There's no hiding a displeased coach in college basketball this season, and Terry Johnson was clearly displeased.
Playing against a visiting UMass Lowell team that had played 23 hours prior on the same court, No. 23 Ohio State had seen multiple eight-point leads disappear during the first half and was down five at the first media timeout of the second half when Johnson let them have it.
The assistant coach's message was clear: The Buckeyes needed to bring more energy or the upset-minded River Hawks would be headed home with a victory.
The scolding reverberated around an empty Covelli Center. It might have gotten through. Either way, the Buckeyes (2-0) took their first real challenge of the season and held on for a 74-64 win against UMass Lowell (1-2).
E.J. Liddell's bucket from the left block broke a 59-all tie with 5:34 to play, and Ohio State held the lead from there. But it wasn't until a Duane Washington Jr. three-pointer with 1:05 to play that the lead grew past four points, and it came after Washington had made only two of his first 10 three-point attempts.
"I got some good looks during the game and unfortunately they didn't go down," Washington said. "The saying is 'shooters shoot' and you've still got to be confident in myself. I believed in myself."
Washington finished with a game-high 21 points on 7-for-17 shooting and was 3 for 11 from three-point range. It was there that the River Hawks did the majority of their damage. UMass Lowell was 11 for 30 from three while Ohio State missed its first 11 and finished 4 for 18 (22.2%) while playing nearly 35 minutes against a zone defense.
The Buckeyes took the lead with 9:35 to play and would not trail from there thanks to a four-point possession. When Connor Withers fouled Ohio State's Justice Sueing on a fast break, he was also assessed a technical foul. CJ Walker hit the two technical free throws, Sueing hit the two from the play on the floor and a two-point deficit became a 53-51 Buckeyes lead.
The visitors would tie the score but never lead again.
"Give our guys a lot of credit for finishing the game and making the necessary plays we need to," Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann said. "I just don't think we attacked the zone really well. I thought it slowed us down."
Both teams had to be separated after the final whistle when Liddell blocked Obadiah Noel at the buzzer and the River Hawks' guard had to be held back as his teammates rushed onto the court.
The River Hawks, who lost by 10 points to an Illinois State team the Buckeyes beat by 27 points on Wednesday at Value City Arena, fell behind by as many as eight points during the first half but kept coming back. Ohio State pushed its lead that high on four occasions, only to immediately allow a basket at the other end each time.
The game was played at the Covelli Center, which is home to seven varsity sports teams, because the Ohio State men's hockey team is playing at Value City Arena this weekend and former basketball home St. John Arena is set up as a workout facility during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Fourth-year junior guard/forward Musa Jallow, who played in the season opener Wednesday after missing all of last season with an ankle injury, suffered a lower right leg injury and watched the game in a walking boot.(c) 2020The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC