VALUE CITY ARENA
BIG TEN NETWORK
How's your blood pressure Buckeye fans? Fresh off the most improbable comeback of the college basketball season thus far, Ohio State is looking to enter Big Ten play undefeated and with serious momentum as they host Louisiana-Monroe tonight at Value City Arena.
The Warhawks, who compete in the Sun Belt Conference, have lost three straight and sit a game under .500 for the season at 3-4. This will be the second Top-5 opponent for Keith Richard's squad, as they opened the season against then-No. 5 Kansas.
ULM is led by senior guard Amos Olatayo, who averages 15.6 points per game, and senior forward Jayon James, who averages just over 10 points per game and leads the team in rebounding. The Warhawks are a team that has struggled offensively, failing to eclipse 63 points in six of their seven games thus far this season. They rank 237th in the country in field goal percentage (.432) and 272nd in scoring (68.3), two marks that will need to be improved upon dramatically if there is any hope of staying competitive with Ohio State.
The Buckeyes, who enter the game a perfect 12-0, boast four players averaging double-figure points in Lenzelle Smith, Jr. (13.1), LaQuinton Ross (12.8), Amir Williams (10.3), and Aaron Craft (10.0). Thad Matta's squad will look to regain the form they had displayed in the six games prior to Saturday night's thriller against Notre Dame in Madison Square Garden. Improved offensive production, most notably from Ross, had propelled the team to win each of those six games by an average of 23 points.
A win for the Buckeyes would mark the first undefeated non-conference slate for the team since the 2010-11 season, and guarantee a top-three ranking nationally when they open the Big Ten season on the road against Purdue on New Year's Eve.
Numbers to Know
Lousiana-Monroe's rebounding margin through their first seven games. Despite the team's lack of size, they rank 76th in the country in rebounding at just over 38 per game. The Buckeyes rank 132nd nationally, and will need to keep the Warhawks off the offensive boards to avoid making this game more interesting than it should be.
Number of non-conference losses seniors Aaron Craft and Lenzelle Smith, Jr. have endured during their careers at Ohio State. Only Kansas (twice) and Duke have knocked off the Buckeyes during the non-conference slate since the pair arrived in Columbus for the 2010-11 season.
Ohio State's strength of schedule ranking, out of 351 Division I teams. After hearing the national media lambast the Buckeyes' football team all fall for the apparent weakness of its opponents, the hoops team is now starting to experience the same treatment in certain corners. This number will no doubt improve as the team moves into the Big Ten season in January.
Cast of Characters
The guy Dan Dakich jokingly referred to as having been playing for the Buckeyes since the 1980s during the Notre Dame telecast will be playing his final non-conference game in Columbus. Though the outside shot is still suspect, Craft has shown his usual leadership and tenacity on both ends of the court through the first twelve games of the season, and has already become the first Buckeye to amass 1,000 points, 500 assists, and 300 steals in a career.
Lenzelle Smith Jr.
Ohio State's other senior is the team's leading scorer so far this season, and keyed the comeback win against Notre Dame. Smith, who was held scoreless for the first 39 minutes, put up 9 points in the game's final 49 seconds, including 5 of 5 from the free throw line, to propel the Buckeyes to victory. He is shooting a career-high 52 percent from the field and 44 percent from beyond the arc this season.
The Warhawks' leading scorer and second-leading rebounder also averages more than a steal per game and is shooting over 52 percent from the field and 39 percent from the 3-point line this season. The senior has one 30-point effort this season, and has scored in double figures in six of the team's seven games.
A 6'7 junior from Kenya, Ongwae is a junior college transfer playing his first season of Division I college basketball. The Warhawks' second-leading scorer at 13.6 points per game, Ongwae has international experience, having been a member of the Kenyan Senior National Team.