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.
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 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.”
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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.
Youngstown State: Hosts Detroit Mercy on Dec. 28.
Ohio State: At UCLA on Saturday.