CINCINNATI (AP) — Kaleb Wesson scored 15 points, and C.J. Jackson hit a driving bank shot and a pair of free throws in the final 30 seconds Wednesday night as Ohio State held on for a 64-56 victory over Cincinnati, spoiling the Bearcats’ return to their on-campus arena.
The Bearcats (0-1) played last season at Northern Kentucky University — losing only once — while their on-campus arena underwent a 20-month, $87 million renovation. They held a pregame celebration — former Bearcat star Kenyon Martin roused the crowd of 12,012 with a dunk — but couldn’t make a shot when it counted.
The Buckeyes (1-0) were ahead for all but the opening minutes, leading by as many as 16 points. Jarron Cumberland led the Bearcats with 22 points.
Ohio State hadn’t played in Cincinnati since Jan. 3, 1920, with the Buckeyes winning 35-13. The two schools located 110 miles apart had played only four times in the last 97 years, all in tournaments.
Ohio State went 25-9 in Chris Holtmann’s first season, an unexpected showing that won him Big Ten coach of the year honors, and started the new season with an encouraging victory for an inexperienced team.
Cincinnati is trying to build upon its 31-5 season, which included the American Athletic title. The Bearcats’ season ended with the second-biggest collapse in NCAA Tournament history, blowing a 22-point lead in the final 11 minutes of a 75-73 loss to Nevada in the second round.
The Bearcats were prone to long scoreless streaks last season. They went more than 8 minutes between field goals as Ohio State pulled ahead 14-8. The Bearcats heard a few boos at the half after going 4 of 29 from the field with six turnovers and trailing 27-18.
It didn’t get any better for the cold-shooting Bearcats. Andre Wesson’s 3-pointer completed an 11-2 spurt that pushed Ohio State’s lead to 38-22.
The Buckeyes led by 16 points with 5:23 left. Cumberland hit a pair of free throws, a jumper and a 3-pointer that cut it to 60-56 with 59 seconds left. Jackson made a driving bank shot to end the comeback and finished with 13 points.
Ohio State: The Buckeyes lost leaders Keita Bates-Diop and Jae’Sean Tate along with top 3-point shooter Kam Williams from last season. They need to develop scoring options beyond Jackson, and showed balance in the first game with four players in double figures.
Cincinnati: The front line is the Bearcats’ biggest concern with Gary Clark and Kyle Washington gone. Starters Trevon Scott and Nysier Brooks combined for 15 points and 12 rebounds.
Ohio State hosts Fort Wayne on Sunday.
Cincinnati hosts North Carolina Central on Tuesday.
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