The last time Ohio State faced an underdog team from the Dayton area it ended in a premature exit from the NCAA tournament. There's less on the line in this matchup with the Wright State Raiders, but Ohio State will no doubt look to continue its dominance of lesser opponents with a strong showing on the court.
Wright State is no slouch. The team has already dropped Belmont twice in early season play, and lost to George Mason earlier this week by just 8 points. The team stands at 8-5 right now, but is consistently scoring in the high 70s. Coach Thad Matta has expressed his concern with the Raiders' three-point shooting - keep an eye out for the adaptation of Ohio State's zone if Wright State gets hot from beyond the arc.
Kam Williams and Keita Bates-Diop inspired the team to a 38 point victory over Miami of Ohio on Monday, challenging their teammates to use the anger of the North Carolina loss. That anger-inspired energy and focus must continue in this game, as these young Buckeyes gain experience, offensive flow, and defensive aptitude. Ohio State has seen flashes of brilliance from players who were expected to contribute this year (Marc Loving, Sam Thompson), but consistency will be the name of the game going forward.
Reports have Anthony Lee missing this game, still suffering from an ankle injury sustained in the Miami (OH) game, so expect more minutes for Trey McDonald and Amir Williams. The rest of the team, however, is ready to go. The team was on the practice court Christmas night getting ready for this matchup.
D'Angelo Russell continues his strong year, consistently scoring nearly 20 per game and taking on an ever larger role in this offense. Although they dipped slightly a few games ago, Shannon Scott's assist numbers are spiking back up, which is encouraging. This Buckeye team has moments of pure electricity, and it well-worth watching against even lesser opponents.
Numbers to know
Despite cold shooting against North Carolina and Louisville, Ohio State is still ranked 5th nationally in field goal percentage, shooting just shy of 52% on the year. KenPom has the Buckeyes ranked 12th overall, and that's largely due to their offensive prowess. The Buckeyes tend to go cold in tough situations, forcing bad shots and dropping out of Thad Matta's offensive system. That must stop as competition heats up.
Ohio State's shooting is good as a team, but watch out for Joe Thomasson, Wright State's junior guard who is shooting lights-out so far this season. Thomasson has also recorded 13 blocks on the season, impressive for being just 6-4 (although playing Ohio Dominican and Urbana probably helps juke the stats). Thomasson must be controlled in this game.
The Buckeyes are ranked 74th nationally for rebounds, which is despicable considering the weakness of our opponents at this point in the season. Ohio State has been faster, longer, and more skilled than their opponents in all but two games so far, but is gathering just 38 rebounds per game. While the defense continues to improve, the Buckeyes can get an instant upgrade by crashing more boards and taking additional possessions away from their opponents. As the opposing teams get better, Ohio State must be more aggressive on the glass.
Cast of Characters
After a few shaky games, Loving looks to have his offensive game figured out. Loving is shooting a remarkable 58% from behind the arc. When he stays engaged in the offensive and gets his shots, he's contributing mightily to the score. Anecdotally, Loving looks much more energetic in other parts of the game too, registering some steals, rebounds and blocks that we didn't see last year.
Kam Williams has been alternating between big games and slow nights recently. Against Miami Williams notched 18 points, but had only 2 against North Carolina. Ditto for North Carolina A&T, when he had 15, and Morehead State, when he had 8. Keep an eye on Williams to see if he can start to string together some consistently good scoring. When Williams is on, Ohio State wins big.
Junior Guard Joe Thomasson is Wright State's best percentage scorer, so watch out for him from all over the floor. He's short, though, so look for Sam Thompson and Williams/McDonald to work some blocking magic. Thomasson shoots under 40% from 3-point range too, so if Ohio State's zone can keep him outside the arc, his usefulness may be limited.
Junior Forward JT Yoho is Wright State's leading scorer, good for about 17 points per game so far this season, and he leads the team in minutes played per game. Yoho's already got 8 steals on the year too, so he could spark the Wright State defense when some of our more careless players are on the court. Yoho take a lot of questionable shots, though: his overall free throw percentage is only about 41%, 35% from 3-point range. Ohio State's swarming zone may serve to bother Yoho's shot selection and keep his efficiency low.
How to Watch/Stream:
TV: 7:00 p.m., BTN (Channel 1333 on Time Warner Columbus/Delaware)
Radio: 97.1 The Fan