(Photo courtesy of CBS Sports.)

This was a physical one ….

The Buckeyes, ranked 5th nationally, met up with the University of Kentucky, ranked 6th, in Las Vegas in the CBS Sports Classic on Saturday. The Buckeyes would win a well-deserved, and hard-fought-battle, 71-65.

D.J. Carton had 13 points, Kaleb Wesson added 12 before fouling out as the Buckeyes outlasted a feisty Wildcats team.

The Buckeyes (11-1) played with Duane Washington Jr., their second-leading scorer, though limiting him to only eight minutes due to a rib injury. This opened the door for others to step up in what was indeed a physical game.

The Wildcats (8-3) kept the Buckeyes within arm’s length despite a shabby-shooting performance in the second half – the Buckeyes would stretch the lead to seven with 1:17 left. The Scarlet and Gray, relentless in their mission, made four straight free throws in the final 18 seconds to prevent Kentucky from escalating to any possibilities.

Wesson also had eight rebounds before fouling out with 3:30 remaining.
Nate Sestina scored 17 and hit five 3-pointers, and Tyrese Maxey added 15 points for the Wildcats.

The Ohio State University has moved to the 3rd slot in the rankings following its first nine games and was poised to possibly move to the number one spot before dropping one to Minnesota, of which, they were never really in it. Kentucky opened the season at # 2 and moved to # 1after beating Michigan State and fell from the top spot with a surprising home loss to Evansville. The Wildcats already played one game at T-Mobile Arena this week, losing 69-66 to Utah after rallying from a 17-point deficit.

The Wildcats have struggled some this year thus far with their shooting and has fought difficulties in locating the perimeter mark in the first half — all but Sestina, that is. The graduate transfer from Bucknell matched his season total with by going 3-for-6 from distance while his teammates went a combined 0-for-7.

Young had 10 points to give Ohio State a 37-36 halftime lead.

The Buckeyes made a late push to go up seven and hit enough shots and free throws down the stretch to keep Kentucky at bay.

A BROADER LOOK:

This was a nice win for the Buckeyes. Thus far they have beet three nationally quality teams, Villanova, University of North Carolina, and now Kentucky. It helps to play teams like this prior to jumping into the heat of the Big Ten play with the likes of Michigan State, Michigan, Maryland, and Indiana. To win against these College Basketball blue-bloods, shows this team they can play, and to maintain the course. I personally am looking forward to the progression of the season. Coach Holtmann has done a splendid job, as has his players.

UP NEXT:

The Buckeyes will now meet-up with West Virginia in Cleveland on Dec. 29.
Kentucky hosts rival Louisville next Saturday. That should be fun….

GO BUCKEYES