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Preseason Mid-Major Power Rankings

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Teams outside of the power conferences had a noticeable impact on the 2017-18 season, including UMBC becoming the first 16-seed to beat a 1-seed in the NCAA tournament and Loyola-Chicago winning 32 games and reaching the Final Four.

Buffalo and Marshall also managed to win an NCAA tournament game, and the College of Charleston gave Auburn all it wanted before falling by four points.

So what’s in store for mid-majors this season?

While predicting another Final Four participant at this stage is tough to do, there are a host of teams that possess the combination of talent and experience that generally leads to success.

Below are our preseason rankings of the 16 best mid-majors heading into the 2018-19 season.

Note: No teams from the American, Atlantic 10, ACC, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, Mountain West, Pac-12 or SEC were eligible. The same goes for Gonzaga and BYU out of the WCC.



1. BUFFALO

Nate Oats’ Buffalo squad is coming off of a season in which it won 27 games, the MAC East regular season and MAC tournament titles. And all the Bulls did once in the NCAA tournament was blow out Arizona before falling to Kentucky in the second round. Buffalo will have to account for the loss of Wes Clark, but having five of the team’s top six scorers from a season ago back will certainly help with that.

Seniors CJ Massinburg, Nick Perkins and Jeremy Harris all averaged between 15.5 and 17.2 points per game, and junior guard Davonta Jordan made 35 starts and dished out 4.0 assists per game. Add in another senior in guard Dontay Carruthers, and two talented freshmen in point guard Ronaldo Segu and wing Jeenathan Williams, and Buffalo has the pieces needed to not only repeat as MAC champs but do even more damage in the NCAA tournament.

2. MARSHALL

Like Buffalo the Thundering Herd managed to win a game in the NCAA tournament, as Dan D’Antoni’s team knocked off Wichita State before falling to West Virginia. And despite losing forward Ajdin Penava, who averaged 15.6 points, 8.5 rebounds and 3.9 blocks per game, to the professional ranks Marshall is well-equipped to make a return trip to the Big Dance.

A big reason why is the prolific backcourt tandem of Jon Elmore and C.J. Burks, who combined to score an average of 42.8 points per game last season. In addition to leading the team in scoring, Elmore also dished out 6.8 assists per game and was second on the team in rebounding (5.8 rpg). In total six of Marshall’s top seven scorers from a season ago are back, which sets this team up for another run.

3. LOYOLA-CHICAGO

While the Ramblers are best known for their run through the NCAA tournament, reaching the Final Four for the first time since 1963, the fact of the matter is that Porter Moser’s bunch was darn good all season long. Loyola won the Missouri Valley regular season title by four games, and by the time their season was complete the Ramblers had amassed a school-record 32 wins. A stingy defense and a balanced offense were the keys, and the question now is what will Loyola do for an encore.

Reigning Larry Bird Missouri Valley Player of the Year Clayton Custer (13.2 ppg, 4.1 apg) is back, as is fellow senior Marques Townes (11.1 ppg, 4.0 rpg) and sophomores Cameron Krutwig and Lucas Williamson. That quartet will have to help account for the loss of two seniors who averaged 11.0 points per game last season (Donte Ingram and Aundre Jackson) and the Valley’s top defender in Ben Richardson. Loyola’s path to another Valley title won’t be an easy one, as the competition has improved, but they’re capable of repeating.

Porter Moser (Chris Covatta/Getty Images)

4. WESTERN KENTUCKY

For some programs a saga like the Mitchell Robinson one would have dealt a crushing blow to the team’s hopes for that particular season. But that wasn’t the case for Rick Stansbury’s Hilltoppers, who won 27 games and reached the Conference USA tournament final. After getting over the disappointment of not reaching the NCAA tournament, WKU managed to reach the semifinals of the Postseason NIT. WKU returns just two starters from that team, guards Lamonte Bearden and Taveion Hollingsworth, but a look at the players Stansbury has added to the program reveals why there should be optimism in Bowling Green.

Five-star freshman big man Charles Bassey leads WKU’s freshman class, ad the Hilltoppers also managed to add some experience with transfers Desean Murray (Auburn) and Jared Savage (Austin Peay) among the non-freshman newcomers. If WKU can get consistent play in the post to help account for the loss of Dwight Coleby and Justin Johnson, who combined to average 26.8 points and 17.4 rebounds per game last season, look out.

5. SOUTHERN ILLINOIS

After finishing below .500 in each of Barry Hinson’s first three seasons in Carbondale, the Salukis have won 22, 17 and 20 games in each of the last three years. And with all five starters back from a team that finished second in the Missouri Valley, SIU is capable of reaching the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2007. Three seniors, led by guard Armon Fletcher, averaged at least 12.1 points per game last season and junior guard Aaron Cook wasn’t far off with an average of 9.8 points per.

The one thing to watch with this group is the progress of senior center Thik Bol, who averaged 9.1 points and 6.8 rebounds per game in 2016-17. Bol missed all of last season with a knee injury that ultimately required two surgical procedures (addressing different issues on the same knee), the second of which occurred in July. His ability to rebound and block shots make the 6-foot-8 senior a valued member of the rotation, but the question is just how much can Bol give them. SIU will still be a factor in the Valley if Bol is severely limited, but his return makes this group that much better if he can go.

6. UNC GREENSBORO

As noted in the Wofford blurb the Spartans are the reigning SoCon champions, as Wes Miller’s team managed to win a school-record 27 games and the conference’s regular season and tournament titles. First team all-conference guard Francis Alonso, who averaged a team-best 15.6 points per game as a junior, is back as are reigning SoCon Defensive Player of the Year James Dickey (8.4 rpg, 2.1 bpg), senior guard Demetrius Troy and sophomore guard Isaiah Miller. UNCG returns three starters and four of its top six scorers, with Marvin Smith (12.0 ppg, 5.4 rpg) and Jordy Kuiper both having graduated.

The Spartans may have finished last season with just two double-digit scorers, Alonso and Smith, but a big reason why they were so successful was their work on the defensive end. In conference games UNCG led the SoCon in defensive efficiency and block percentage and also did a good job of both defending inside of the three-point line and ending possessions with a rebound (best defensive rebounding percentage in the league). If they can duplicate those efforts and have someone step forward to help account for the loss of Marvin Smith’s production, there’s no reason why UNCG can’t repeat as SoCon champs.

7. ILLINOIS STATE

Like Loyola and SIU, Dan Muller’s Redbirds should be a major factor in the Missouri Valley race. Last season Illinois State went 18-15, 10-8 in conference play, but with four starters having returned this should be a team that can make a case to be considered the preseason favorite. Senior forward Milik Yarbrough was a first team all-conference selection last season, as he averaged 16.6 points, 6.6 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game, and fellow senior Phil Fayne was a second team all-conference selection. Fellow starters Keyshawn Evans and William Tinsley are also back for the Redbirds, who have the talent and experience needed to reach the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1998.

8. WOFFORD

Mike Young’s Terriers won 21 games and finished fourth in the Southern Conference last season, and four starters are back from that team led by reigning SoCon Player of the Year Fletcher Magee. Magee is one of college basketball’s best shooters, and in averaging 22.1 points per game the 6-foot-4 guard shot 48.4 percent from the field, 43.9 percent from three and 90.7 percent from the foul line. It isn’t out of the realm of possibility that Magee is a 50/40/90 player as a senior.

Mike Young (Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Magee will have help offensively too, as guards Cameron Jackson and Nathan Hoover and center Trevor Stumpe (all double-digit scorers) all return. Guards Storm Murphy and Matthew Pegram are also back, meaning that the Terriers return the top six scorers from last season. What could also help this group in its quest to dethrone UNCG is the fact that it took a summer trip to Portugal, as those practices ahead of the trip can be quite valuable.

9. MONTANA

Since taking over at his alma mater in 2014, Travis DeCuire has led the Grizzlies to at least 20 wins in three of his four seasons at the helm. Last year’s squad managed to win 26 games and the Big Sky’s regular season and tournament titles, reaching the NCAA tournament for the first time in five years. Montana may not have to wait that long for another trip to the Big Dance either, thanks in large part to one of the better guard tandems around in seniors Ahmaad Rorie and Michael Oguine.

Rorie and Oguine combined to average 33.0 points, 9.4 rebounds and 5.7 assists per game, with the former leading the Griz in both scoring (17.2 ppg) and assists (3.7 apg). In total Montana returns four starters from a season ago, with seniors Bobby Moorehead and Jamar Akoh being the others. This group has experience, talent and depth, which makes Montana the class of the Big Sky heading into this season.

10. GEORGIA STATE

If you’re putting together a schedule of college basketball games to watch the first week, mark this one down: Georgia State at Montana, November 9. Ron Hunter has four starters back from a team that won 24 games and the Sun Belt tournament title last season, led by dynamic junior guard D’Marcus Simonds. Simonds averaged 21.2 points, 5.7 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game, and if he can improve his perimeter shooting some (29.2 percent shooter from three last season) the 6-foot-3 junior becomes an even tougher matchup for opponents.

Also back are guard Devin Mitchell and forwards Jeff Thomas and Malik Benlevi, who averaged between 9.6 and 12.0 points per game in 2017-18. With Jordan Session and key reserve Isaiah Williams having moved on Georgia State will need some of its supplementary options to step forward, but with Simonds leading the way the Panthers can make a return trip to the NCAA tournament.

11. SOUTH DAKOTA STATE

By now you should know who the headliner is for the Jackrabbits: 6-foot-8 senior forward Mike Daum. “The Dauminator” has won Summit League Player of the Year honors each of the last two seasons, and in 2017-18 he averaged 23.9 points and 10.3 rebounds per game. Due in large part to Daum’s efforts T.J. Otzelberger’s program won 28 games and the Summit League regular season and tournament titles, resulting in a third straight trip to the NCAA tournament.

Sophomore guard Davis Jenkins, who as a freshman averaged 16.1 points per game, and senior guard Tevin King and Skyler Flatten shouldn’t be overlooked either, as the Jackrabbits return four starters from a season ago. Daum, and the production around him, are reasons why South Dakota State should once again rank among the best mid-majors in college basketball.

Mike Daum (Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images)

12. RIDER

Kevin Baggett’s Broncs won 22 games and the MAAC regular season title last season, only to once again experience disappointment in the conference tournament. Rider will take another stab and reaching the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1994, and having all five starters back will certainly help with that quest.

Sophomore guard Dimencio Vaughn (16.1 ppg, 6.7 rpg), the MAAC Rookie of the Year last season, leads the way with fellow sophomores Jordan Allen and Frederick Scott and juniors Stevie Jordan and Tyere Marshall back as well. All five were double-digit scorers on a team that had just one senior, one fewer than the number of seniors on this season’s roster. Rider can certainly rack up the wins during the season, but it’s all about that first weekend of March. This group has the talent needed to get over the hump.

13. LIPSCOMB

Prior to last season a member from the Sunshine State represented the Atlantic Sun in the NCAA tournament three straight years, FGCU twice and North Florida once. Lipscomb managed to end that run last season by beating FGCU in the A-Sun tournament title game on the Eagles’ home floor, and the Bisons have the pieces needed to make a return trip to the Big Dance.

Lipscomb returns its top six scorers from last season, led by seniors Garrison Mathews (21.7 ppg, 5.5 rpg) and Rob Marberry (15.9 ppg, 5.8 rpg). Also, guard Nathan Moran, who averaged 11.1 points and 4.2 assists per game in 2016-17, returns after offseason hip surgery led to his taking a medical redshirt. Casey Alexander managed to lead Lipscomb to its first NCAA tournament as a Division I member last season, and the Bisons may not have to wait long for that second trip.

14. MURRAY STATE

Yes, Matt McMahon has two major holes to fill thanks to the departures of OVC Player of the Year Jonathan Stark and fellow first team all-conference selection Terrell Miller. Those aren’t players who can easily be replaced. That being said, Murray State has a promising young talent in sophomore guard Ja Morant. As a freshman Morant averaged 12.7 points, 6.5 rebounds and 6.3 assists per game, shooting 45.9 percent from the field and 80.6 percent from the foul line.

Due to the departures of Stark and Miller more will likely be asked of Morant from a scoring standpoint, but he’s got the talent needed to rise to that challenge. Seniors Leroy “Shaq” Buchanan and Brion Sanchious return as well, giving Murray State three returning starters to work with as they look to remain atop the OVC.

15. BELMONT

Rick Byrd may return just two starters, Dylan Windler and Kevin McClain, from last season’s squad but year after year Belmont managed to put forth teams capable of contending for conference titles. Since the last time Belmont failed to win 20 games in a season (2009-10, and they won 19 games that year), the program has made four NCAA tournament appearances and won at least 22 games in seven of those eight seasons.

In Windler the Bruins have an outstanding 6-foot-7 senior forward who averaged 17.3 points, 9.3 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game, and he can shoot the ball from anywhere on the court. McClain averaged 12.6 points per game as a junior, and sophomore Nick Hopkins (7.4 ppg) was a solid reserve off the bench. Belmont has some holes to fill, but their system is incredibly difficult to defend. And when you have a player the caliber of Windler, you’ve got a shot to be really good.

16. VERMONT

The Catamounts won the America East regular season title for the second consecutive season, going 27-8 overall and 15-1 in conference play. But thanks to UMBC’s Jairus Lyles hitting a game-winning three in the America East title game, UVM had to settle for the Postseason NIT…and we all know what UMBC went on to do in its next game. The Catamounts, even with the graduation of three of the top four scorers from that team, are still a team worth keeping an eye on this season.

Forward Anthony Lamb, who was hampered some by injury, still averaged 14.3 points and 5.0 rebounds per game as a sophomore, and redshirt senior Ernie Duncan (10.8 ppg) is back as well. Vermont’s hopes of returning to the NCAA tournament will rest upon the shoulders of those two, and they’ll need returning starter Everett Duncan to take a step forward as well, but John Becker’s work during his time in Burlington will ensure that they’ll remain a favorite in America East.

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Tuesday’s Things to Know: Buffalo knocks off Syracuse, Duke wins big, Ja Morant’s big night

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Although the holidays are approaching and many schools are taking exams or already on winter break, there was a lot of college basketball happening on Tuesday night. Not many games went down between high-major opponents, but there was still some stuff to learn — including another big win for No. 14 Buffalo on the road.

Buffalo takes down Syracuse for big road win

One of college basketball’s surprise teams this season has been undefeated No. 14 Buffalo. Although I predicted this preseason that the Bulls would be a team to watch from the mid-major ranks, not even I envisioned that would be this good.

Buffalo picked up another quality win with a double-digit road win at Syracuse. After winning on the road at West Virginia and now against the Orange, the Bulls are now in position for a strong potential at-large bid even if they fall short in the MAC Tournament.

Syracuse, meanwhile, has dropped two straight to mid-major opponents at home after dropping one to Old Dominion on Saturday. The Orange need to fix a lot of things heading into ACC season.

No. 2 Duke cruises to victory against Princeton

Duke won its tune-up before a matchup against No. 12 Texas Tech later this week by dispatching Princeton for an easy home win.

R.J. Barrett played ultra-aggressive and finished with 27 points while Zion Williamson had 17 points and 10 rebounds and almost knocked himself out with a vicious block against the backboard.

Williamson remains No. 1 in the latest NBC Sports Player of the Year Power Rankings while Barrett checks in at No. 3 on that same list.

Murray State’s Ja Morant just misses triple-double in win over Evansville

Speaking of the Player of the Year Power Rankings, Murray State’s Ja Morant made sure to elevate his case with a monster game on Tuesday night. In a tight game with Evansville, the sophomore lead guard played all 40 minutes as he had 27 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds.

Morant already has a triple-double against a Missouri Valley opponent this season as the nation’s leader in assists is putting up huge numbers all over the stat sheet. While he doesn’t play for a major program that will get seen by a huge national audience, Morant is a potential lottery pick and a darkhorse in this Player of the Year race.

No. 14 Buffalo upsets Syracuse in the Carrier Dome

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Buffalo did it again.

A month after going into Morgantown and picking off then-No. 13 West Virginia, the now-No. 14 Bulls landed their second road win over a high-major opponent on Tuesday night, making the short jaunt to the Carrier Dome to land a 71-59 win over Syracuse.

Once again, C.J. Massinburg was the star, popping off for 25 points, seven board and five assists in the win as Buffalo remained one of just nine teams that are still undefeated on the season.

As long as Buffalo doesn’t do anything crazy over the course of their league schedule — beat the teams you’re supposed to beat, if you take a loss or three make sure they’re on the road against one of the better teams in the conference — this win should ensure that they are in the thick of the bubble conversation come Selection Sunday. Nothing is a guarantee, not when there is a very real chance that both West Virginia and Syracuse miss the NCAA tournament this season, but there is no question at this point that the Bulls are for real.

The win over Arizona in the first round of the NCAA tournament last March was not a fluke. The win at West Virginia was not a fluke. And Tuesday night’s win in the Battle for Upstate New York — a game where the Bulls trailed 45-39 in the second half before using a 32-14 run to close out the win — was not a fluke.

What will be interesting to see is how the discourse surrounding Buffalo differs from the likes of Lipscomb, or Furman, or any other mid-major that finds themselves in the midst of a run at an at-large. I discussed this on the podcast this week. While we have all these metrics and all this data and all these numbers to crunch on Selection Sunday, at the end of the day, there are ten human beings in that room that are making the decisions on who is going to be put where in the bracket. Like it or not, biases come into play, intentionally or not. The fact that Buffalo is undefeated with two nationally-televised road wins over major program six weeks into the season is something that is going to resonate.

We went into the season thinking that Buffalo was a team that was good enough to win games in March, so won’t these two wins help to reinforce that notion? And if that’s the case, isn’t there a chance — no matter how slim — that bias gets carried over into the selection process?

The good news for Nate Oates is that it probably won’t matter for his Buffalo team at this point, particularly if they go into Milwaukee on Friday and beat Marquette.

What might actually be more interesting now is whether or not the Orange will find their way into the dance.

As of today, Syracuse is 7-4 on the season. They lost to UConn. They lost to Oregon. They’ve now lost back-to-back home games to Old Dominion and Buffalo. They can’t score and the guys we all thought had taken a step forward haven’t. The ACC will provide Syracuse plenty of chances, and frankly, given recent history, sneaking into the tournament as a No. 10 or No. 11 seed is not necessarily a bad thing for the Orange these days.

But it is clear that Syracuse is not as good as we thought they were heading into the season.

Lawson, Moore carry No. 1 KU to 89-53 rout of South Dakota

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LAWRENCE, Kan. — Kansas coach Bill Self hoped from the moment Charlie Moore arrived as a transfer from Cal that the talented shooting guard would provide the Jayhawks a lift off the bench.

He finally did Tuesday night.

Moore knocked down six 3-pointers and finished with 18 points, Dedric Lawson added 16 points and 14 rebounds, and the top-ranked Jayhawks pulled away over the final 15 minutes for an 89-53 win over plucky but overmatched South Dakota on Tuesday night.

“That’s what we thought all along, that he was going to be our marksman,” Self said. “It hadn’t happened yet but tonight it did.”

Freshman forward David McCormack added a career-best 12 points off the bench for the Jayhawks (10-0), making big strides while Lawson was on the bench in foul trouble and helping soak up minutes with Udoka Azubuike sidelined with a sprained ankle.

The Jayhawks are hopeful Azubuike will be back by the start of conference play next month.

“It felt good that I could contribute to the team,” said McCormack, a five-star prospect from venerable Oak Hill Academy in Virginia. “I got more minutes so I got more opportunities.”

Stanley Umude scored a game-high 28 points to lead the Coyotes (6-6), who have never defeated a ranked team in seven tries. Tyler Peterson added 15 points, and leading scorer Trey Burch-Manning was held to two points on 1-for-5 shooting before fouling out.

“Their size obviously bothered us,” South Dakota coach Todd Lee said. “I was disappointed at halftime, thought it could have been a game. And the second half we didn’t compete.”

In truth, neither team was particularly good in the first half.

The Jayhawks struggled to stop South Dakota’s relentless backdoor cuts, and eventually Kansas coach Bill Self was so fed up with their defensive execution he started to burn timeouts.

“The two timeouts in the first half had no strategy to them,” Self said, “except wanting to get someone out of the game. We didn’t play well at all the first half.”

Not that the Coyotes did much with all those easy looks. They committed 12 first-half turnovers, allowing the Jayhawks to slowly pull out to a 37-27 advantage at the break.

Most of the work was done without Lawson, who was forced to the bench with two fouls.

The Jayhawks’ dominant point forward joined Moore in helping the Jayhawks pull away in the second half, though. Lawson scored in the paint, Moore hit a 3-pointer and Lawson added a pair of foul shots to turn a 49-40 lead into a 56-40 lead with about 12 minutes to go.

“Coach said at halftime that we only had three assists, that we had to get downhill more and get more people involved,” Moore said. “We took his words and used them in the second half.”

The undersized Coyotes answered with a run of their own, but Moore and Lawson provided one more answer. Moore curled in his fifth 3-pointer, this time from the wing, and then took a run-out to the rim before dropping a pass to Lawson for an easy layup and a 66-47 lead.

The advantage only grew from there as Moore, who once scored 38 points in a game his freshman year at Cal, and the massive McCormack continued to put together breakout games.

“The second half we puttered around,” Self said, “and then Charlie and David helped us pull away. … It was nice to see someone other than Lagerald (Vick) knock down shots. That was good. And it was really nice to see David have some success.”

BIG PICTURE

South Dakota hung around long enough to keep Kansas on the edge, but the Jayhawks’ superior athleticism was evident. They were quicker in transition, better on the boards and were able to pull away when the Coyotes went cold from beyond the arc.

Kansas finally got an easy win after surviving nail-biters against everyone from New Mexico State and Stanford to Villanova and Tennessee. It was the first time all season that the Jayhawks put away a game in time to empty the bench in the final minutes.

UP NEXT

South Dakota hosts Southern Miss on Friday night.

Kansas visits No. 18 Arizona State on Saturday night.

More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/Collegebasketball and http://www.twitter.com/AP-Top25

Kevin Ollie alleges racial discrimination in new civil action against UConn

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Former UConn head coach Kevin Ollie is heading to court with the school over alleged racial discrimination. In a report from the Hartford Courant, Ollie has filed a civil action alleging that the school illegally attempted to deter him from filing a racial discrimination complaint.

Submitted on Tuesday in U.S. District Court, Ollie is claiming he was treated differently from predecessor Jim Calhoun, because Calhoun kept his job after receiving comparable recruiting violations.

Ollie was fired for those violations earlier this year as he’s been in a contentious back-and-forth battle with the school that has gone to court. The former head coach claims he informed UConn of his intention to file the complaint but the school said it would refuse to have a contractual-grievance arbitration process that would give Ollie the final $10 million on his contract.

Seeking an emergency injunction that would allow him to file the complaint while proceeding with an arbitration process.

UConn responded to the Courant on Tuesday through a spokesperson as they disputed Ollie’s account that race played a role in his firing.

“As UConn has stated from the outset, the university terminated Kevin Ollie’s employment due to violations of NCAA rules, pursuant to his employment agreement,” UConn spokesperson Stephanie Reitz said. “Any claim to the contrary is without merit.”

Ollie’s attorney told the Courant that the hope is to file and stay with a racial discrimination complaint, which could be addressed after the arbitration.

From the sound of it, UConn and Ollie are going to be in court for quite a bit of time as this whole firing process has been difficult from the start.

No. 15 Buckeyes overcome slow start, rout Youngstown State

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COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State’s first half against mid-major Youngstown State was a train wreck. But then the No. 15 Buckeyes managed to get back on track with their game plan — primarily getting the ball inside to Kaleb Wesson.

The 6-foot-9 sophomore took control in the second half, scoring 26 of his career-high 31 and rallying Ohio State to a 75-56 rout of the Penguins on Tuesday night.

“When you got a guy like Kaleb Wesson, he’s a load,” Youngstown State coach Jerrod Calhoun said. “I think he makes the game easier for coach (Chris) Holtmann and the other four players who are out there playing with him. He’s a monster.”

The Buckeyes (10-1, 2-0 Big Ten) shot poorly in the first half and again were forced to rally against an opponent they should have handled easily from the beginning.

Ohio State made just 7 of 29 shots from the floor in the first half (24.1 percent) and trailed 25-22 at the intermission before Wesson and his teammates got themselves going offensively. The game stayed close in the first half only because Youngstown State didn’t shoot much better.

“We had some good looks, but I don’t think we imposed ourselves offensively in the first half,” Holtmann said.

Wesson had a put-back to give the Buckeyes the lead three minutes into the second half and they rolled from there, shooting 70.4 percent after the intermission.

Luther Muhammad and C.J. Jackson each had 11 points for Ohio State, which has won three in a row after losing their only game of the season Nov. 28.

Darius Quisenberry had 17 points, and Naz Bohannon added 11 for the Penguins (5-9), who have lost five of their last six.

Youngstown State shot just 36.4 percent for the game.

BIG PICTURE:

Youngstown State: Took advantage of Ohio State’s poor shooting to lead the entire first half, but couldn’t keep up once Wesson and the Buckeyes started scoring in the second.

“That was as an efficient a half as I’ve seen,” Calhoun said. “We just had no answer.”

Ohio State: After nearly losing to Bucknell on Saturday, the Buckeyes took another opponent too lightly and were getting stung for a while. They are making too many mistakes against less-talented teams.

“We really have a long way to go, and I’m certainly concerned,” said Holtmann, who blamed it on a lack of maturity.

“At halftime the older guys, the leaders kind of got into us, saying we weren’t playing with a purpose,” Wesson said. “We were out there playing possessions just to play, because we had to.”

WESSON RISING

Wesson recorded career highs in scoring in each of the past two games. He had 22 in the 73-71 win over Bucknell on Saturday.

But he only had five in the first half Tuesday and sat out for the last bit with two fouls.

“I had to regain my focus, and I had to get chewed out a couple of times (at the half),” he said. “It’s not something I expect to happen, but sometimes when you get chewed out, it just lights something in you. I feel like when that happened to me, I had to step up.”

ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS

Wesson’s older brother Andre, an Ohio State forward, lost two teeth and chipped another on Saturday when a Bucknell player fell on him and his face made hard contact with the court.

Andre Wesson is scheduled to have dental work on Wednesday, but started against Youngstown State, picking up four points and five rebounds.

UP NEXT:

Youngstown State: Hosts Detroit Mercy on Dec. 28.

Ohio State: At UCLA on Saturday.

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More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/Collegebasketball and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25