NCAA BK

North Florida-Ohio St. Preview

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Ohio State hasn't been overly impressive during a mostly soft early schedule.

Fortunately for the seventh-ranked Buckeyes, they'll get one more crack at a lesser opponent before a marquee matchup next week.

Seeking a 42nd consecutive non-conference home win, Ohio State again tries to get its offense on track Friday against North Florida.

The Buckeyes (5-0) started their season with an 89-50 blowout of Morgan State. They also held an offensively challenged Marquette squad to 18.9 percent shooting in a 52-35 road victory on Nov. 16.

In their three other games, however, they've won by an average 12.0 points against Ohio, American and Wyoming.

"Obviously, we haven't probably played as great as we'd want to," senior point guard Aaron Craft said. "But it's November still. We're only five games in. There's a lot of basketball to be played. The biggest thing we want to do is come out every day and get better."

Ohio State, which hosts Maryland as part of the ACC-Big Ten Challenge on Wednesday, trailed Wyoming by four with just over 14 minutes left Monday before a late run helped it pull away for a 65-50 victory.

Craft came alive late, scoring all 10 of his points in a span of less than 7 minutes midway through the second half.

"Aaron really kind of took things over there," coach Thad Matta said. "We went to him down the stretch and he was as good as he could be."

Craft has been emblematic of the team's offensive woes, shooting 37.8 percent. He hasn't made a 3-pointer on seven attempts after entering as a career 34.1 percent shooter from beyond the arc, and has scored more than 10 only once.

Ohio State ranks last in the Big Ten in field goal percentage (41.8) and is shooting 25.3 percent from 3-point range in its last four games. However, the Buckeyes have been able to compensate with excellent defense, holding opponents to 34.7 percent shooting including a 19.0 percent clip from 3-point range, which both rank among the nation's best marks.

Wyoming missed its last 11 shots and failed to convert a basket in the final 10:01, finishing with 16 second-half points - the second time an Ohio State opponent has been held below 20 points in the final 20 minutes.

North Florida (4-3) has reeled off three straight victories since a 1-3 start. The Ospreys are 0-15 all-time against ranked squads but competed well in a 77-69 loss at then-No. 10 Florida on Nov. 8 after losing their previous 14 games against Top 25 squads by an average of 31.7 points.

Dallas Moore and Travis Wallace combined for 35 points for a 65-61 road win at Savannah State on Tuesday, completing a series sweep after a 66-63 home victory last week.

Ohio State won the only previous meeting, 85-50 on Nov. 21, 2011. Senior guard Lenzelle Smith Jr. - then a sophomore - recorded seven points, five rebounds, five assists and three steals.

The Buckeyes are 13-0 all-time against Atlantic Sun teams and are 83-1 in non-conference home games against unranked opponents since 2004-05. The lone defeat during that span was a 76-48 loss to West Virginia on Dec. 27, 2008.

Tagged: Ohio State, Florida, Ohio, Wyoming, North Florida, Aaron Craft

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