The Buckeyes take the court tonight to face off against North Carolina A&T in search of their 9th win. This may be one of the few times I am actually upset the Bucks play this game at home. As you may know, North Carolina A&T's home court has previously been referred to as the "Crunkest Gym in America." Seeing as how the Buckeyes should not struggle with the Aggies, it would have been cool to take in everything that comes with that experience. However, the Buckeyes tip off in Value City Arena in front of what should be a decidedly raucous crowd tonight.
The last time we saw Ohio State they were able to seal a victory against Morehead State in what was Thad Matta's 500th career game as a head coach. The Buckeyes came out of the gates hot and rode high energy and solid offensive performances to a 19 point halftime lead against the Eagles. D'Angelo Russell and Sam Thompson were able to lead the team offensively heading into the second half and the Bucks looked on pace for another early season blowout.
However, Morehead State woke up a bit and ended up outscoring the Buckeyes in the second half. The Eagles shot 63% from the field in the second half and exhibited tenacious defense unseen thus far in the game. Despite the Eagles second half surge, the Bucks closed on a strong offensive note and were able to seal the 16 point victory. The highlight of the entire game was undoubtedly Sam Thompson's earth shaking one handed alley oop slam on a set inbounds play.
Although there have been some miserable upsets in the Big Ten this year, I do not expect much of a game from the Aggies. They currently sit at 1-10 and, while some of their games have been relatively close, they are currently on a 10 game losing streak. The Aggies are currently second to last in the Mid-Eastern Atlantic Conference. Simply put, this will likely not be a close game. However, with the University of North Carolina Tar Heels on the nearby horizon, the Buckeyes could be caught looking past A&T and be given a game.
Numbers to Know
The Aggies rank 341st overall in points scored at 56.6 per game. This is in drastic contract to the Buckeyes current rate of 82.2 points per game. That's good for 14th best in the country. If the Aggies are going to be able to keep this one close, they are going to have to either drastically improve their routine scoring effort or bring the Buckeyes down to their level with tight defense. Considering the large point differential scored by both teams per game, The Buckeyes will likely control the pace of the game offensively and maintain an early lead.
The Aggies do not have anyone on their team that measures over 6'9. While the Bucks aren't a particularly large team, the front court will have the opportunity to bully around a much smaller team tonight. Amir Williams in particular should have a consistent mismatch underneath on the block. Ohio State should be able to excel on the glass tonight which has been a bit of a rarity this season.
Ohio State is currently shooting 53% from the field which is good for 4th best in the country. The Bucks are getting good, open looks and have been absolutely draining them from all over the court. While there have been instances and stretches (first half against Louisville) where they have not looked sharp offensively, the Buckeyes this year have been a revelation offensively. Particularly when you match this team up against last year's offensive production. Buckets just seem to come easier to this team than they have in years past.
Cast of Characters
By all accounts and measurements, Amir Williams has underwhelmed since he first started out for the Buckeyes as a freshman. The former McDonald's All American has shown flashes of greatness, but has generally struggled to take his talent to the next level. Notwithstanding all of his struggles these past few years, this is the type of game Amir Williams should absolutely dominate. Based on size and raw talent alone, Williams should be able to outclass the undersized Aggie front court. Hopefully Williams is able to show out a bit and put his talent on display tonight.
Kam Williams has one of the best jumpers I have seen in a Buckeye uniform this side of Jon Diebler. Kam is currently shooting 55% from the field and a blistering 47% from three. He has easily been one of the more pleasant surprises on the year and provides instant offense off the bench. If Kam is left alone behind the arc, I fully expect him to bury the shot. His shooting and scoring ability off the bench tonight is precisely the type of effort that can put this game out of reach early.
North Carolina A&T
Bruce Beckford is by all accounts A&T's best player on the roster. He leads the team ins scoring and rebounds with 14.5 and 8.1 per game respectfully. The 6'7 junior has scored in the double digits in all but two games this season and will likely work for more of the same against the Buckeyes tonight. Beckford will most likely line up in the 4 spot tonight and find himself matching up against Marc Loving, Anthony Lee, and Jae'Sean Tate. Although he is a solid player, even an inspired offensive performance from Beckford may not be enough to keep the Aggies competitive tonight.
Austin Williams is a freshman for the Aggies and leads the team with 3.4 assist per game. While he is not much of a scorer for A&T, Williams brings the ball up and helps to dictate the pace and flow of the offense. Despite his youth, Williams is one of the team leaders in minutes per game and is a major player in A&T's offensive system. However, despite the Aggies' best efforts the Buckeyes are going to be too much to handle tonight.