Ohio State tips off its second game in as many days today at 4:30 p.m. on ESPN2, taking on the Washington Huskies out of the Pac-12. The Buckeyes (2-0) struggled at times in yesterday’s Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off opener against winless Rhode Island (0-3), but pulled away down the stretch to win 69-58. Deshaun Thomas led the way with a double-double, scoring 25 points to go with 10 rips. Washington (2-1) got to today’s game by beating Seton Hall in overtime, 84-73. The Huskies’ lone loss on the season was a 63-62 heartbreaker on their own floor against Ohio State’s first victim, Albany. Washington holds an 8-3 overall record against Ohio State, but the teams haven’t met since 1972.
The Buckeyes used a 7-0 run at the end of the first half yesterday to turn a 26-23 deficit into a 30-26 lead. Thomas hit 17 of his 25 points after the break and Lenzelle Smith Jr. added 10 of his 15 in the second half to lead Ohio State against a pesky Rams team that had a lot of home support with them at Mohegan Sun Arena. Aaron Craft chipped in 13 points, four assists, two steals and two rebounds. The two-headed pivot monster—Evan Ravenel and Amir Williams—combined for five points and seven rebounds.
Rhode Island trailed by only six with under seven minutes remaining but Tank scored seven points in a 12-4 OSU run to gain some separation. The Rams provided a good test for the young Buckeyes, changing defenses often to cause the OSU offense problems. Xavier Munford led four Rams in double figures with 16 points. Rhode Island only had three players in double figures in its first two games.
The Huskies used only seven players in yesterday’s overtime win over Seton Hall in the late game. That may play into Ohio State’s favor today. Five of those players saw 30 or more minutes. Senior guard Scott Suggs (#15) hit two of his three triples in overtime to help the Huskies pull away. Senior guard Abdul Gaddy (#0) led Washington with 16 points, which is right on his team-leading scoring average of 16.3 points per game. Gaddy and Suggs (10 PPG) aren’t the only starters averaging double figures for Washington. Junior guard C.J. Wilcox (#23) averages 14.7 points, and senior center Aziz N’Diaye (#5) averages a double-double with 12.3 points and 12 rebounds. I expect the big Senegal native to create problems for Ohio State inside. Freshman forward Jernard Jarreau (#33), a 6-10, 220-pounder, rounds out the starting lineup, averaging five points and 3.7 boards.
Washington’s key reserves are Desmond Simmons (#30), a 6-7 sophomore forward averaging nine points and seven rebounds, and the redundantly named Andrew Andrews (#12), a freshman guard from Portland, who chips in 8.7 points and 2.7 assists per outing.
Ohio State will be challenged by Washington’s size inside. However, the Buckeyes should be at an advantage if they can summon the energy to keep up their defensive pressure in the second game on back-to-back days, because the Huskies were pushed in their late game with Seton Hall. The fact that Washington didn’t go very deep into its bench may wear down the Huskies in the second half. This might be one of those games were Ohio State falls behind but comes back down the stretch.
Ohio State wins if…multiple Huskies get into foul trouble early. Ohio State must stay close to Washington on the glass and shoot no lower than 46%. Ravenel and Williams must combine for a dozen rebounds or the Washington bigs will prevent second-chance OSU points and get easy put-backs. My gut tells me that Ravenel/Williams really have to hit the glass in this game, at a rate we’ve not yet seen this season.
Washington wins if…the Huskies can hold the Ravenel/Williams pairing under eight points and 10 rebounds, shoot well from outside when the Buckeyes collapse defensively, and stay out of foul trouble. The Huskies can maximize their chance of victory if they can get Thomas into foul trouble. Tank will be tested, going up against a team with a big front court.
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