Ohio State returns to the hardwood tonight at Value City Arena to take on High Point University. The Panthers of High Point come into Columbus seeking to improve on their strong 6-2 start to the season, while the Buckeyes aim to improve on their 5-0 home record and 6-1 start overall.
It was somewhat of an odd week for Thad Matta's team which saw a rise of two spots in the latest polls to #12 despite suffering their first loss of the season at Louisville. The Buckeyes came up short in their second half comeback effort against the Cardinals, but returned home on Saturday to defeat Colgate, 70-50. If Buckeye fans failed to take notice of Saturday's win they're at least partially excused as many were preoccupied and focused on the football team's Big Ten Championship game.
Youth has continued to serve the Buckeyes well in the early season as D'Angelo Russell was named Big Ten Freshmen of the week and sophomore Marc Loving provided some much need scoring.
While the youngsters continue to impress, veterans Shannon Scott and Sam Thompson have struggled significantly at times during the early season. It's probably too early to be overly concerned with the mini-slumps, but Ohio State will need production from the senior duo as they enter Big Ten season and the inevitable freshmen fatigue sets in.
High Point's strong start comes on the back of a solid finish to the 2013-14 season which saw the Panthers win 11 of the last 15. Their six victories this season include wins over Hawaii and William & Mary, and the Panthers hung tough in a three-point loss to Clemson.
High Point does pose more of a threat than some of the other Buckeye opponents thus far, but it's unlikely a NJIT-esque upset happens here. The Bucks should roll as their talent is just too much for the Panthers.
Numbers to know
The combined total points by Shannon Scott against Louisville and Colgate. This was supposed to be the year for Scott. Aaron Craft is finally out of the way and it's was Scott's turn to run the show. It hasn't gone completely to plan. While scoring has never been his strong suit, quite frankly the Buckeyes just need more production from the point guard spot. Let's hope tonight's game marks the start of a nice turnaround by the senior.
The Buckeyes are holding opponents to a paltry 50 points per game through Saturday's game. Much of the early hype around the team has focused on the Buckeyes new-found affinity for pushing the tempo and getting out in transition, but they are still managing to display the typical stingy Thad Matta defense.
To say the Buckeyes struggle with shooting last year would be an understatement - at time they flat out couldn't score. But this year's Buckeye's have seen Marc Loving step to provide a much needed legitimate three-point threat. Loving is currently shooting 56% from behind the arc, which is tops in the Big Ten.
Cast of Characters:
There hasn't been much change in Thompson's game this year. He still provides the same highlight-reel dunks and inconsistent shooting that Buckeye fans have come to know all too well. At 9.9 points and 4.7 rebounds per game, it hasn't been all bad for Thompson, but it hasn't been the breakout season many expected. Look for Thompson to shake off his slump soon and continue to provide quality minutes and leadership to the Buckeye team.
The freshman continues to live up to the hype and is quickly learning the ropes of college basketball. After a tough first half against Louisville, Russell turned the tide and his 17 points, 6 rebounds and 7 assists largely fueled the near comeback by the Bucks. The current Big Ten Freshman of the Week has been Ohio State's best option with the ball in his hands and is very much a threat to be a one and done to the NBA.
The Panthers leading scorer the past two seasons, the 6-8 junior once again leads High Point in both scoring and rebounding, averaging 20.2 points and 5.8 boards per contest. He comes into tonight's game have gone for over 21 points in each of his last three games, including a 26-point effort against Clemson. Beware putting Brown on the free thrown line as he is shooting 83% from the charity stripe this year. Brown should provide a nice challenge for the Buckeye big men.
The High Point junior will be in for somewhat of a homecoming in Columbus having gone to high school in Stow, Ohio. Cugini is averaging 9.1 points in just over 25 per game this year. He does most of his damage from behind the three-point line and is coming off a 15-point effort last week against UNC-Greensboro.
How to watch, listen, and stream
Game time: 7:00 pm E.T.
Radio: 97.1 FM
Online streaming: WatchESPN