The No. 7 Ohio State Buckeyes host Savannah State of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference at 7 tonight on BTN. The Buckeyes (6-1) and Tigers (5-4, 0-1 in the MEAC) have never met previously. Ohio State is 15-0 against teams currently representing the MEAC, with multiple wins over the likes of Coppin State, Delaware, and Florida A&M. Savannah State has won two of its last three, falling in its most recent game at home against Norfolk State, 55-45, back on Dec. 1. The Tigers have wins over Trinity Baptist, North Florida, Alabama State, Western Illinois and Robert Morris. If you’re looking for a comparable opponent on SSU’s schedule so far, it would have to be a 58-40 loss at Florida. The Tigers have also lost to Central Florida and Middle Tennessee.
The Tigers are led by senior forward Rashad Hassan (#22), who scores 13.2 points per game. The 6-7 Riverdale, GA native leads SSU in shooting percentage (58.1%) and averages 5.1 rebounds. He should be the focal point of Ohio State’s defense. Senior guard Preston Blackman chips in 11 points per game and leads the Tigers in assists (26). He also has the most three-pointers made (13) and attempted (48) but he’s only hitting at a 27.1% clip.
After Hassan and Blackman, it’s kind of a drop off in production to junior guard Stephen Wilson (#11) and his 6.2 points per outing. Wilson leads the team in steals (12) and is hitting 40% of his treys, but he’s only attempted 15 in nine games. Senior guard Cedric Smith (#5) and junior forward Jyles Smith (#44). Cedric is second among starters in average rebounds (6.0) and is second in steals (11), scoring 5.2 points per game. Jyles is a 6-8 blocking machine, with 30 swats on the season (3.3 per game). He averages 6.3 rebounds and 1.7 points.
Senior forward Arnold Louis (#34) is playing 23.4 minutes per contest off the bench, averaging 5.3 points and a team high 6.4 rebounds. We’ll also see junior guard Deven Williams (#20), an Indianapolis native averaging 5.3 points and 14 minutes. In fact, we’ll see basically everyone on the Tigers roster. SSU coach Horace Broadnax, a member of the great mid-80s Georgetown teams, uses his entire bench nearly every game. Broadnax’s team is a veteran one, although they should be out-gunned by the Buckeyes.
Savannah State wins if…it can hold Ohio State to less than 60 points. The Tigers allow 53 points per game and held Florida to 58 in Gainesville. Still, I think SSU would have to improve on its dreadful 27.6% shooting beyond the arc and clean up its horrific 17.1 turnovers per game. If the Tigers aren’t careful, Aaron Craft will have ALL OF THE STEALS. On the other hand, however, SSU forces 14 turnovers on average, so the Buckeyes can’t afford to be sloppy or lethargic with the basketball.
Ohio State wins if…it maintains the status quo. The Buckeyes should have too much firepower for the Tigers. With Trey McDonald pushing for more playing time, I expect Evan Ravenel and Amir Williams to step up their games. If the inside guys do their job this shouldn’t be a close game. Ohio State’s perimeter players should have an edge on both ends of the floor. The Buckeye guards should create turnovers that lead to easy baskets. Even if Savannah State keeps the game close in the first half, I expect the Buckeyes to wear the Tigers down after the break and pull away.
Notes: Ohio State has won 36 consecutive non-conference games in Columbus, dating back to a Dec. 27, 2008 loss to West Virginia…Deshaun Thomas will pass Ken Johnson and Jamie Skelton for 44th on the OSU career scoring list with 15 more points…Thomas is closing in on the 400-rebound mark, needing 17 more to reach that milestone…Craft needs nine steals to tie David Lighty for second in OSU history, with 191…Thad Matta is seven games shy of 300 games coached at Ohio State.