Jackson St.-Ohio St. Preview
Thad Matta's young Ohio State team survived its first test the last time it took the court, rallying from an early deficit to defeat a top 10 opponent.
It likely won't receive such a challenge against Jackson State.
In the first meeting between the programs, Matta's No. 3 Buckeyes look to become the third ranked team of the season to hand the Tigers a lopsided loss Friday night at Value City Arena.
Matta had the feeling his team, which has just one senior and one junior, was going to have its hands full Tuesday against seventh-ranked Florida. The Buckeyes, who have two starters returning from last season's 34-win team, fell behind 11-4 in the first five minutes before rallying for an 81-74 victory.
"I didn't know how we were going to play," Matta said. "But I thought we played with good composure. They knocked us early by making shots and our guys did a nice job of continuing to play and weathering the storm."
William Buford, the lone senior, led the way with 21 points and six rebounds, while preseason All-American Jared Sullinger finished with 16 points and six boards. Ohio State (2-0) did a solid job of protecting the ball, turning it over seven times while forcing 16 turnovers.
"As young as we are, we've only played two games," Sullinger said. "We're only going to get better and so are they. It's just a stepping stone."
Jackson State (0-3) also faced the Gators, and it didn't go well.
The Tigers opened their season last Friday with a 99-59 loss to Florida, shooting 34.0 percent and turning the ball over 24 times.
Jackson State followed with a 92-59 loss to then-No. 12 Baylor on Sunday to fall to 0-26 against ranked opponents since 1996. The Tigers have been outscored by an average of 38.0 points in losing their three games against top 10 teams.
Jackson State would figure to have a bit better luck against Wright State on Wednesday, but instead put together its worst performance of the season.
The Tigers shot 26.2 percent, missed 12 of 14 3-pointers and turned the ball over 21 times in a 56-39 loss. Senior Jenirro Bush, the team's leading scorer at 14.7 points per game, was the only player in double figures for Jackson State with 15.
The Buckeyes, meanwhile, had no such trouble against Wright State in their opener, winning 73-42 last Friday. Sullinger had 19 points and nine rebounds, while Buford had 13 points and four assists.
While Matta has relied heavily on Sullinger and Buford, sophomore Aaron Craft has also made big contributions in starting the first two games. He has combined for 23 points, 10 assists, six rebounds and six steals.
This will be the third of eight straight home games for Ohio State, which doesn't take to the road until visiting No. 12 Kansas on Dec. 10.
The Buckeyes have won 24 straight home games since a 60-57 loss to then-No. 4 Purdue on Feb. 17, 2010. They've also won 23 consecutive games at Value City Arena against non-conference opponents since falling 76-48 to West Virginia on Dec. 27, 2008.
Jackson State is 1-35 in non-conference road games since 2007-08.