North Florida-Ohio St. Preview

BY foxsports • November 20, 2011

After passing its first true test of the season with a win over one of the nation's top teams, Ohio State handled another weaker opponent with ease.

The third-ranked Buckeyes could be in store for another lopsided victory when they host North Florida on Monday night.

Ohio State (3-0) cruised to a 73-42 season-opening win over Wright State, then beat No. 7 Florida 81-74 on Tuesday. Senior William Buford played the entire game, scoring a season-high 21 points, while Jared Sullinger had 16 in 34 minutes.

It was a different story Friday, when the stars logged a total of 44 minutes in an 85-41 rout of Jackson State. Sullinger recorded season highs of 20 points and 11 rebounds before spending nearly the entire second half getting some rest.

"I love watching this team play, especially the young guys that don't play a lot," Sullinger said. "At the same time, it was pretty awesome to kind of sit on the bench for a little bit."

The Buckeyes have won 42 of 43 at home, including 25 straight while holding teams to an average of 56.0 points. They've also won 26 straight overall versus unranked non-conference opponents by an average of 30.0 points, and don't seem likely to get much of a challenge from North Florida (1-3).

The Ospreys, whose lone victory came 62-57 over Savannah State last Monday, have been outscored by an average of 23.0 points in their three defeats. They've dropped 11 all-time meetings against ranked teams by 33.1 points per game - including a 20-points loss at then-No. 19 Alabama on Nov. 11 and a 91-55 defeat at Florida on Thursday.

Ohio State has been led early by its defense, holding teams to just 37.7 percent shooting from the floor while forcing an average of 22.3 turnovers. The Buckeyes scored 41 points off the Tigers' 26 turnovers Friday as sophomore Aaron Craft led the way with five steals.

"Being the point guard and guarding the guy who always brings the ball up the floor, it's kind of my job to set the tone on defense," Craft said. "Everyone sees me as I start off, so if I'm slacking the rest of the team has a tendency to maybe not play as hard.

"One thing we had to do was get us going, get us up-tempo and the best way to do that is to get some steals on defense, to get some easy baskets."

While Ohio State continues to roll, coach Thad Matta knows his team still has plenty of work to do.

"I don't think this team is anywhere near as good as they can be. We have a long way to go," he said. "They have a lot they can learn. I think those are the things we have to harp about. We need to find ways to get our guys better through preparation.

"I don't think our defense will ever be exactly where I want it, but I think we're making strides in the right direction. We need drill work and great energy in practice to get better every day."

The Buckeyes certainly need to improve from beyond the arc. Ohio State is shooting just 27.3 percent from 3-point range.

North Florida is coming off a 75-62 loss at Miami on Saturday. Forward Travis Wallace scored a game-high 16 points off the bench.

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