(AP) — Ohio State has already faced its share of elite opponents this season, having already played three games against ranked teams.
After a big win against a Top 25 foe in their last contest, the No. 15 Buckeyes will try to avoid a letdown when they host Eastern Michigan on Saturday.
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Ohio State (6-1) has won four straight since a four-point loss to then-No. 6 North Carolina on Nov. 19. Two of those victories came against ranked opponents – 76-70 over then-13th ranked California on Nov. 20 and a 77-64 defeat of No. 21 Florida State on Wednesday.
The Buckeyes’ victory over the Seminoles gave the Big Ten its first win in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge in 11 tries.
“It does, I guess,” coach Thad Matta said when asked if the win meant a little extra. “It’s so hard because the Big Ten is a great conference and the ACC is a great conference. It’s a unique situation for early in the year. I’m proud of our guys that on Dec. 2 we’ve played three Top 25 teams already.”
Ohio State forced a season-high 20 turnovers while limiting the Seminoles to two 3-pointers on 16 attempts. Florida State scored just 20 points in the opening half.
Evan Turner keyed the offense, scoring 25 points on 10 of 17 from the field to go along with 13 rebounds and six assists. He’s recorded a double-double in five of his six games and continues to be especially effective against Top 25 opponents. Turner is averaging 24.7 points against ranked teams compared to 17.5 against unranked ones.
Turner leads five Buckeyes who are averaging in double figures, including Jon Diebler, who is scoring 16.6 per game. Diebler matched a season high with 22 points Wednesday while the rest of the team combined to shoot 32.1 percent (9 of 28).
Ohio State’s strong defense, though, more than compensated for the poor shooting by much of the team.
“Our defense, especially in the first half, was really effective for what we wanted to get done,” Matta said.
Matta’s team has another contest against a ranked team coming up. The Buckeyes visit No. 23 Butler next weekend, but the coach will try to keep his team from overlooking Eastern Michigan (5-2), which comes in looking to win its fourth straight.
The Eagles are coming off a 75-58 win over Canisius on Monday. They outscored the Griffins 46-25 in the first half and never trailed. Jay Higgins scored a career-high 25 points, making five of his team’s seven 3-pointers.
Higgins, a junior college transfer, is one of four Eastern Michigan players averaging in double figures. The Eagles – one of the top-scoring teams in the Mid-American Conference at 73.0 points per game – are led by Brandon Bowdry, who averages 19.0 points and 10.1 rebounds. Bowdry scored 18 against Canisius.
The Eagles last defeated a ranked opponent in 1997 when they beat No. 21 Michigan in Ann Arbor, 89-83 in overtime.
This is the second meeting between Eastern Michigan and Ohio State. The Buckeyes won 58-54 in 1982.