Eagles Fly North to Battle Buckeyes

Posted by Michael in Hoops |

Buckeyes Out to Bag Birds
The No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes return to the hardwood at the Schottenstein Center tonight, hosting the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles for the first time. Maybe not the best time of year for birds to fly north. The Buckeyes (8-0) will have to be sharp to avoid this classic “trap game,” with the 7-1 South Carolina Gamecocks visiting Columbus on Saturday. Ohio State cannot look ahead to Saturday if it wants to improve to 9-0 and equal its second best start in the Thad Matta era.

Freshman forward / manchild Jared Sullinger leads the Buckeyes in scoring (18.0) and rebounding (9.3). The reigning Big Ten Player of the Week and Big Ten Freshman of the Week for the fourth time leads the Big Ten in free throws made (44) and attempted (64) this season, meaning he hasn’t found many opponents that can defend him cleanly. This trend should continue, since the Eagles don’t have a lot of interior size. FGCU’s post players include 6-7 junior center Tim Snyder and 6-6 redshirt sophomore forward Anthony Banks.

Senior forward David Lighty chips in 12.5 points per game and three other Buckeyes average double figures (junior guard William Bruford, 11.7; freshman forward Deshaun Thomas, 11.6; and senior guard Jon Diebler, 11.3). Buford leads the team in assists per game (4.0) and is second in rebounds (5.1), while senior center Dallas Lauderdale swats away 2.5 shots per game, defensively.

Matta was able to use his bench liberally in Sunday’s win over Western Carolina at St. John Arena, and he will likely continue to try to get some seasoning for his young bench as the Big Ten season approaches at the end of the month.

Florida Gulf Coast (2-5, 0-2 in the Atlantic Sun Conference), making its third stop on a four-game road trip, has lost four straight and is 1-4 on the road this season. The Eagles have played a Big Ten opponent, losing 88-60 at Indiana in their season opener on Nov. 12. Dave Balza, in his ninth season, is the only coach FGCU has ever known since its program began in 2002-03. It became a Division I program in 2007-08. Balza, a 1991 graduate of the dreaded school up north, has led his young program to a respectable 145-106 (.578 winning pct.).

Senior guard Reed Baker leads the Eagle attack, scoring 17.7 points per game. Baker is a legitimate 3-point threat, hitting nearly 40% of his shots from beyond the arc this season. Banks averages 15.4 points per outing and leads the team in rebounding (7.4 per game). Balza’s team likes to play a high tempo game, and the Eagles usually go about nine deep, with eight players averaging 10 or more minutes per game.

The game will be televised on the Big Ten Network with an early start time of 6:30 p.m.

Notes: Diebler needs just one 3-point field goal to tie former Indiana Hoosier A.J. Guyton for seventh on the Big Ten’s career list and remains on pace to catch Pete Lisicki, who made 332 for Penn State from 1994-98…The Buckeyes are 10-0 all-time against teams from the Atlantic Sun Conference…Sullinger is the first Buckeye to win Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors twice in the same season since Greg Oden in 2006-07, and with Thomas winning it once, Ohio State frosh have swept the award this season…Lauderdale is eight blocks shy of tying Brad Sellers for third in OSU history. Lauderdale has at least one block in every game this season.

 

Written by: Michael Citro | full bio

Michael is Director of OHD's Shooty Hoops Program, as well as an OSU grad and progressive rock enthusiast.

 

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