The Keydets of Virginia Military Institute leave the comfort of Lexington, Virginia, and invade The Schott for a pre-Thanksgiving tussle with the No. 3 Ohio State Buckeyes. VMI (3-1) will try to avoid being the 27th consecutive visiting team to lose at Ohio State (4-0). If they do so, they will avenge losses sustained in Columbus in 2006 and 2007, in the only previous meetings between the schools. The odds are against the Keydets, as Ohio State is 12-0 all-time against the Big South Conference.
VMI has won two straight games, and should be rested, not playing since Saturday at home, where they knocked off Maryland-Baltimore County, 84-79. The Keydets play a shot-launching style of basketball, so don’t look for long possessions. VMI average 88 points per game. By comparison, Ohio State averages 77 points. The Keydets scored triple digits in a win over something called Alice Lloyd, 101-74, and a season-opening win against The Citadel. Their only loss is to Air Force, on the road, when they were held to just 64 points.
Six players average double figures in scoring, led by senior guard Keith Gabriel (#21), with 19.3 ppg. Gabriel is VMI’s primary offensive weapon, and has attempted the most treys on the team (33) although he only hits a third of them (which makes Ohio State’s shooters jealous). Junior forward Stan Okoye (#11) is second in scoring at 16.3 points per game, and leads the squad in rebounding average (5.3 rpg). The other three starters – senior forward Ron Burks (#15), sophomore guard Rodney Glasgow (#1), and junior forward Nick Gore (#30) all average 10 points per game, as does freshman forward Jordan Weethee (#40).
This team, under seventh-year coach Duggar Baucom, will provide a stiffer test than the last two opponents, North Florida and Wright State. That said, none of VMI’s starters is taller than 6-6, though there is a bit more size on the bench. The Buckeyes, in the midst of three games this week, will likely run the offense through Jared Sullinger and William Buford, with Aaron Craft distributing as usual. Deshaun Thomas will play an inside/out game and Lenzelle Smith will play defense, rebound and fill in offensively wherever possible. The Buckeyes should substitute liberally throughout the game, to ease the burden on the starters in this brutal part of the schedule (three games in five days, and four in nine).
With 16 points Buford will pass Jerry Francis and Troy Taylor to move into 17th place on the all-time Ohio State scoring list. Depending on how the game goes, he might not be in the game long enough to score 16 points. We hope the Buckeyes start more quickly than they did against North Florida on Monday, when they struggled to separate from the Ospreys until after the midway point of the first half. The things to work on continue to be OUTSIDE SHOOTING, OUTSIDE SHOOTING AND OUTSIDE SHOOTING. Also, free throws. This game should not be close at the end, but VMI’s style could create problems for Ohio State if the Buckeyes continue to struggle shooting the basketball from the floor and the line.