Northern Kentucky-Ohio St. Preview
After nearly pulling off a victory in one of the nation's toughest venues for opponents, Ohio State appears to have a good chance of bouncing back on its own home court against an inferior foe.
The fourth-ranked Buckeyes look for their 35th straight non-conference home victory Saturday in their first meeting with Northern Kentucky.
Ohio State (4-1) suffered its first loss Wednesday but it pushed second-ranked Duke's 96-game non-conference home winning streak to the brink. The Buckeyes led by as many as 10 in the second half but the Blue Devils went on a 20-7 run and eventually won 73-68
Coach Thad Matta, however, didn't find any solace in playing a tight game at Cameron Indoor Stadium, where a non-ACC team hasn't won since 2000.
"I'm not happy," Matta said. "I think that we go home and take a look at this thing and there's going to be some areas where we had chances to make plays and didn't make plays."
After holding Duke to 6-of-20 shooting in the first half, Ohio State allowed the Blue Devils to hit 58.1 percent of their shots in the second.
The Buckeyes also shot a season-low 33.8 percent, including 6-of-21 3-point shooting after hitting 47.8 percent of their 3-pointers in the first four games.
"If you had told me we were going to shoot 34 percent, I would have said we got ran out of the gym," Matta said.
Deshaun Thomas, who is among the nation's leading scorers at 22.4 points per game, scored 16 as foul trouble limited him to 30 minutes. The junior forward has expanded his game to include a potent 3-point shot, as he's hit 15 of 31 from long range. Thomas shot 34.0 percent from 3-point range in his first two seasons.
Fellow first-team all-Big Ten selection Aaron Craft is averaging 13.6 points and 4.4 assists, but struggled against the Blue Devils. He shot only 3 of 15 from the field with a season-low one assist and committed three turnovers - the same number he had in his first four games combined. He was 1 of 4 on 3-pointers after going 7 of 15 previously.
"They just stopped guarding me towards the end, going under ball screens and things," Craft said. "Just couldn't knock down shots. Sometimes, that happens."
The Norse (0-4) are still seeking a win in their first year as Division I basketball program, though losses to San Diego and Siena came by a combined eight points. Northern Kentucky is 6-25 all-time against Division I opponents, with its last victory coming against Tennessee State in 1984.
Ending the drought in Columbus seems unlikely considering the Buckeyes haven't lost a home game against a non-conference team since 2008, and are 71-2 against non-Big Ten schools at Ohio State since Matta took over in 2004-05.
Northern Kentucky senior guard Eshaunte Jones leads the team with an average of 15.8 points. The Nebraska transfer scored a game-high 24 in the Norse's last game, a 69-58 loss to Cal State Northridge in a NUCDF Basketball Challenge on Nov. 18.