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How to watch Ohio State vs. UConn: Preview, game time, live streaming online

The direction of the Buckeyes’ season may well be defined against the Huskies.

NCAA Basketball: Connecticut vs Syracuse Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Season-defining games are generally reserved for the dog days of conference play in February and for March Madness, but for Ohio State basketball, Saturday’s matchup with Connecticut feels like a tipping point.

The Buckeyes are fresh off a seven-day stretch in which they blew a double-digit halftime lead on the road in a two-point loss to Virginia, escaped with a win against a Fairleigh Dickinson team barely ranked among the top 300 in the country according to KenPom, and then squandered another sizable lead at home to Florida Atlantic in a two-point overtime defeat.

Something is clearly not right with Ohio State.

“I feel like when we do bring the energy, we are a completely different team than when we don’t,” said junior Jae’Sean Tate after the loss to FAU.

The lack of energy from a major conference college basketball program is concerning, and a reason why head coach Thad Matta’s seat is heating up. Were it an isolated incident, one might be able to write it off to a rough stretch, but this issue has popped up repeatedly over the past few seasons.

“We let everything affect us, and they outplayed us, there’s no question about that,” Matta said after Tuesday night’s loss. “When things happen we have to be tougher and say ‘we can defy this.’”

Now in his 13th year at the helm for the Buckeyes, Matta has guided the program to Big Ten titles, final fours, and a national championship game appearance, but hasn’t gotten as far as the second weekend of the NCAA tournament since 2013. On-court performance may be in the hands of the program’s players, but at some point the lack of development, toughness, and execution must come back to the coaching staff.

This isn’t a #FireThad column. This is only to point out that Saturday at Value City Arena, Ohio State will play a game that has the potential to determine the rest of its season, for the better or for the worse.

On the opposite bench, UConn head coach Kevin Ollie knows all too well what Matta is going through. In his fifth year in Storrs, Ollie has the 2014 national championship on his coaching resume, as well as two Big East titles as a player for the Huskies and a 13-year NBA career. Yet, after early season losses to Wagner and Northeastern and a two-point win over Boston University, questions began to arise concerning his job security.

Connecticut may have already played its season-defining game, outlasting Syracuse 52-50 in a defensive slugfest on Monday night inside Madison Square Garden. The Huskies now stand at 4-4 on the year, and despite having endured a rash of injuries, have a little momentum on their side.

Numbers to know

314

Of the 351 NCAA Division I basketball programs, Ohio State ranks 314th in free throw percentage. The Buckeyes have a 63.1 percent success rate as a team and have only one regular rotation player (Kam Williams) hitting on better than 74 percent of his attempts.

UConn is actually worse, shooting 61.2 percent from the line, good for 332nd nationally.

In the second half against FAU, Ohio State went 8-for-13 from the charity stripe. Those missed opportunities may not have been the sole reason for the loss, but they certainly didn’t help matters. In close games, free throws are hugely important, and the Buckeyes inability to convert may come back to bite them again.

6

Among the nine players receiving regular rotation minutes for Ohio State, six are averaging double figures in scoring, led by Tate’s 14 points per game. Few teams in college basketball can rival that sort of offensive parity, and the Buckeyes have proven that they’re at their best when multiple options have it going on that side of the ball.

Ohio State has also had six different players record double-doubles through the team’s first nine games, which is tops in college basketball. UConn has a negative rebounding differential on the year, so crashing the glass should be a focus for the Buckeyes.

37

According to KenPom, Connecticut is 37th in the country in defensive efficiency. Ohio State ranks 23rd in this metric, which means viewers could be in for a not so pretty, grind it out kind of game on Saturday.

The Buckeyes are 20th in the country in field goal defense, holding their opposition to just 37.3 percent shooting from the floor. At 42.6 percent offensively, the Huskies rank 256th nationally, giving the scarlet and gray a seemingly distinct advantage on paper.

Cast of characters

Ohio State

Jae’Sean Tate

The national treasure not only leads Ohio State with his 14 points per game, but also with 7.8 rebounds a night despite his undersized 6-foot-4 frame. A junior, Tate has been the unquestioned heart of the Buckeye program the past two seasons, and his grit and tenacity are what his teammates should be emulating. The Pickerington native has three double-doubles already this season, and his energy has never been a question.

Keita Bates-Diop

After sitting out five games with an ankle injury, Bates-Diop was back on the floor for 20 minutes against FAU. While he scored 10 points and grabbed three rebounds, it was apparent there was some rust to be shaken off from the absence. KBD showed flashes before the injury of being capable of impacting the game in a multitude of ways both offensively and defensively, and the Buckeyes certainly need that if they hope to start turning things around.

Connecticut

Jalen Adams

A blue-chip recruit who averaged a little over seven points per game as a freshman a year ago, Adams has emerged as UConn’s top offensive threat in his second season. Averaging team-highs of 17.8 points and 5.6 assists to go along with 5.3 rebounds and 1.4 steals per game, the 6-foot-3 guard does a little bit of everything for the Huskies. Slowing Adams down could be the difference between a win and a loss for Ohio State on Saturday.

Rodney Purvis

Connecticut’s leading scorer last season after transferring from N.C. State, Purvis, much like Adams, impacts the game in a variety of ways for Ollie. The 6-foot-4 redshirt senior averages 12.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, and a little over three assists a night. In last season’s 75-55 Huskies’ win over Ohio State in Storrs, Purvis put up 13 points, six boards, and five assists to lead a balanced attack.

How to watch

Game time: 6 p.m. ET

Radio: WBNS 97.1 FM

TV: Big Ten Network (Wayne Randazzo and Jon Crispin)

Streaming: BTN Plus