First look at the Maui Invitational’s Opening Night

SDSU huddle before its game against Fullerton. Credit: Don De Mars/EVT

Name of the University – Ohio State University Buckeyes

Date of the gameNov 21, 2022

Conference – Big Ten Conference

All-time series record The Aztecs are leading 2-1 overall against the Buckeyes.

Jaedon LeDee returns to face his former squad. Credit: Don De Mars/EVT

San Diego State University will be competing in the Maui Invitational for the 5th time in school history. They hold an even record of 6-6 in past visits to Hawaii and will match up with Ohio State on opening night. 

In the fourth meeting between the schools and the second in the Maui Invitational, Ohio State will be looking to even the series with each team earning a win in their home arenas in 1995 and 1996 and the Aztecs defeating the Buckeyes in 2003. Transfer Jaedon Ledee will get a chance to compete against the university he attended in his freshman year, while Matt Bradley faces off with old Cal teammate Justice Sueing

Most memorable SDSU vs. OSU Meeting

Nearly 20 years ago, head coach Steve Fisher got his first Maui Invitational win with the Aztecs by defeating the Buckeyes 81-63 on the 20th anniversary of the tournament’s existence. 

On November 24, 2003, just two games into his freshman season for the Aztecs, Brandon Heath took full advantage of the opportunity to showcase his talent. It was his first game televised on ESPN2. Heath scored a team-high 28 points, missing just one three-point attempt and ending the contest shooting five of six from distance(83%). Heath is SDSU’s all-time leading scorer, and this game against Ohio State was the first glimpse of his greatness. 

It was a tightly contested game all the way up until halftime, with the score tied at 32. The Aztecs came out in the second half with a different level of intensity, setting the tone on defense. SDSU executed their game plan perfectly, forcing five turnovers and causing the Buckeyes to shoot 0-5 from the field as well as 1-5 from the free-throw line in a five-minute stretch that turned the game into a blowout. Catapulted by their defense, the Aztecs jumped out in front with a 21-1 run.

SDSU played more aggressively after halftime.  They got into the paint more, leading to 17 more attempted free throws than in the first half.  Heath and Wesley Stokes led the shooting charge, contributing to the team shooting 45% from the field compared to 32% in the first. 

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Ohio State in 2022

Head coach of the Ohio State Buckeyes, Chris Holtmann, has been presented with the challenge of losing nine members from last year’s roster and finding a way to compete at a high level with the five freshmen and three transfers trying to fill their shoes. The 2018 Big Ten coach of the year will be without a few key players due to the NBA draft, such as E.J. Liddell and Malachi Branham, as well as two players transferring and others lacking remaining eligibility.

Keshad Johnson a defender on a poster. Credit: Don De Mars/EVT

There will be plenty of questions in Holtmann’s sixth season in Columbus due to more than half of the roster being composed of new kids on campus. The freshman class of Ohio State promises to be exciting with the Georgia Gatorade Player of the Year, Bruce Thorton, coming in to run the point guard position as well as 6’6 scoring threat Brice Sensabaugh, who was named Gatorade Player of the Year for Florida. Freshman center inside, Felix Okpara, stands at 6’11 and is a skilled presence in the paint.

Ohio State defeated Robert Morris 91-53 to open their season on Monday.

Spotlight on returning players: Justice Sueing and Zed Key

Out of the few returning players, Justice Sueing is looking to have a big comeback season after only playing two games last year with an abdominal injury. The 6’7 forward has shown potential. He was the third-leading scorer for the team two seasons ago and will have the opportunity to lead this young group in a major role. He had 20 points in 24 minutes against Robert Morris.

Power forward Zed Key started all but six games for the Buckeyes last season and will be expected to have a significant role again this year. He leads this year’s returners averaging 20 minutes a game in the 2021-2022 season. Key had a double-double 13 points and ten rebounds in 21 minutes on Monday.

Spotlight on incoming transfer: Sean McNeil, Isaac Likekele

Nathan Mensah powers home a pair on Monday. Credit: Don De Mars/EVT

The Buckeyes have a few transfer students who are excited to fill the gaps and find how they fit in coach Holtmann’s offense. Sean McNeil has proven himself to be a consistent deep threat in the Big 12 conference averaging 12.2 points per game in both of his previous seasons. Coach Holtmann expects nothing less than “immediate shooting” from the graduate transfer out of West Virginia University. McNeil does not have the physical characteristics to stand out but has the scoring talent to make up for it. This shooting guard has the ability to shoot from NBA range, needs minimal dribbles to get a good shot, and will cause opponents to second guess playing zone defense.

The Buckeyes were also fortunate to get stocky, 6’5, graduate transfer Isaac “ice” Likekele, who played 30 minutes a game last season for Oklahoma State. Likekele is a versatile combo guard who thrives in the setting as the pick-and-roll ball handler and consistently makes the right decision in transition offense. Likekele is likely to split the role as the main ball handler with Thorton.


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