The Ohio State men’s basketball team is back in action after defeating Merrimack 76-54 last Wednesday. They will welcome in the Western Michigan Broncos as they start the Emerald Coast Classic.
The Buckeyes (2-1) will face the Broncos (0-3) in the campus game of the Emerald Coast Classic. Following this game, the Buckeyes will head to Northwest Florida State College in Niceville, Florida, to play No. 22 Alabama on Friday and either Oregon or Santa Clara on Saturday.
The Buckeyes bounced back from a close loss to No. 13 Texas A&M, who are coming off solid wins over SMU and Oral Roberts, with a win over Merrimack to start a winning streak heading into the Western Michigan game.
For the first time all season, the Buckeyes were able to pull away and win a game by double digits, and they will look to continue the momentum of a 24-2 run in the second half of the game against the Warriors.
Let’s take a look at the Western Michigan Broncos.
It has been a weird start to the season for Western Michigan. They are winless, but they haven’t lost a game by more than seven points and have played some solid opponents so far, including a 63-59 loss to Northwestern in its last game.
The Broncos have also lost to North Dakota State 80-76 and Georgia State 77-70.
They are led by sophomore guard Seth Hubbard, who is averaging 14.7 points per game. Senior center Titus Wright is averaging 9.0 points per game and 7.3 rebounds per game, and Graduate senior forward Anthony Crump is leading the team with 7.7 rebounds per game.
B. Artis White scored 20 points in the Broncos’ first game but has missed the last two due to an injury sustained in that first game against North Dakota State. He is questionable for this contest and would provide a huge scoring spark to the Broncos if he is able to go.
Western Michigan lost a lot of talent from a team that only went 8-23 last season and 4-14 in the conference. Lamar Norman, who averaged 17.3 points per game, Tray Maddox, who averaged 12.5 points and 3.8 rebounds per game, and Markeese Hastings, who averaged 8.3 points and 9.3 rebounds per game, have all left Kalamazoo, and it has made for a big hill to climb for new head coach Dwayne Stephens in just his second season.
For Ohio State, Roddy Gayle was the standout against Merrimack, tying his career high in points with 20, going 8-for-12 from the field, and providing a scoring spark and efficiency that hasn’t been there yet from him.
Jamison Battle added 13 points, while Zed Key added 11 points and 12 rebounds to secure his first double-double of the season. Battle struggled from the field for much of the game but got hot late, helping the Buckeyes pull away.
Bruce Thornton and Gayle are leading the way in scoring for the Buckeyes so far this season, with Thornton averaging 16.3 points per game and Gayle averaging 15.3 points per game. Gayle is also averaging 6.3 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game.
Key is nearly averaging a double-double, averaging 12.0 points and 9.0 rebounds per game in 24 minutes per game off the bench. Battle is averaging 10.7 points and 5.0 rebounds per game.
There are plenty of teams in the Mid-American Conference capable of upsetting more talented teams. Akron, Toledo, Kent State, and others have created headaches for coaches over the last three to four years.
However, Western Michigan is not one of those teams. They are at the bottom of the league and have been for a good, long while now, and it doesn’t look like they will be getting out of the cellar anytime soon
This is a game I could see being similar to Merrimack. A fairly close game for much of the first half, with the Buckeyes pulling away in the second half and winning comfortably. With the next two games coming up against a ranked team in Alabama and another solid team in either Oregon or Santa Clara, the Buckeyes need to handle the Broncos swiftly to head Florida fresh and ready for two games in two days.
ESPN BPI: Ohio State 95.3%
Time: 4:00 p.m. ET
TV: Big Ten Network