Ohio State’s quest to shoot all the hoops continues on Saturday afternoon when it hosts the UNC Asheville Bulldogs. The hoops will be shot on the Big Ten Network with a noon tip-off. Be there, or be square.
Ohio State basketball is no stranger to UNC Asheville. The two programs played each other in the first round of the 2008 National Invitational Tournament, back when Godzilla was playing center for the Bulldogs. Ohio State, which had no post presence that year of which to speak, nevertheless prevailed in that game, 84-66, en route to winning its second ever NIT tournament. UNC Asheville again visited Ohio State the following year, sans Godzilla. Ohio State won that game running away, 83-59. The last meeting came in the 2010-11 season, when the #2 Buckeyes put the Bulldogs on full blast again, winning 96-49.
Every team is different, though. This year, the Bulldogs have turned some heads with their non-conference play. It’s a bit trendy to say Ohio State could be on upset alert, given how UNC Asheville took NC State to the wire in a 82-80 loss. UNC Asheville has some other “presentable losses” as well, losing 72-67 to Providence, and 75-68 to Tennessee. Even losing by 19 to Akron seems justifiable, given how above average Akron has been this year. However, UNC Asheville is just 3-6 on the season, including losses to teams like South Carolina Upstate and North Carolina Wilmington. Two of its wins were against non-D1 schools, Montreat College and Lenoir Rhyne. The other win was the season opener against Western Carolina. So, yes, “upset alert” could be sort of appropriate, as UNC Asheville has those “respectable losses” on file and is the back-to-back Big South Champion. It could also not be.
Expect to see a lot of players on the court for UNC Asheville (though obviously not all at once). Junior center DJ Cunningham (#33) may garner some attention from the casual Buckeye fan. Not only is Cunningham 8.8ppg and 5.4rpg at a position where Ohio State fans wonder how good our players are at the pivot, but he is from Waterford, Ohio as well. Senior forward Jeremy Atkinson (#15) is a bit undersized (6’4), but leads the Bulldogs with 18.1ppg and 7.1rpg. UNC Asheville lacks some height at forward, but have rather tall guards. Keith Hornsby (#4) is 6’4 and does a bit of everything for the Bulldogs’ offense. He averages 12.1ppg, shooting 50% from the field and 46.7% from behind the arc. He chips in with about three rebounds per game and three assists per game. The 6’3 Trent Meyer (#55) adds 11.1ppg, 4.1rpg and 3.9apg. Jon Nwannunu (#35) should round out the starting five, playing power forward. He averages 7.9ppg and 4.9rpg. Will Weeks (#32) (7.2ppg, 3.8rpg) should be the first frontcourt player off the bench. Freshman Marcus Neely (#2) (2.2ppg, 2.2rpg) should be the first guard off the bench.
This is basically a ceteris paribus game. Ohio State should win just by showing up, though hopefully will not take the occasion lightly. Shooty hoops live blogs, like the one posted below, are the most enjoyable when the gang (of about four) starts talking about other stuff, or when I start threatening to set Eric, from The Buckeye Battle Cry, on fire for crimes against dreaminess.