It’s a quick turnaround for the Ohio State Buckeyes men’s basketball team following a 37-point victory over the Youngstown State Penguins Tuesday in Columbus, which improved them to 9-3 on the season. The Buckeyes will play their third game in six days against the 8-4 Bulldogs of UNC Asheville in their final tuneup before the start of their conference schedule. Ohio State will then have more than a week to prepare for the start of Big Ten play when they open against Illinois Jan. 1.
Rebounding from a closer-than-expected loss to No. 2 UCLA, Ohio State came out strong against Youngstown State, outscoring the Penguins 42-14 in the first half on their way to a 77-40 victory. The Penguins’ 14 first half points and 21 percent field goal percentage (including 9.5 percent from behind the arc) were both season bests for the Buckeye defense.
On the other end of the court, four players scored in double digits, with Jae'Sean Tate, Kam Williams and Keita Bates-Diop all scoring 15 on the night. The team shot 50 percent from the field, and was 5-of-15 from three-point range.
Still, there is significant room for improvement for the Buckeyes. Ohio State recorded 16 turnovers Tuesday to Youngstown State’s 15--an area which has remained a consistent problem over the course of the non-conference season. The Buckeyes also continued to have issues from the free throw line, missing seven of their 17 attempts.
UNC Asheville, meanwhile, comes to Columbus after a narrow, two-point loss to UNC Greensboro Monday night. Prior to their loss, however, the Bulldogs had rattled off five-straight wins as they prepare to head into Big South Conference play, which begins against Radford on Dec. 29. Bulldogs head coach Nick McDevitt, who played at UNC Asheville from 1997-2001, is currently in his fourth season with the program. He led the Bulldogs to a conference tournament victory last season, their first since 2012. They also earned their third tournament berth in six years, losing to eventual NCAA Tournament champion Villanova in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Numbers to know
The number of assists that sophomore point guard Jaquan Lyle has recorded so far this season, which is good for first in the Big Ten. Lyle is averaging 5.9 assists per game, which places him 26th in the NCAA among individual players. Those numbers are also up from where Lyle was last season, when he averaged just over four assists per game. However, given his assist to turnover ratio (2.15), Lyle needs to take better care of the ball to avoid turnovers. C.J. Jackson, who has seen significant minutes behind Lyle throughout the season, has averaged 3.8 assists per game with 46 total through 12 games.
Ohio State currently holds a perfect record versus opponents from the Big South Conference, with their most recent win coming against the Panthers of High Point at home in 2014 by a 54-point margin. Of the eight conference members Ohio State has faced, the Buckeyes have played UNC Asheville with the greatest frequency, recording five of their Big South Conference wins against the Bulldogs. The Buckeyes last faced the Bulldogs at home in 2012 in a 90-72 win for Ohio State behind 18 points from Sam Thompson. UNC Asheville is the only Big South opponent that the Buckeyes will face this season, barring a postseason matchup.
Behind assistant coach Greg Paulus, Ohio State has been strong on defense all season, and are one of the best teams in the country in pulling down defensive rebounds, averaging nearly 30 per game. Their rebound margin is also well above average, as the Buckeyes grab an average of six rebounds per game more than opponents. Against the Penguins Tuesday, Ohio State brought down a season-high 42 defensive boards. Beyond rebounds, however, the Buckeyes have been absolutely stifling in total defense, holding all of their opponents thus far this season under 50 percent from the field--including UCLA, who is tops in the country in shooting percentage. The Buckeyes are also 22nd nationally in scoring defense, allowing just under 62 points per game.
Cast of characters
The lone consistent player on the Ohio State squad recorded his third double-double of the year versus the Penguins Tuesday with 11 points and 15 rebounds--12 of which came in the first half alone--on the night after scoring just four points against UCLA. He is an incredible asset to the Buckeye offense when he is able to control the ball down low. He also recorded three of the team’s nine blocks on the night on defense. With freshman center Micah Potter day-to-day with an ankle injury from Tuesday’s opening tip, Thompson could see more minutes or the season’s first start tonight against the Bulldogs.
It has been a rough season for the junior forward, who was rebounding from a stress fracture suffered over the summer when he injured his ankle early in the season. The Buckeyes missed Bates-Diop during his five game absence, but he has come back strong in the last couple of weeks, scoring in double-digits in three of four games coming off the bench. He does have room to continue to grow, as he has been ice cold from three-point range since the second game of the season. Bates-Diop was limited to just 17 minutes against Youngstown State, but his playing time should increase as he continues to recover.
The 6-foot-3 guard from Virginia has been the best all-around player for the Bulldogs thus far this season. A two-year starter for UNC Asheville, Thomas has come on strong early in the season, leading his team in scoring, rebounds, steals and field goal percentage. Averaging nearly 17 points per game, Thomas has been a formidable force from behind the arc, shooting 56 percent on the season. He is also on par with Lyle in assists with 5.9 per game so far this season.
The freshman guard from Cincinnati kept things close for UNC Asheville Monday night against UNC Greensboro, scoring a team-high 29 points and hitting two of his six three pointers late in the game to narrow the gap to three before UNC Greensboro put the game away. Overall on the season, he is second on the team in scoring, averaging 13.6 points per game along with 4.6 rebounds and 2.1 assists. He has scored in double figures on eight occasions this season, and has been getting more reliable with each game.
How to watch
Game time: 9 p.m. ET
Radio: 97.1 WBNS-FM