Ohio State doesn’t have much time to dwell on Saturday’s loss to UCLA, as the Buckeyes will host Youngstown State tonight. Thad Matta’s team will close out their non-conference schedule this week, following tonight’s game up with another home contest on Thursday night against UNC-Asheville. The Buckeyes open up their Big Ten schedule on New Year’s Day when they travel to Champaign to take on Illinois.
Today’s game marks the fourth meeting all-time between the Buckeyes and the Penguins, with Ohio State having won the previous three games. The last time these two schools squared off came in 2006 when Ohio State had little trouble downing Youngstown State 91-57 at Nationwide Arena. Ivan Harris led the Buckeyes with 19 points in the victory, while Daequan Cook came off the bench to record a double-double, scoring 17 points and grabbing 11 rebounds.
The Buckeyes were able to hang with UCLA for a half, only trailing the Bruins 40-37 after 20 minutes of Saturday’s game in Las Vegas. UCLA opened up the second half with a 16-5 run to open up a double-digit lead. Ohio State was able to cut UCLA’s lead to six points a couple times during the second half, but the Buckeyes weren’t able to get any closer. UCLA has now won five straight games against Ohio State.
One of the few bright spots in the loss to UCLA was Marc Loving, who had his best shooting game of the season. The senior came out firing, scoring 13 of his 19 points in the first half. For the game, Loving his seven of the 11 shots he attempted, with three of those made field goals coming from behind the three-point line. After a sluggish start to the season, Loving has now scored in double figures in three of his last four games. The Toledo native ranks second in scoring among the Buckeyes, with his 12.2 points per game only trailing the 14.0 points per game Jae’Sean Tate is averaging.
Forward Keita Bates-Diop continues to work his way back into game shape after missing five games earlier this season due to an ankle injury. Even before Bates-Diop injured his ankle in the second half against Providence, the junior forward was already trying to work his way to 100% after suffering a stress fracture in his leg over the summer. The 25 minutes Bates-Diop was on the court for on Saturday was his highest total since returning from injury against Florida Atlantic. Bates-Diop scored 13 points off the bench against UCLA, marking his highest scoring output since putting in 14 points in the season-opening win against Navy.
Youngstown State will be playing their final non-conference game of the regular season before jumping into Horizon League play against Milwaukee next Thursday. Right now the minds of Youngstown State fans might not be on the basketball court now though, as their football team recently earned a spot in next month’s FCS National Championship Game with their thrilling victory over Eastern Washington on Saturday.
While the Youngstown State football is preparing to try and win the FCS title, the basketball team is just hoping to make any sort of postseason. Youngstown State became a Division I basketball member for the 1981-82 season, but they are still seeking their first NCAA Tournament bid. The only time Youngstown State has been a part of any Division I postseason tournament came in the 2012-13 season when the Penguins earned a CIT bid.
Youngstown State head coach Jerry Slocum is currently in his 12th season as head coach of the Penguins, but he hasn’t been a part of much success during his time with the school, posting a 134-217 record. This is Slocum’s 42nd year of coaching, with stops at Nyack, Geneva, and Gannon prior to being hired by Youngstown State before the 2005-06 season. Slocum was at the helm when Youngstown State earned their only postseason berth, leading the Penguins to a win over Oakland before falling to Canisius in the second round of the 2013 CIT.
This year’s Youngstown State team is likely going to a strong run in conference play if they have any designs on making the postseason. The Penguins stumbled out of the gates, dropping three of their first four games of the season. Youngstown State comes into tonight’s contest with just a 6-6 record, but they are coming off a 101-97 overtime win over Niagara on Wednesday night. Leading scorer Cameron Morse poured in 27 points in the victory, while center Jorden Kaufman registered a double-double with 16 points and 12 rebounds before fouling out after logging 18 minutes on the floor. Wednesday’s game was already Youngstown State’s second overtime game of the season, as the Penguins fell to Toledo 103-98 in their second game of the season.
Numbers to know
Ohio State has amassed a 232-76 record against in-state opponents. The Buckeyes last played another team from the Buckeye state in the first round of the 2016 NIT, beating Akron 72-63 in overtime. This will be the 95th game in which Ohio State has played a Division I team from Ohio, with the Buckeyes holding 73-21 record against in-state foes.
With his 19 points on Saturday against UCLA, Marc Loving moved into 44th place on Ohio State’s all-time scoring list. Loving passed Carter Scott (1,073 points) and Scoonie Penn (1,076 points) and currently has 1,079 points. Loving will need his hot shooting from Saturday to carry over if he wants to move up another spot on the list, as he needs 21 points to tie Mel Nowell for 43rd on Ohio State’s all-time scoring list.
Youngstown State coach Jerry Slocum has 716 career wins, which ranks 36th all-time in NCAA history. Slocum currently ranks eighth among active Division I coaches. Three more wins will give Slocum 719 for his career, which will tie Don Haskins for 35th most wins in NCAA history.
Cast of characters
The junior from Pickerington is Ohio State’s leading scoring this year, averaging 14.0 points per game. On Saturday against UCLA, Tate scored 15 points, marking the 10th time in 11 games this year that he has reached double figures in scoring. The only game in which Tate didn’t reach double figures in scoring came last month against Jackson State, where he only scored seven points in the lopsided Ohio State win. If Tate is able to make it to 10 points tonight he’ll record his 800th career point as a Buckeye.
Coming a performance against UConn where he scored a career-high 17 points and pulled down a career-high 17 rebounds, Trevor Thompson was pretty quiet against UCLA, only scoring four points in 23 minutes off the bench. The Buckeyes would be wise to try and establish Thompson early in tonight’s game, as Youngstown State has just one player who averages more than 10 minutes per game that is over 6-7. Thompson needs nine points to reach 500 points for his career, with 342 of those points coming as a Buckeye.
If Ohio State wants to avoid being upset by Youngstown State, they’ll have to focus on putting the clamps on Cameron Morse. The junior guard is Youngstown State’s top scorer, averaging 23.8 points per game, which is the fourth-highest total in Division I. In his 56 career games at Youngstown State, Morse has reached double figures 39 times, with 23 of those games being games in which Morse has scored at least 20 points.
Morse’s running mate in the backcourt does a little bit of everything for the Penguins. The junior from Cleveland ranks second on the team in scoring, averaging 13.4 points per game. Santiago did his best to pick up the slack when Morse was injured, recording double-doubles in two of the three games that Morse missed. Last time out Santiago played 43 of the 45 minutes in the overtime victory over Niagara, scoring 18 points and grabbing seven rebounds.
How to watch
Game time: 7 p.m. ET
Radio: 97.1 WBNS-FM