No. 3 Ohio State (3-0) looks to sweep the Global Sports Shoot-out when the Buckeyes take on North Florida (1-3) Monday at The Schott in the first-ever meeting between the schools. I have lived in Florida since 1999 and have heard only rumors about a school called the University of North Florida. Apparently, it is located in Jacksonville, putting it about 90 minutes from where I have lived since 2004. And still I’m not familiar with it. The school is virtually unheard of, which I suppose is not surprising since it opened six years after I was born. Its mascot is the majestic osprey, which I do happen to see every morning on my drive to work. These birds of prey, somewhere between a hawk and an eagle, with lovely plumage and black markings around their eyes, can be seen each morning perched atop the light poles on the portion of the 417 that spans Lake Jesup. Ospreys are excellent at swooping down and catching fish, which they carry back atop the light poles, eviscerate and devour. We do not expect the North Florida Ospreys to eviscerate or devour our Buckeyes, but it is worth taking a look at their lineup.
The Ospreys will be playing their third consecutive game away from the friendly confines of UNF Arena, after falling 91-55 at Florida on Thursday and 75-62 at Miami Saturday. It will be their fourth road game in five outings (0-3 to date with the aforementioned losses, plus a loss at No. 17 Alabama). The lone UNF win came at home against the mighty Tigers of Savannah State, 62-57. Give the Ospreys some credit. They’re not ducking anyone (no bird pun intended). They’ll also play at Kansas State, Auburn and Virginia Tech, before commencing Atlantic Sun Conference play. They’ll take their paycheck, and their beating, thank you very much. Guard/forward Jerron Granberry (#15) returned to the starting lineup in Miami, after missing the Florida game with ankle injury. But even Granberry’s 12 points were in vain. Granberry, who is 6-4, is joined in the starting lineup by forward Andy Diaz (#21), forward David Jeune (#24), guard/forward Charles McRoy (#5) and guard Will Wilson (#4). All are juniors except McRoy, a sophomore.
The Ospreys are not a big squad. Diaz is the tallest starter and tied for the tallest player on the team, at 6-7. He leads UNF in scoring (12.0 ppg) and rebounding (6.3 rpg), and will have to be the focal point of the Buckeye defense. Jeune is 6-6, followed by McRoy (6-5), Granberry (6-4) and Wilson (5-11). While Ohio State is not as tall as last year, especially with Dallas Lauderdale on the court, they should not have a problem with UNF’s size. Granberry is the primary deep threat, shooting 39% beyond the arc and averaging 10 points per game. No one else hits more than a third of their long range attempts. North Florida plays its bench, with nine players averaging more than 18 minutes per game and a tenth at 10 minutes per game. One intriguing bench player is 6-3 junior guard Parker Smith (#3), a Tennessee State transfer, who started for Granberry against Florida and poured in 17 points, but that was on 4-14 shooting and only 2-11 from deep. Smith did get to the line often, where hit hit 7-7. He averages just a smidge under nine points per game in a reserve role. Sophomore forward Travis Wallace averages 10.3 points off the bench.
This game shouldn’t be close. This should be another romp for Ohio State. Still, there are things to learn and work on in these early games that could pay off as the season develops. Finding consistency in mid and long range jump shots is paramount. Improving on the glass is another. It’s also important to get lots of minutes for the youngsters, which means just about everyone. Shannon Scott is a very high risk/high reward player right now and must settle down, find his offense, and stop turning the ball over. Amir Williams should be working on his defense and footwork. Lenzelle Smith and Jordan Sibert must work on their defense and shooting. Sully and Craft must stay healthy and continue to improve. Buford needs to find a way to perform for the entire game, rather than disappearing for stretches. And Thad Matta needs to learn how to best deploy his troops, finding the best combinations for later.
North Florida averages only 55.8 points per game and shoots just 36% as a team. This is not the kind of squad you’d expect to give Ohio State trouble. If the Ospreys present any problems for the Buckeyes it probably doesn’t bode well for either Ohio State’s mentality for this particular contest or the season as a whole.
The action can be seen on the BTN at 8:30 pm (ET).