What do you do when you’re playing in the biggest arena and possibly in front of the biggest crowd of your life? Take it to the hole with authority.
That’s what Brandon Maughmer did Wednesday night as Cedarville took on Ohio State in a men’s basketball exhibition game at Value City Arena.
>>PHOTOS: Cedarville at Ohio State
The NCAA Division II Yellow Jackets committed three turnovers while falling behind 6-0 in the opening three minutes.
Then Maughmer, a 6-foot-2 sophomore from Chillicothe, saw an opening and took it.
He slashed to the hoop and threw down a tomahawk jam that rattled the rim and seemed to stop time, if only for a second, as everyone in the immediate vicinity (not to mention many of the took stock of what had just happened.
What did I just see? Who are these guys, anyway?
The deeper, bigger, quicker, longer and just all-around more athletic and talented Buckeyes ultimately won 95-52, but the final score figures to be low on the list of memories CU and its fans who made the hour-long trek east will take away.
“What know what you did out there? You made 2,500 people proud to have Cedarville shirts on for most of that game,” Yellow Jackets coach Pat Estepp told his players in the locker room afterward. "You guys fought your butts off. That was phenomenal.”
>>RELATED: How Cedarville got on Ohio State’s schedule
The Yellow Jackets got their first look at Ohio State’s cavernous NBA-style multipurpose arena in a practice Tuesday night.
They returned for a shoot-around Wednesday before a team lunch in Hilliard and an afternoon hanging out with the family of Isaiah Speelman, a sophomore forward from Bradley High School.
Most of Estepp’s players looked carefree in warmups back at the Schott early in the evening, and he implored them to play that way once the ball went in the air a little after 7 p.m., too.
They got off to a slow start, falling behind 10-2.
Then a funny thing happened: The visitors outplayed the Buckeyes for a stretch of almost eight minutes.
Columbus native Quinton Green made a pair of 3s to start the sequence then added a midrange jumper that made it a one-point game.
Maughmer had a pair of baskets, then Speelman hit a 3.
After Maughmer connected from outside, too, Speelman’s second trey gave Cedarville its only lead, 23-22, with 8:24 on the clock.
At that point, Ohio State became Ohio State, at least the team Associated Press voters had in mind when voting them No. 18th.
Kyle Young banked one in to put the Buckeyes back on top and start a 19-4 run to close the first half.
Young, Kaleb Wesson, Andre Wesson, Luther Muhammad, Dwayne Washington Jr. and EJ Liddell all scored for Ohio State during the spurt, which also included five Ohio State offensive rebounds.
Trailing 41-27 at halftime, the Jackets reminded themselves in the locker room to avoid turnovers and lamented getting stagnant on offense late in the opening period.
“We were a little rattled,” Estepp said, but he added,” “I’m really proud. We made them make some adjustments and put their starters back in.”
He implored them to box out better in the second half, to move the ball and to play without fear.
“Play loose — let it go when you’re open,” he said, telling them passing up an open shot was a selfish act because with a defense as long and athletic as Ohio State’s there was no guarantee a better one was coming in any given possession.
The Yellow Jackets got as close as 11 in the second half before the Buckeyes hit the gas pedal again.
Kaleb Wesson, Ohio State’s All-Big Ten big man who went through the NBA pre-draft workout circuit over the summer, started a 25-1 run with a jumper at the 13:42 mark, but D.J. Carton was the star of this part of the show.
The freshman from Iowa scored 11 points, handed out three assists and had a steal during the runnel showing why he was a four-star prospect coming out of Iowa.
"He's a dude now,” Estepp said of Carton. “We were throwing passes that we get away with in practice, that we anticipate being open. We’re not used to playing guys like that that can just shoot gaps that look open and they're really not open."
As for his overall scouting report of the Buckeyes?
“I think they've got better depth than what they've had in a while, and they got some guys,” said Estepp, who noted his team was able to exploit some defensive deficiencies he sees Ohio State shoring up as the season goes on. “They shot 37 percent from 3, and that'll be a key because that's going to open the game up for Kaleb. So if they can knock down some shots, and I think they have an ability to create some space, got some good role guys. I like their group. I think it's going to be January or February before you see where they're really capable of. Chris is a heck of a coach, and his staff is phenomenal.”
>>RELATED: Chris Holtmann’s challenge this season
The action got a little ragged late, but most of the Cedarville faithful remained until the end, chanting for the Yellow Jackets in the final minute and greeting them after the final horn sounded.
Maughmer, who scored 11 points while Green led CU with 16, was aware the school sold out both its initial 1,500 tickets and a second allotment of 1,000, but the support of the fans in blue and gold still exceeded his expectations.
“Just the feeling of playing out there with my brothers, I mean it was just a surreal feeling,” he said, unable to stifle a laugh when asked about his dunk. “For the rest of our lives, just being able to tell our kids and grandkids we got to play against Ohio State, that’s a pretty good memory.”
Estepp’s final message for his players in the locker room was to embrace the moment — and be ready for another such one Saturday when they play another exhibition against Dayton at the newly renovated UD Arena.
“It’s a big deal, enjoy it. Relish it, but we can do better,” Estepp said. “We gotta come in next Saturday ready to do that.”
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