OSU To Close Invitational With Morehead

Ohio State has improved to No. 3 in the nation thanks to an impressive 3-0 start while playing in the Global Sports Invitational. The Buckeyes will close the event with a home contest tonight against Morehead State.

In the aftermath of Ohio State's 81-41 win Saturday night, UNC Wilmington's head coach gave a number of reasons for his team's lopsided defeat. Among them was a lack of size, which made it difficult for the Seahawks to prevent the Buckeyes from scoring against their zone defense.

When No. 3 OSU tips tonight against Morehead State (7 p.m., ESPN3), it might find itself in a similar situation. According to OSU head coach Thad Matta, the Eagles exclusively used a zone defense in their 61-55 loss Sunday at Florida.

Matta said that against Wilmington the Buckeyes were able to throw the ball "over and around because of the size of their littler guards. These guys are long and pretty good sized."

Morehead has started the same five players in each game this season. The Eagles utilizes a four-guard lineup that ranges from 6-1 to 6-4. That should make the challenge more difficult for his players, Matta added.

In addition, the Buckeyes are expecting Morehead to create an up-tempo game by pressing them full court. That is something OSU is already getting accustomed to in the early season.

Although junior William Buford has started all three games at the point this season, he has been replaced by freshman Aaron Craft for the majority of each game. The addition of Craft to the lineup has allowed Buford to slide to shooting guard.

Buford is fourth on the team with an average of 13.0 points per contest, but he has dished out 17 assists while committing only three turnovers.

"I've been very, very pleased (with him)," Matta said. "William the other night probably played his best off-the-ball defense of his career here, which we were able to point out to him. Him playing some point guard for us has really rounded his game. That's been good for him."

Craft, meanwhile, has 16 assists and four turnovers. His average of 22.3 minutes per game ranks fifth on the team.

"I've been extremely pleased with what Aaron has brought to the table," Matta said before the season started. "He's actually surprised me with his understanding, his savvy. I think he's got a great feel at a young age for shot clock, where we want the shot, when we want it and who we want to take it. He does a pretty good job of finding those people."

Monday afternoon, the coach added that Buford had impressed him with his tutelage of Craft, adding that it could be a by-product of having spent time practicing against Team USA during the summer.

"I think he's done a fantastic job with the young guys of bringing them along and talking to them," he said. "As we started practice this year in September I was like, ‘who's this guy telling Aaron Craft what we need to do?' Is that a byproduct of being out there with those NBA guys? It could be."

Matta also credited his team's improved ability to push the ball when compared to recent years to the fact that four of the team's five starters have been in the program for at least three seasons.

This will be the final game as part of the Global Sports Invitational, a season-opening tournament of sorts that saw OSU, Florida, Wilmington, Morehead and North Carolina A&T all play each other.

Matta likes the event because the four games count as just one against a team's limit – an exempt event. The coach said he prefers events like these because the Buckeyes are not changing time zones or radically getting out of their comfort zone. As an assistant at Butler, Matta said he had a bad experience after playing in Hawaii and has opted not to repeat the trip.

"Everything I'm trying to do is get us ready for conference play," he said. "Even Florida being an hour and 30 minute plane ride is the same as going to Minneapolis."

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