Ohio State will face their last big test of their non-conference schedule today, as they’ll take on a North Carolina team that will be trying to rebound from Wednesday night’s 79-75 loss in Chapel Hill to Wofford. The Buckeyes will be looking to extend their winning streak to six games in a row, and secure their biggest win under Chris Holtmann.
After losing three of four games in late November, Ohio State has regrouped to win five in a row, with the latest victory being a 94-65 win over The Citadel. The Buckeyes never trailed in Tuesday night’s contest, leading 14-9 at the first television timeout, and eventually extending the lead to 44-23 at halftime. Tuesday night’s game was Ohio State’s 300th of the decade, and their 220th win during that span, making it the winningest decade in Ohio State history.
Keita Bates-Diop continued his outstanding early season, registering 17 points in just 18 mins. Kam Williams tied Bates-Diop for the team-high in Tuesday night’s contest, scoring 17 off the bench. Both C.J. Jackson and Andrew Dakich were able to join Bates-Diop and Williams in double figures on the score sheet for the Buckeyes in the easy victory.
This is the fourth year Ohio State has participated in the CBS Sports Classic, and the second time that the Buckeyes have faced North Carolina. In the inaugural edition of the classic in 2014, Ohio State fell to North Carolina 82-74 in Chicago. After beating Kentucky in 2015 in Brooklyn, the Buckeyes lost to UCLA 86-73 in Las Vegas last December.
Ohio State has struggled against teams ranked in the Associated Press Top 5, amassing a 37-68 record all-time. The last time Ohio State played a team in the Top 5 came in last year’s 2016 CBS Sports Classic, when they lost to UCLA. Ironically enough, the last time Ohio State beat a team ranked in the Top 5 also came in the 2015 CBS Sports Classic, when they took down Kentucky 74-67.
North Carolina isn’t likely to be ranked in the Top 5 when the new rankings are released, after the Tar Heels were shocked by Wofford 79-75 on Wednesday night. Not only did the loss to the Terriers snap a 23-game home winning streak for North Carolina, but it was the first loss at home by the Tar Heels to a non-conference foe since 2014.
The loss to Wofford spoiled the debut of Cameron Johnson, who was finally eligible for the Tar Heels after transferring from Pitt. The graduate transfer missed the first 11 games of the season with neck and knee injures. The senior averaged 11.9 points per game and 4.5 rebounds per game for Pitt last year, and should provide some depth for the Tar Heels at forward behind Theo Pinson and Kenny Williams.
While Ohio State will have to be aware of Johnson, they’ll need to pay even more attention to the duo of Joel Berry and Luke Maye, who make North Carolina tick. Berry is one of the best point guards in the country, while Maye provides a presence down low that many teams have a hard time slowing down. Ohio State is going to have to be at the top of their game if the want to slow the veteran duo down and possibly pull off the upset.
Numbers To Know
Ohio State has had little success over the years against North Carolina, posting just a 2-11 record against the Tar Heels. The last time these two teams faced each other was in the 2014 CBS Sports Classic, with North Carolina winning 82-74. Ohio State’s last win in the series came back in 1993, when the Buckeyes topped the Tar Heels 80-73 in the Midwest Regional in Lexington. Roy Williams has won all four games he has coached against Ohio State as North Carolina’s head coach.
After facing Gonzaga last month in the PK80 Classic in Portland, Ohio State will square off with the other half of the 2017 NCAA title game today. The last time Ohio State faced both national finalists from the previous year’s championship game was in 1993-94. That year Ohio State lost to North Carolina 81-68 in Chapel Hill, and later in the year fell to Michigan twice.
Today is the 3,000th game in North Carolina history, with the Tar Heels posting a 2,216-783 record in their previous 2,999 games. North Carolina is just the fifth team in history to play in 3,000 games, joining Kansas, Washington State, Oregon State, and Duke. By comparison, Ohio State has played in 2,725 games, posting a 1,653-1,072 record in 119 seasons of basketball.
Cast of characters
The junior forward has continued his torrid start to the season after spending much of last year on the shelf due to injury. Bates-Diop scored 17 points in Tuesday night’s win over The Citadel, and now has scored at least 17 in each of the last six games. There has only been one game this season in which Bates-Diop has scored less than 16 points, and that came in the loss to Gonzaga, where he scored just seven points in the blowout loss.
After a frustrating start to the season, Kam Williams has started to find his shot over the last three games. Williams has posted double figures in each of the last three games, with the 17 points that he scored on Tuesday night being his season-high. Prior to the contest against William & Mary two weeks ago, Williams had only reached double figures in one game this season, the opener against Robert Morris.
Joel Berry II
Even though North Carolina lost on Wednesday night, it wasn’t because of the senior guard’s effort. Berry eclipsed 20 points for the fourth time this season, scoring 23 in the loss. With nine points today against Ohio State, Berry will pass Kris Lang’s 1,392 career points on North Carolina’s all-time scoring list.
While Keita Bates-Diop has registered six double-doubles this season, North Carolina has their own double-double machine in Luke Maye, who has registered seven so far this season. After Maye’s 17 points and 14 rebounds in Wednesday’s loss to Wofford, Maye has now recorded double-doubles in four of the last five games. Of those seven double-doubles, on five occasions Maye has scored at least 20 points and pulled down at least 10 rebounds.
How to watch:
Game time: 1:30 p.m. ET
Radio: 97.1 WBNS-FM
Streaming: CBS Sports