LAHAINA, Hawaii (AP) — Justice Sueing couldn’t have wished for a much better homecoming, especially after sitting out nearly all of last season with an injury.
The Honolulu native scored 23 of his career-high 33 points in the second half to help Ohio State hold off No. 21 Texas Tech for an 80-73 win in the game for fifth place in Wednesday’s Maui Invitational.
Sueing scored 15 straight points for the Buckeyes in the final 10 minutes to turn the Red Raiders back every time they threatened to run.
“It means a lot, especially because I was able to play for my family,” said Sueing, who played in the first two games last season before being sidelined by an abdominal injury. “The last few games I’ve had a bit of trouble just getting back into the rhythm after an injury.”
Ohio State (5-1) shot 52% from the field, made all 18 free throws and never trailed after the first two minutes, as the visit to Maui ended with wins in two of three games.
“It’s a great tournament,” said Sueing. “It’s a challenge. That’s what we said when we got into this, that we were going to get three really good games, and that’s what we got.
Texas Tech (4-2) got a career-high 21 points from Daniel Batcho and 19 from Kevin Obanor.
The Buckeyes led 41-37 at the halfway mark and never let the Red Raiders close, thanks in large part to Sueing’s work.
“They have so many players you have to focus on that they can get 15 to 20 points,” said Texas Tech coach Mark Adams. “Just a very, very explosive crime.”
Obanor strained on a close range shot to pull Tech inside 62–58, but Sueing was fouled by shooting a three-pointer on the Buckeyes’ next possession and he made all three free throws.
After Jaylon Tyson hit a 3 from the wing, Sueing put his own miss back, was fouled and made the free throw to make it 68-61.
Sueing scored on a putback and dunk after catching a long inbound pass to put Ohio State up 74–67 and end his personal 15-point flurry.
Sueing also had eight rebounds and five assists, and Sean McNeil added 13 points for the Buckeyes.
Ohio State made 10 turnovers against a Tech defense that had forced a combined 31 in the first two games in Hawaii.
Sueing had come into the match having only made 7 of 24 shots in his previous two matches. He was 12 of 19 against the Red Raiders.
“I wanted him to see some shots landed because he’s a better shooter than how he shot it,” said Buckeyes coach Chris Holtmann, “and I think he needed that. He’s a much better shooter, let that see his numbers, than what he has shown.”
Texas Tech: The Red Raiders, who went 1-2 in Maui, turned in the defensive performance of the year as they held Louisville to 38 points on Tuesday. Their trademark defense understandably softened in their third game in three days.
Ohio State: Winning two games out of three in Maui bodes well for a team that has returned three players and has ten newcomers. Sueing, a transfer from California, took the team on the offensive after freshman Brice Sensabaugh, who averaged 17 points per game coming in, had all of his 10 points in the first half.
Texas Tech hosts Georgetown on Wednesdays.
Ohio State will face Duke in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge on Wednesday.