Cedarville coach Pat Estepp during a GMAC conference win by the Yellow Jackets over visiting Kentucky Wesleyan 76-59. (Photo courtesy Cedarville Athletics)
Photo: Scott Huck
Photo: Scott Huck

Cedarville at Ohio State: ‘We’re going to play fearless and give them something to work on’

Why is the Ohio State men’s basketball team playing Cedarville University in an exhibition game? 

Well the short answer is Ohio State said yes. 

Finally. 

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“I've asked them for this game every year I've been a head coach,” said Pat Estepp, who took over at his alma mater in 2008. “I text them, and say, ‘Hey, can we?’” 

“Their (basketball operations) guy finally called me and said, "Well, we did it.’" 

And so the Yellow Jackets have a date with the Buckeyes for Oct. 30 at Value City Arena. 

While serving as a public tune-up for coach Chris Holtmann’s third Ohio State team, the matchup is appealing to CU for multiple reasons. 

Estepp said the school will receive 1,500 tickets and should profit from the sale of those to CU fans. 

Playing only about an hour away from home also reduces cost for the Yellow Jackets, who won’t need to get a hotel, but there’s more to it than that. 

“Ohio State just takes all the P.R. and that stuff to a different level for your program,” Estepp said. “For us, it's a monster thing in recruiting. We're trying to recruit central Ohio better and to get on that schedule is a big deal. 

“I think most of our guys, that's a dream to go play a college game on that floor. It was mine,” said Estepp, who graduated from South Webster High School in Southeast Ohio,” and I’ve known Chris Holtmann for 20 years. He was an assistant at Taylor (University in Indiana), my first year as an assistant at Cedarville (2000), so I stayed in touch with him. We're not great friends, but I know him really pretty well and I know his staff. I knew a lot of the staff when Coach Matta was there, too.” 

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Estepp reached the 200-win mark last season when the Yellow Jackets went 21-12 and won the National Christian College Athletics Association national championship for the second time. 

A 1997 CU grad, he oversaw the program’s transition from NAIAI to NCAA Division II in 2012. 

What kind of challenge will the Yellow Jackets bring to the Buckeyes? 

“We want to be fearless and give them something to work on,” he said succinctly. 

The Yellow Jackets were young last year with Conner TenHove, a 6-7 sophomore from Valparaiso, leading the team in scoring (15.0 points per game) while freshmen Branden Maughmer (14.1 ppg.) and Kollin Van Horn (10.2 ppg.) were also among the team’s four double-digit scorers. 

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Playing a Division I team is not unusual for Cedarville. 

The Yellow Jackets faced Akron and Wright State last season and played Cleveland State the year before. 

They have also played Ohio State in the past, though it’s been a while: The schools separated by about 55 miles played a “B squad” game in 1930 won by Ohio State 47-30 and also met in 1906 when OSU prevailed 40-12. 

Estepp, who is 202-135 in 11 seasons as CU head coach, laughed when asked if he might have preferred his team get a shot at an Ohio State squad that wasn’t quite as loaded as this one is expected to be. 

Sophomore Connor TenHove shoots on Senior Night as the Jackets roll over Lake Erie 72-52. (Photo courtesy Cedarville Athletics)
Photo: Scott Huck

“It'll be good for us to work on our man-to-man and try and guard a five star point guard (freshman D.J. Carton) and (junior big man) Kaleb Wesson inside. Can we double team the post and do some things, you know? We're gonna try and throw some different things at ‘em.” 

Offensively, the Yellow Jackets (like many teams these days) like to spread the floor and fire away from 3-point range. 

“We don't call a lot of plays out. I don't like to, but we want to run quick actions in transition, a lot ball screens,” Estepp said. “We’ve got a lot of 3-point shooters. If everybody's been working like I think they have this summer, this team has chance to be one of the best shooting teams we've had.” 

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