After Wednesday night's 97-43 win over High Point, Ohio State will look for more of the same this afternoon when they host Morehead State at Value City Arena. This will mark the fourth meeting all-time between the Buckeyes and Eagles, with Ohio State holding a 3-0 edge in the series. The last time the two schools squared off was back in November 2010 when the then third-ranked Buckeyes took down the Eagles 64-45 in Columbus.
On Wednesday night Ohio State was paced by a career-high 23 points in just 21 minutes from redshirt freshman Kam Williams, including 13 of those points in a six minute span. Along with the effort from Williams, true freshman D'Angelo Russell flirted with a double-double to finish with 18 points and nine rebounds in the blowout. The win gave Ohio State their second straight victory after falling last week to Louisville in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
Yet again the Buckeyes used a deep bench to their advantage in Wednesday night's game, with all of the 10 Buckeyes that saw time of the floor playing at least 14 minutes, but no more than 30 minutes. This has been a trend so far this year, as through eight games no Buckeye is averaging over 30 minutes per game. While the last few years Thad Matta has shortened his bench when the Buckeyes have reached Big Ten play, he certainly has more options this year off the bench that can help the Buckeyes.
Morehead State arrives in Columbus on a three-game losing streak, with their last loss coming last Saturday in overtime to Oakland. The home loss had to be tough for the Eagles, who lost on a Oakland jumper in the lane with just 1.6 seconds to go in overtime. The Eagles may have seven losses already on the season, but they played UNLV and Cincinnati tough early in the season, losing to UNLV by just one, and dropping a eight-point decision to the Bearcats.
Today's game against the Buckeyes will mark the first time in over a year that the Eagles have taken on a ranked opponent. The last time Morehead State played a school ranked in the top-25 was in November of last year when they traveled to take on UCLA at Pauley Pavilion. The Eagles hung tough, but in the end fell to the Bruins, 81-70.
Numbers to know
This may be an imperfect metric, and it isn't adjusted for opponent or anything, but here we are. Ohio State is fourth in the country in shooting percentage, shooting a blistering .530 from the floor. Morehead State, for comparison's sake, shoots .415, good for 254th. Since the Buckeyes still don't have a very reliable low post scoring option, this is a function of the Buckeyes getting in transition, and sharing the basketball to give themselves high percentage looks. That kind of unselfishness and smarts goes a long ways towards keeping your offense going when your long range shots aren't falling, a very promising sign for Ohio State heading into Big Ten play.
That's the number of games Morehead State has lost by double digits this season, a 58-48 loss at UAB (a squad below Morehead State on KenPom). After playing two major conference teams and three from CUSA, that's pretty good. Ohio State faced another low major team that could hang their hat on keeping games close in Colgate, and while Ohio State eventually won that game comfortably, the Raiders hung around a little too long for Ohio State's liking, keeping it a basketball game decently far into the second half. Perhaps the Eagles could do the same if Ohio State isn't focused.
When you think about Ohio State, you think about a trapping defense that creates a lot of turnovers, leading to transition opportunities and high percentage shots. And that's true! Ohio State averages 8.6 steals a game and will run if they get the chance. But Morehead State averages almost as many steals, in 8.5, and have five players who average at least a steal per game. They're not going to get up and down the court like Ohio State, but the Eagles will pick your pocket if you let them.
Cast of Characters:
The redshirt freshman may have slipped under the radar a little at the start of the year, with D'Angelo Russell and some of the other freshman being flashier names, but nobody is forgetting about him anymore. A 23 point outburst against High Point may have been the coming out party for the sharpshooter, who is shooting 50% from downtown this season. He dropped 11 points on Colgate the game before, and if his defense and court awareness continue to improve, it's going to be hard to keep him off the floor. It will be interesting to see if he can continue his momentum.
After a red hot start to the season, Scott has cooled off a bit, especially on offense, highlighted by a particularly dismal showing against Louisville. Scott helped right the ship against High Point, hitting double digits in points for the first time since Nov. 26, while also adding seven assists. Scott is one of Ohio State's two principle ballhandlers and distributors (with Russell being the other), Scott is one of the team's best on the ball defenders. He'll be called upon heavily against the Eagles, who are a small team that likes to shoot threes. If Scott can channel an effort similar to the start of the year, starting the break and frustrating guards, the Buckeyes should roll
Morehead State's leading scorer is their senior guard from Orlando, Florida. The 6'2 Warner is the only Eagle to average double figures, scoring 16.1 a game, along with 4.4 boards. Warner likes to shoot from downtown (5.2 attempts per game, on .423 shooting), but he can get to the line as well. Warner hasn't shot very well in Morehead's losses, and perhaps the key to frustrating this offense is to get him taking efficiency shots.
Morehead State isn't a very big team, so it's imperative that the Eagles find ways to keep Reader, their leading rebounder and tallest player, on the floor. The senior Reader is 6'10 and averages 4.7 rebounds a game, and has a nice free throw shooting touch for a big man, hitting nearly 70% this season from the charity stripe. Amir Williams and the Buckeye's other bigs were able to help open up a larger margin by getting High Point's John Brown in foul trouble early in the game. If they can chase Reader, they'll be in a nice position to dominate the glass and the paint even more.
How to watch, listen, and stream
Game time: 1:00 p.m. ET
Radio: 97.1 FM
Online streaming: BTN2Go