The No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes (10-1) turn their attention to the Lamar Cardinals (8-3) out of the Southland Conference, winners of four straight, including an 87-81 win at Rice on Saturday. For the uninitiated, Lamar is a public university located in Beaumont, Texas, with a student body of about 14,500. Lamar has been particularly adept at turning out interesting alumni for such a small school, giving us the likes of Janis Joplin, the Big Bopper and activist Karen Silkwood, the title subject of Meryl Streep’s 1983 movie. In the sporting world, Lamar has given us Bum Phillips, Billy Tubbs and Kevin Millar, among others. #TheMoreYouKnow The Cardinals are coached by Pat “Son of Bob” Knight and the Buckeyes will officially recognize their famously temperamental alum and former 1960 National Championship team member at the game. The Buckeyes look to win their third straight game in this penultimate non-conference contest. BTN has the game at 8:30 p.m.
This will be the first meeting between the two schools. It’s the second game in a three-game road trip for Lamar, which won the 900th game in program history at Rice (that’s two fewer than Pat Knight’s dad). After Columbus, the Cardinals will visit No. 3 Kentucky, so Lamar isn’t ducking anyone. Lamar is 0-1 against Top 25 opponents, falling by 20 at No. 8 Louisville earlier this year. Two days later the Cardinals took Ohio University to overtime before losing, 85-78. The Cardinals are 3-3 on the road this year. Looking at the only common opponent, Lamar defeated Texas-Pan American 60-49 at home on Dec. 5. Lamar returns four starters and 10 letterman from the 2010-11 squad that finished 13-17 (7-9 in Southland play) and eighth in its conference.
Four Lamar starters average double figures in scoring, led by 6-1 senior guard Anthony Miles (#1) at 16.1 points per game. The Houston native is a good rebounder for his size (4.1 RPG), averages four assists per game and is hitting 54.2% outside the arc (13-24). His matchup with Aaron Craft will be an interesting one to watch. Miles’ backcourt partner Mike James (#5) is another 6-1 senior guard, averaging 13.9 points. But James has hit only 8-32 outside the arc (25%) this season. Devon Lamb (#4) rounds out a trio of starting senior guards, pouring in 11.1 points per game. The 6-2 Jacksonville, Florida native is the team’s leader in rebounds per game (8.8) and steals (24).
In the front court, 6-5 senior forward Charlie Harper (#21) is paired with 6-9 Nikko Acosta (#2), a junior transfer from Gulf Coast Community College, who started his collegiate career at Florida A&M. Harper, who shares a name with Charlie Sheen’s most famous TV character, is third in scoring (11.5 PPG) and second in rebounding (7.7 RPG) on the Cardinals, while Acosta is averaging only a point, a rebound and 9.5 minutes per game. Listed as a guard at 6-6, Brandon Davis (#20) is an important role player for Lamar, jacking 56 treys on the year (more than five per game), hitting 19 of them (33.9%). Davis averages nine points per game. After Davis, there is significant falloff in point production, but four other Cardinals play 10 or more minutes per game.
Lamar is #34 in the RPI (Ohio State is #28), and the Cardinals average 74 points per game, allowing 66. They get after the glass, to the tune of 42.7 rebounds per game—good for third in the country. You may recall that Ohio State had difficulty with another good rebounding team recently in South Carolina-Upstate. Lamar doesn’t shoot particularly well (40.8%) but they defend well and are holding their opponents below that. Ohio State hasn’t played particularly well in the past few games and will need to improve to keep Lamar from hanging around. The turnover problems of the past few games were better in the second half at South Carolina, as was the shooting percentage. The Buckeyes have seemed to find a new go-to player in Deshaun Thomas when Jared Sullinger isn’t available and William Buford’s shots aren’t falling. Thomas has averaged 20 points in the last five games, dating back to his coming-out party against Duke.
The Buckeyes may be without Sullinger again, after he sustained a foot contusion in Saturday’s road win at South Carolina. Thad Matta said Monday he expects Sully to play, despite the fact that Sullinger was on crutches just 48 hours earlier. Evan Ravenel and Amir Williams may be counted on to eat some of his minutes. We still have not seen LaQuinton Ross make his Ohio State debut and it looks like Matta is very gently easing him along. The Buckeye bench did not see much action on Saturday, and Matta continues to tease us by sparingly using players such as Sam Thompson and J.D. Weatherspoon. My personal belief is that Shannon Scott needs to play more minutes to preserve Craft’s health through the conference schedule and beyond.
Ohio State will wrap up the non-conference part of the schedule Thursday against Miami of Ohio.
Notes: If you had Deshaun Thomas as your pick to be the first Buckeye to win B1G Player of the Week honors this season, you’re a damn liar, but that is what happened this week…Thomas has scored in double figures in 10 straight games… Buford needs 10 points to pass Perry Carter for ninth on the all-time OSU scoring list and 19 to pass Dave Sorenson for eighth…Buford needs five assists to become just the fourth Buckeye to amass 1,000 points, 500 rebounds and 300 assists (Jim Jackson, Evan Turner, David Lighty)…Ohio State will seek its 32nd consecutive home win…Craft is one of nearly 60 candidates for the Bob Cousy Award, given to the nation’s top point guard.
I’m leaving you with picture of Hedley Lamarr, just because. You’re welcome.