VALUE CITY ARENA
The quality of play for the Ohio State men's basketball team has not exactly brought back memories of previous Final Four teams lately. The Buckeyes sometimes look more limited offensively than the team from a year ago that often times could not muster up much more than contested jump shots from Deshaun Thomas. Now that Thomas has moved on, the Buckeyes have looked to junior small forward LaQuinton Ross to provide the main scoring punch. This plan hasn't exactly worked out as Ross is shooting a minuscule 22.7% from the field and often times has found himself on the bench late in games.
The Buckeyes continue to roll, however, due to strong defensive ball pressure from a couple upperclassman in the backcourt. Guards Aaron Craft and Shannon Scott are combining to average almost 5 steals per game to help ignite most of the offense. Junior big man Amir Williams has also been a pleasant surprise for Buckeye fans, averaging 10 points and 8.6 rebounds as well as having very active hands in the back end of the defense.
The University of North Florida is coming into Value City Arena Friday but they don't appear to pose much of threat to the Buckeyes when you look at the matchup on paper. The Ospreys came into the season predicted by many to finish 6th in the Atlantic Sun conference and they already have suffered losses to Middle Tennessee State from Conference USA and Southern University out of the SWAC. North Florida also starts a freshman and a sophomore in the backcourt, which would seem like a huge advantage for Ohio State and their experienced duo.
In North Florida's latest game, they were led in scoring by senior forward Travis Wallace and freshman guard Dallas Moore. The two combined for 35 of the team's 65 points in a four point victory over Savannah State. The one thing the Ospreys have going for them is the experience of already playing a high major basketball team earlier in the season. North Florida played in state opponent Florida to begin the season and kept it close throughout, eventually losing 77-69.
The Buckeyes have had a tendency to keep inferior teams in games this season as well. The team seems to come out a bit slow on the defensive end and the offensive fire power is just not there enough for the Buckeyes to take any possessions off. If the Buckeyes can come out from the opening tip playing aggressively on both sides of the ball, this one should be a rout.
The Buckeyes will look to senior guard Lenzelle Smith Jr. to pick up some of the scoring slack as LaQuinton Ross continues to struggle with his confidence (and some talk of physical maladies). Smith is leading the team in scoring at 11.6 points per game and also in 3-point shooting percentage at 48%.
Numbers to Know
The number of points LaQuinton Ross is averaging so far this season. After hitting a monster three in the Sweet 16 against Arizona, Ross was expected to carry the load in Columbus. He will need to pick his game up big time if the Buckeyes want a chance at a Big Ten championship.
The shooting percentage for Buckeye big man Amir Williams. Williams often would make you scratch your head a season ago with his sometimes soft play inside. His emergence as an active presence on the offensive boards is giving Ohio State a much needed boost in scoring.
The number of assists the North Florida Ospreys are averaging for the season. The team is young in the backcourt but they share the ball well enough to give OSU some problems. Pressuring the guards will be key in throwing off their offensive rhythm.
Cast of Characters
This senior forward is leading his team in scoring at 13.1 points per game and in rebounding at 7.7 boards per game. The Buckeyes gave up multiple put backs on the offensive glass against Wyoming and they must block out when ever Wallace is near the rim.
A freshman guard starting against what may be the best defensive backcourt in the country. It could be a long night for Mr. Moore in Columbus. However, the youngster will not be short on confidence. His 18 points against Savannah State led his team to victory and he will certainly come out firing against the Buckeyes on Friday.
Sam is most known for his highlight dunks, but he has actually become a very solid role player off the bench for Ohio State. Not only is he fifth on the team scoring, but he is second on the team in blocked shots with just over 1 block per game. His length and athleticism make for a very affective defender in Thad Matta's system and those explosive slam dunks don't hurt either.
As we mentioned before, this has been a great start to the season for Amir Williams. Everybody knows about Aaron Craft's defensive acumen, but it is Williams that keeps the back end of the defense strong. He is a great rim protector, averaging 2 blocks per game, and coming off of a career high 16 rebounds, Williams will look to continue his dominance against a much smaller North Florida front line.