With a rebound win against the Fairleigh Dickinson Knights Saturday, the Ohio State Buckeyes men’s basketball team has risen to a 7-1 record on the season, including a 6-0 mark at home in Columbus. Tonight, the team hopes to make it two-straight as they face the Florida Atlantic Owls of Conference USA for the first time in program history.
After a narrow, two-point loss against then-No. 6 Virginia, Ohio State experienced somewhat of a letdown against the Knights, with junior guard Kam Williams pointing out that “we don’t have that sense of urgency” in that the team plays down to its opponents. And while players like Marc Loving stepped up, scoring a team-high 18 points on the night, others--namely JaQuan Lyle--left the team wanting. Free throws and turnovers remained a problem for the Buckeyes, as they missed 9-of-21 from the line and gave the ball up on 14 occasions. Still, the team had some positive points on the day, shooting 40 percent from behind the arc Saturday, with Kam Williams hitting three of the team’s six three-pointers.
Florida Atlantic sits at 2-5 on the season. The Owls are on a two-game skid, most recently losing an eight-point heartbreaker to Hofstra in which five Florida Atlantic players scored in double figures. The team is 0-2 on the road so far this season, including a one-point loss to UT-Martin in the final seconds of play. While the Owls were able to effectively spread the ball around, head coach Michael Curry cited a lack of “toughness and attitude”--mental mistakes--in costing his team the game.
Ohio State will need to take care of business against Florida Atlantic before turning their attention to a tough, two-game stretch featuring Uconn Saturday and No. 2 UCLA next week. Both games will be at home in Columbus.
Numbers to know
Ohio State’s record versus current members of Conference USA, which includes a win over the Marshall Thundering Herd earlier this season (which brought Ohio State’s all-time record against Marshall to 2-0). The conference itself has been no pushover, and the Buckeyes have all-time losing records against two of its members. While it is the first time the Buckeyes have faced the Owls, who have been a member of the conference since 2013, half of Ohio State’s Conference USA matchups have been with Western Kentucky (2-1) and Louisiana Tech (1-2). Last season, Florida Atlantic finished 12th in the 13 team conference, and lost following the play in round of their conference tournament.
The Buckeyes are pulling down an average of more than 29 defensive rebounds per game, which ranks among the best in the country in the category. Unfortunately, Ohio State ranks near the bottom of the NCAA in terms of offensive rebounds per game, averaging just 10.38 per game (good for a tie for 204th in the country). Thus far this season, Ohio State has been relying on defensive prowess as opposed to offensive finesse in staying in and winning games, with much of that originating with winning at the boards defensively. This stat will prove crucial down the line in keeping the Buckeyes in close games as Ohio State faces tough competition in the Big Ten.
Ohio State center Trevor Thompson recorded his first double-double of the season following his 10-point, 13-rebound performance coming off the bench against Fairleigh Dickinson. He also had five blocks and two assists on the day to round out quite a solid stat line on the day. Thompson is the first Buckeye since Shannon Scott in 2012 to record a double-double coming off the bench. It was the fourth career double-double for Thompson at Ohio State. His performance Saturday was also matched by fellow Buckeye Jae’Sean Tate, who had a double-double of his own with a dozen points and rebounds, each.
Cast of characters
The seven-footer’s performance Saturday elevated an Ohio State team that had largely been struggling to pull away from Fairleigh Dickinson in the first half. With the Buckeyes only leading by one at the break, Thompson started the second half in place of freshman center Micah Potter, who finished the game with two points and two rebounds. Thompson has been a key factor off the bench for the Buckeyes this season, averaging 9.6 points along with 7.8 rebounds and leading the team with 2.3 blocks per game.
With five of the team’s 14 turnovers, the sophomore point guard has struggled immensely in the past two games for Ohio State, and has officially overtaken Marc Loving as the team’s leader in turnovers. While C.J. Jackson has managed some strong performances off the bench, Lyle has been the unquestioned starter at point guard, and needs to begin to bring more consistency to the position which has been severely lacking in his time at Ohio State. Lyle’s seven points and five assists against Fairleigh Dickinson won’t cut it when it comes time for conference play.
Though his scoring has been inconsistent--ranging from four points in the team’s opener against Texas State to 22 points in their loss to Hawaii--he remains Florida Atlantic’s leading scorer, rebounder and blocker with 12.2 points, 9.4 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game. He is also the team’s most consistent shooter from the field, hitting 62.7 percent of field goals. However, he tends to get into foul trouble, recording four personal fouls in four games so far this season. The seven-foot center earned a starting role for the Owls in the middle of last season, when he was also the team’s leading scorer.
The freshman forward has blossomed into one of the leading scorers for Florida Atlantic this season. A star wide receiver in high school, Ingram received football scholarship offers from the likes of Florida State, Mississippi State and N.C. State, but opted instead to play basketball for Florida Atlantic. After opening the season scoring just six points total in his first three games, he has scored in double-digits in four-straight matchups, shooting nearly 69 percent from the field in the process. He led the Owls in scoring against Hofstra Saturday with 19 points, recording seven rebounds in the process.
How to watch
Game time: 7 p.m. ET
Radio: 97.1 FM