After opening up their Big Ten schedule with an 84-74 win over Minnesota on Sunday evening, Ohio State’s men’s basketball team jumps back out of conference tonight to host the Miami (OH) RedHawks. Tonight’s matchup marks the 10th meeting between the in-state foes, with the Buckeyes holding a 7-2 edge in the series. The last time the teams met saw Ohio State beat the RedHawks 72-59 in the 2017-18 season. Aside from Miami winning the first game between the schools in 1916, their only other win came in 1993 when they defeated the Buckeyes 56-53 in the first round of the NIT.
Since losing to Texas A&M in the second game of the season, Ohio State enters tonight’s contest riding a six-game winning streak. In their last time on the court, the Buckeyes never trailed against Minnesota, scoring 42 points in each half to down the Golden Gophers. Not only did Jamison Battle put home a season-high 25 points against his former team, Bruce Thornton added a team-high 26 points in the victory, and Roddy Gayle Jr. scored 16 points on Sunday night. Ohio State blocked six shots in the game, with five of those swats coming from Felix Okpara, tying his career-high.
With his performance against the Golden Gophers, Thornton has now scored in double figures in seven of eight games this season, and cracked the 20-point mark in three of the last four games. After scoring 26 points on Sunday night, Thornton surpassed 500 career points in the scarlet and gray. Thornton is not only filling it up in the scoring column, he is also doing a great job at finding his teammates, registering at least five assists in a game for the fifth time this season.
Miami comes to Columbus on a two-game winning streak after beating Marshall 79-74 on Saturday. The RedHawks led 77-59 with just over three minutes left in the second half before the Thundering Herd were able to go on a 15-2 run to close the gap before the game ended. Miami was able to earn the victory because of their ability to hit shots from beyond the arc, netting 13 of their 26 three-point attempts. Mekhi Cooper led the RedHawks with a career-high 17 points in the win, while Evan Ipsaro added 16 points, and Bradley Dean scored 14 points in 22 minutes off the bench.
With the win, Miami is now 4-3 on the season, with their losses coming to Evansville, Texas State, and St. Bonaventure. The RedHawks are coached by former Xavier coach Travis Steele, who is in his second season in Oxford. During his four seasons at Xavier after replacing Chris Mack, Steele posted a 70-50 record, and he was 12-20 last year in his debut season at Miami. Steele is hoping to bring the RedHawks back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2007. Along with coaching at two Division I programs in Ohio, Steele is the brother of former Ohio State assistant coach and current Akron head coach John Groce.
Through seven games this season, Miami is led in scoring by Darweshi Hunter, who is averaging 13.4 points per game. The senior guard is also second on the team with 5.1 rebounds per contest. Oddly enough, Hunter has been at his best this year in Miami’s losses, with his three highest scoring outputs of the season all coming in the three setbacks the RedHawks have suffered. This is Hunter’s first season in Oxford after spending the last two at Northern Illinois.
Along with Hunter, Miami has a couple freshmen at guard that are averaging at least 24 minutes per game this year. Evan Ipsaro is second on the team in scoring, averaging 9.1 points per game, and Mekhi Cooper is right behind Cooper, scoring 8.9 points per game. On Saturday night, Ipsaro hit four three-pointers, which is the most of his young career. Cooper will likely enter tonight’s game with a ton of confidence after leading the RedHawks in scoring against the Thundering Herd.
In the frontcourt, center Jaquel Morris will have his hands full with Felix Okpara and Zed Key. Miami doesn’t look for Morris to do a ton of the offensive end, instead hoping the sophomore big man makes a difference on the defensive end of the floor. So far this year, Morris has blocked at least two shots in over half of Miami’s games. Along with Morris, Bryce Bultman will also try and make a difference in the paint. The graduate transfer in his first season with the RedHawks after spending four years at Division-II McKendree University.
Tonight will mark the third game this season Ohio State has played against a team from the MAC. In their first two games against teams from the conference this year, the Buckeyes have had little trouble, beating Western Michigan and Central Michigan by a combined 44 points. As long as the Buckeyes aren’t looking ahead to Saturday’s Big Ten game at Penn State, Chris Holtmann’s team shouldn’t have much trouble with the RedHawks.
So far this year Miami hasn’t played all that tough of a schedule and they have still lost three games. If the RedHawks can’t beat teams like Texas State and Evansville, they are going to have a lot of trouble against an Ohio State team that is gaining confidence with each game. Bruce Thornton is playing like a leader, Roddy Gayle Jr. is consistently getting better, Jamison Battle provides a veteran presence, and Felix Okpara and Zed Key are a force in the paint. The Buckeyes are going to overwhelm a Miami team that can struggle to score at times.
ESPN BPI: Ohio State 92.7%
Time: 7:00 p.m. ET