Buckeyes host Vikings tonight at Value City Arena
By CHRIS ALTRUDA
(AP) -- Ohio State proved it can win against a deliberate opponent in its last game. Cleveland State feels confident its pressing style can provide a breakthrough victory after a near-upset of a top 10 team over the weekend.
The 17th-ranked Buckeyes, who continue to play without injured star Evan Turner, take on the Vikings at Value City Arena on Tuesday night.
Ohio State (9-2) shot 60 percent from the field as it grinded out a 60-44 win over Delaware State on Saturday. The Buckeyes were occasionally flustered by the Hornets and their methodical offensive sets, and the absence of Turner did not help.
The junior forward, the team leader with 18.5 points, 11.4 rebounds and 6.0 assists, continues to recover after suffering broken vertebrae in his back.
"The ultimate goal is getting the win, but I'm an impatient person, and that was difficult for me," said coach Thad Matta, whose squad averages 82.5 points. "We were pressing and trapping, anything to try and speed the tempo up. I give our guys credit for continuing to play and compete."
William Buford averaged 16.8 points and 6.0 assists in his last four games, but perhaps more encouraging for Matta, played a turnover-free game Saturday. The sophomore guard had committed nine turnovers in his previous two contests.
"We tried to do a better job of taking care of the ball," said Buford, averaging 12.5 points and 3.6 assists. "I wouldn't say it's the new William Buford - I'm just getting people the ball if they're open."
How Buford responds to the expected stark change in tempo may go a long way toward determining whether Cleveland State (4-8) can beat a ranked opponent for the first time in three tries this season. The Vikings gave No. 6 West Virginia all it could handle Saturday before Da'Sean Butler's layup with 1.2 seconds left provided the final margin in an 80-78 loss.
Cleveland State used a full-court press to harass West Virginia into 17 turnovers - 11 in the second half as the Vikings erased a 17-point deficit and nearly forced overtime.
"We gained a lot, our biggest thing is for the players to believe in what we do," coach Gary Waters said. "I think the players learned that if they believe in our system and in each other we can do great things. Now we know that we can play the press and that will help our game."
Waters is hoping the press can hide some of Cleveland State's deficiencies. Eight Vikings opponents have shot at least 50 percent, with ranked teams Kentucky and West Virginia shooting 52.4 and 56.0, respectively.
"It will be a good challenge against Ohio State for us," forward Aaron Pogue said. "But if we go into any building knowing that we can compete we can play any team tough."
Norris Cole scored 29 points Saturday and is averaging team highs of 17.3 points and 3.3 assists. However, he was held to eight in the 73-49 loss to then-No. 5 Kentucky on Nov. 24.
Ohio State leads the series with Cleveland State 6-1 and took the most recent meeting during the 2007-08 season.