Wyoming-Ohio St. Preview
Ohio State coach Thad Matta probably can't complain too much about his team's defense.
The Buckeyes' shooting is another story.
The seventh-ranked Buckeyes again try to find their touch when they host hot-shooting Wyoming on Monday night.
Ohio State (4-0) has traditionally been one of the stingiest defensive teams in the nation, and this season has been no exception. The Buckeyes are allowing an average of 51.5 points and 34.4 percent shooting - two of the best marks in the country.
Unfortunately, they've been putting up similar numbers on offense the last two weeks.
Since beating Morgan State 89-50 in its opener, Ohio State is shooting 39.5 percent - including 21.2 percent from 3-point range.
"Shooting can be contagious," Matta said after his team made a season-low 35.7 percent in a 63-52 win over American on Wednesday. "I would like this team to be able to shoot the 3 at a higher percentage.
"A lot of shooting is confidence and having the metal toughness to step up and consistently do things right."
A couple of senior starters have been in the middle of Ohio State's shooting woes. Guard Aaron Craft, a career 45.1 percent shooter, is at 34.5 and swingman Lenzelle Smith Jr. has made five of 16 shots in the last three games after going 7 of 11 against Morgan State.
Junior guard Shannon Scott has been a bright spot offensively for the Buckeyes, who have won 70 consecutive home games over unranked opponents. Scott is shooting 54.3 percent and averaging 12.5 points - 7.6 better than his sophomore season.
"We have to keep coming into practice every day and putting shots up in order to make those game-time shots," he said.
The Cowboys (4-1) are having no such trouble with their long-range accuracy, connecting on 41.9 percent of their 3s. Wyoming was 9 of 17 from beyond the arc in Friday's 70-53 win over South Dakota and shot 50.0 percent overall - its third straight game hitting at least half its shots.
Riley Grabau, averaging a team-best 15.6 points, went 4 of 5 on 3-pointers and scored a season-high 20.
''I was feeling just like every other game, feeling good,'' said the junior guard, shooting 60.9 percent (14 of 23) from 3-point range. ''My teammates trust me in taking that shot, so that takes a lot of pressure off me. They give me the ball in the right place and I just knock it down.''
Playing in Columbus will be a homecoming of sorts for Larry Nance Jr. and seldom used junior Jack Bentz, who both hail from Ohio. Nance, whose father was a three-time NBA All-Star playing for Cleveland and Phoenix, is averaging 11.8 points, 54.3 percent shooting and a team-high 8.4 rebounds.
"It is on to the Buckeyes - the (seventh)-ranked team in the country," Wyoming coach Larry Shyatt said. "It is a great opportunity for us to play a team of this caliber."
The Cowboys have rarely been up to such a challenge, however. They've lost their last seven games against top 10 teams by an average of 19.8 points since beating then-No. 6 Gonzaga in the first round of the 2002 NCAA tournament. They went 2-3 against Top 25 foes last season.
Wyoming defeated Ohio State 73-67 in their last meeting in the 1995 Casper Shootout.