D.J. Carton has been as all-around useful as Ohio State could have hoped for. What a strong second half for him, and way to step up after Wesson fouled out. More analysis to come on the site, including from Parrish in Vegas.
Kentucky vs. Ohio State score, takeaways: Buckeyes look solid in win vs. Wildcats in CBS Sports Classic
Ohio State clamped down on Kentucky in the final minutes and held on for a 71-65 victory
Ohio State (11-1) is built to be one of the elite teams in what's become a predictably unpredictable season of college basketball.
On Saturday, the fifth-ranked Buckeyes played well, hit big free throws and made key plays to knock off No. 6 Kentucky 71-65 in the CBS Sports Classic. Ohio State's calling card is its defense, and that shone through in the closing minutes. It was a win good enough to give Ohio State a case, and a solid one, at reclaiming the top spot in the polls.
Ohio State got a terrific game out of freshman D.J. Carton, who came off the bench and steadied the Bucks to a win. Carton was twice as important as his stat line (15 points, five rebounds, two assists, two blocks) might suggest.
But because No. 1 Kansas lost at No. 18 Villanova earlier on Saturday, that means No. 2 Gonzaga -- which won at home, easily, over Eastern Washington -- is going to get the No. 1 ranking in the polls come Monday. Still, Ohio State's win here and an overall 11-1 record could and should log it plenty of votes for No. 2.
Now let's do three takeaways from OSU over UK:
1. The Buckeyes are legit and can be a No. 1 seed come March: Few teams have the resumé to match or best Ohio State at this point. The Buckeyes were No. 3 in the NET rankings heading into Saturday and will likely be No. 2 when they refresh on Sunday (because they were behind No. 2 San Diego State, which destroyed Utah.)
Ohio State owns wins over Cincinnati, Villanova, UNC (with Cole Anthony), Penn State and now Kentucky. This can be the best Ohio State team since the 2010-11 team that earned a No. 1 seed and finished 34-3. Things can get even stronger in the nonconference, as OSU's last non-Big Ten game is on Dec. 29 vs. West Virginia. A win there would put Ohio State in the driver's seat for the best seed in Bracketology heading into 2020.
2. Kentucky played well vs. Ohio State, but this is not a good team at the moment. Jerry Palm nailed it when he published his as-of-now field of 68 on Friday. He didn't include Kentucky, and he shouldn't have. The Wildcats are 8-3 but lack the overall resumé to validate inclusion -- as of now.
For Kentucky, there was some growth. The Wildcats didn't play poorly against Ohio State. Going 0-2 in Las Vegas (UK fell Wednesday night to Utah at T-Mobile Arena) sets up a pressure-cooker game next weekend (on CBS) when it hosts Louisville.
3. Kentucky's reason for optimism: Nate Sestina. The graduate transfer (via Bucknell) gave a new dimension to a UK offense that needed dynamism. Sestina was 5-of-8 from 3-point range.
The rest of Kentucky's roster was a miserable 2-of-15. Now, Ashton Hagans played well and so did Tyrese Maxey. But more and more I'm thinking that if Kentucky's going to challenge for an SEC title and get a good seed in the NCAA Tournament, Sestina has to be a focal point of the offense. He does a lot and plays hard. Combo that with Hagans' defense (and opportunistic hard drives to the basket) and Maxey's streaky tendencies, maybe you've got something. What we know for sure: Kentucky can't keep playing bigs E.J. Montgomery and Nick Richards together. They don't produce offense and they don't allow for more opportunities. It has to be one or the other.
Kaleb Wesson fouls out with 3:30 to go in a 62-55 game. Noted.
Ohio State's defense is tough to scheme against because it's tremendous in its rotations and is always ready at just about every level you want to take a shot.
Kentucky is playing an A- game, Ohio State is playing a B- game and Ohio State leads by two.
That Andre Wesson swat on Maxey -- on the break -- is maybe the most impressive block I've seen this season.
What defense. What a block.
How good has this game been? Ohio State's current 49-44 lead is its biggest of the day.
Seriously. NATHAN. SESTINA.
The Nate Sestina Game. Changes Kentucky's dynamic.
That first half was an 8.4 out of 10. Interested to see Holtmann and Cali's adjustments.
This is an entertaining game not being slogged down by fouls or cheap whistles.
That possession right there was an example of why Kentucky has a good but limited ceiling. Can't break teams down off the dribble a lot -- or at least not very good teams -- and the 3-point shooting isn't reliable enough to work as a bailout on a broken possession.
Nick Richards cashing shots from the 3-point line? Well-played half from Kentucky to this point, on the whole. Playing differently than it has much of the season.
Let 'em run. Both teams look better playing faster.
Nate Sestina has X-factor-like qualities for Kentucky.