After breaking to focus on final exams, Ohio State will look to build on last Saturday’s win over UConn later today when they take on UCLA in Las Vegas in the third annual CBS Sports Classic. Today’s meeting will mark the 10th game between the schools, but the first since 1980. UCLA holds a 5-4 edge in the series, with the Bruins having won the last four meetings. Including today’s matchup, five of the last six matchups have seen one of the teams come in as either the top-ranked of second-ranked team in the country.
This year marks the third year of the CBS Sports Classic, with Ohio State posting a 1-1 record in their previous two appearances. In the inaugural event, Ohio State fell to North Carolina 82-74 in Chicago, while last year the Buckeyes were able to knock off Kentucky 74-67 in Brooklyn. UCLA is still looking for their first CBS Sports Classic win, as they have fallen to Kentucky and North Carolina in their first two appearances. With the success of the annual event, it was announced earlier this week the CBS Sports Classic has been extended until 2019. Next year Ohio State will play North Carolina and UCLA will matchup with Kentucky in New Orleans.
Ohio State was able to rebound from their embarrassing loss to Florida Atlantic, beating UConn 64-60 last Saturday in Columbus. The game against the Huskies wasn’t the prettiest for Buckeyes fans to watch, but a win is a win. Ohio State trailed at halftime for the first time this year, but was able to overcome some poor shooting to earn the win. The Buckeyes were able to win despite shooting less than 35% from the field, marking the first time since a win over Northwestern in the 2011 Big Ten Tournament they won a game with such poor shooting. Ohio State’s work from the free throw line is what helped to propel them to victory, with the Buckeyes setting season-highs in free throw attempts (34) and free throws made (26).
A big reason for Ohio State’s victory last Saturday was because of the play of Trevor Thompson, who registered his second double-double of the season, scoring 17 points and pulling down 17 rebounds. The Virginia Tech transfer has played his best basketball of the season of late, scoring double figures in three straight games. The 17 rebounds marked the eighth time while Thad Matta has been head coach in which a Buckeye has pulled down 17 or more rebounds in a game. The last time it happened was in February 2012 when Jared Sullinger grabbed 18 rebounds against Northwestern.
UCLA is one of just six undefeated teams left in the country. The Bruins have exhibited one of the most potent offenses in the country this year, scoring over 100 points in five games this season. Freshman forward TJ Leaf is one of six UCLA players averaging double figures in scoring, leading the Bruins with 18.3 points per game. UCLA has a nice mixture of youth and veteran leadership in their starting lineup, with Leaf and guard Lonzo Ball impressing in their first year with the Bruins, while seniors Issac Hamilton and Bryce Alford give the Bruins the experience they need.
Steve Alford’s team has jumped out to a 11-0 start for the first time since the 2006-07 season. The Bruins’ 11-game winning streak is now their longest since 2008, when they put together a 14-game winning streak. UCLA is now ranked second in the country, marking the first time since November 2007 that the Bruins have reached that high of a ranking.
UCLA had little trouble their last time out, jumping out to a 54-30 halftime lead over UC-Santa Barbara before eventually earning a 102-62 win over the Gauchos. Both TJ Leaf and Lonzo Ball almost registered triple-doubles in the lopsided win. Leaf finished with 25 points, 10 rebounds, and eight assists, while Ball scored 13 points, grabbed 10 rebounds, and handed out seven assists.
Today’s game marks the third time already this year that UCLA has played a team from the Big Ten. In late November, the Bruins topped Nebraska 82-71 in the Wooden Legacy. Last Saturday UCLA was tied with Michigan 50-50 at half, but pulled away from the Wolverines in the second half to secure a 102-84 victory. The other noteworthy win for the Bruins this year came two weeks ago when UCLA traveled to Lexington and knocked off the top-ranked Kentucky Wildcats 97-92.
Numbers to know
Today’s game marks the 122nd time Ohio State has played a ranked team under Thad Matta, which is the third-most in the country since Matta took over in Columbus before the 2004-05 season. Ohio State has amassed a 54-67 record in the 121 games against ranked teams prior to today, which is the 10th most wins against ranked teams during that span. Ohio State hasn’t fared so well against ranked foes lately though, dropping eight of the last 10 games against ranked opponents.
Ohio State shot a season-high 34 free throws last Saturday against UConn. Under Thad Matta, Ohio State is 40-0 when attempting 30 or more free throws in a game. The Buckeyes made 26 of those free throws, which brought their record under Matta to 63-3 when they make 20 or more free throws in a game.
UCLA has been tremendous at distributing the basketball this year, dishing out 20 assists in nine of their 11 games this year. On Wednesday night the Bruins registered 27 assists against UC-Santa Barbara, which marked the fifth time this year that the Bruins have recorded at least 27 assists in a game. The only two times UCLA has failed to record 20 assists this year was against Texas A&M (19 assists) and Kentucky (18 assists).
Cast of characters
With 16 points against UConn, Lyle scored his 500th point as a Buckeye. That wasn’t the only milestone for Lyle during the game, as the sophomore guard also dished out his 200th assist as a Buckeye. With four more rebounds Lyle will reach 200 boards during his Ohio State career. Lyle also had four steals against the Huskies which were a career-high.
Even though he hasn’t started any games for the Buckeyes this year, Thompson has been one of Ohio State’s most productive players. The junior has reached double figures in scoring in all but three games so far this year, with the 17 points he scored against UConn setting a new career-high. Thompson has also been strong on the glass this year, grabbing at least seven rebounds in all but two games. Much like his point total against UConn, the 17 rebounds Thompson was credited with in last Saturday’s game were also a career-high.
The 6-10 freshman forward has taken little time to get accustomed to the college game, scoring in double figures in each of UCLA’s first 11 games this year. Leaf has scored 20 points in five games, and has also recorded double-doubles in five games. Leaf is leading the Bruins with 18.3 points per game and 9.4 rebounds per game.
The son of UCLA head coach Steve Alford started out the season hot, scoring 30 points in the season-opener against Pacific. Alford is UCLA’s third-highest scorer this season, averaging 15.5 points per game. The Buckeyes will have to keep an eye on Alford from behind the arc, as the senior is shooting a career-high 40.6% from three-point range so far this season.
How to watch
Game time: 3 p.m. ET
Radio: 97.1 WBNS-FM