before Key replaced Liddell with 4:25 left and the Duke lead up to 32-25.

*This lineup of Johnson, Russell, Ahrens, Key and Young was outscored 4-0 in the next 1:08 with Duke now ahead 36-25, its first double-digit lead of the game.

*Liddell replaced Ahrens with 3:17 left. This lineup of Johnson, Russell, Key, Young and Liddell closed out the half and scored five points while allowing seven as Duke took a 43-30 lead into the half.

*Ohio State’s starting lineup logged 7:15 during the first half.

Ohio State fights back in second half

*It would get worse before it would get better for the Buckeyes, who went with the same starters to open the second half. Duke outscored them 6-4 in the first 1:54 before Young replaced Key with 18:06 to play and Duke ahead by a game-high 15 points at 49-34.

*This lineup of Ahrens, Branham, Young, Liddell and Wheeler started the comeback. In the next 2:51, it outscored Duke 8-4 before Johnson replaced Ahrens with 15:15 left and the Blue Devils ahead 53-42.

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*With 13:56 left and Duke still ahead 53-42, an Ohio State lineup of Johnson, Russell, Ahrens, Key and Liddell outscored Duke 5-0 in 1:25 to cut the 11-point deficit to six.

*Duke still led 57-50 with 9:17 left when Holtmann went with his starting lineup of Ahrens, Branham, Key, Liddell and Wheeler. In the next 2:51, this lineup scored and allowed five points until Young replaced Liddell with 6:26 left and the Blue Devils ahead 62-55.

Brand-new lineup closes out Ohio State win

*Duke still held this 62-55 lead when Holtmann made his final two substitutions of the game. With 5:50 to play, Russell replaced Branham and Key replaced Young. This lineup that had never appeared in a game prior to this moment outscored Duke 16-4 during the remainder of the game to turn the seven-point deficit into a five-point win.

*That plus-12 rating is tied for the best single-game performance for any Ohio State lineup this season. The starting unit of Ahrens, Branham, Key, Liddell and Wheeler was plus-12 (14 points scored, two allowed) in 5:21 against Bowling Green.

*The starters in this game played exactly 12 minutes against Duke and went plus-1 (21 points scored, 20 allowed).

*Ohio State used a season-low six new lineups.

*Liddell had the best individual plus-minus at plus-15. Wheeler was second at plus-13.

ajardy@dispatch.com

@AdamJardy

This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Cedric Russell anchors new Ohio State lineup that rallies against Duke

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