What could have been an embarrassing blemish on its unbeaten record turned into a useful test for 10th-ranked Ohio State in a 71-52 win over Kent State on Monday night at St. John Arena.
Kent (5-1) erased a 35-23 halftime deficit with hot three-point shooting over the first nine minutes of the second half, but went cold after forging a 48-48 tie to score just four points the rest of the way.
"I think our guys wanted a game like this," OSU coach Chris Holtmann said. "I wanted a game like this. We needed this. We really needed a game like this where we were tested, where there was some heat on us and we were tested. We did not play great, but Kent State deserves some credit for that."
Ohio State (6-0) overcame foul trouble in both the first and second half to repel the challenge of its in-state opponent from the Mid-American Conference.
Wesson gained two personal fouls in the first half and went to the bench, then gained his fourth foul with 11:47 left amid the Golden Flashes' rally.
"That's going to be a key for us," Holtmann said. "How do we score without our anchor in Kaleb in there?''
Luther Muhammed started OSU's escape with two free throws at 10:09, then hit three more a minute later after getting fouled on a shot beyond the arc.
D.J. Carton's acrobatic reverse layup kept the rally going and built a seven-point lead that continued to grow as Kent struggled down the stretch.
Wesson led OSU with 17 points. Duane Washington had 16 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists. Muhammed had 13 points and Carton 11.
"I think Kent and Cincinnati were the two toughest teams we've played," said Holtmann, whose team plays host to Morgan State at 9 p.m. Friday at Value City Arena. "They don't give in. They don't give up."
Ohio State plays one game a year at St. John Arena, its home from 1959-98.
The Buckeyes went 22-of-30 at the free throw line, with Kent going just 4f-of-7.
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