Cagers Ready For 'Familiar' Opponent

Ohio State is aiming to improve to 11-0 this season with today's nationally televised contest against South Carolina. As the Buckeyes have prepared for the Gamecocks, they have done so against a team that bears some similarities to one OSU has already defeated this season.

Ohio State fans who have been looking forward to seeing their team take on a quality non-conference opponent today might want to temper their enthusiasm a bit.

The No. 2 Buckeyes host South Carolina (2 p.m., CBS) and the Gamecocks will enter Value City Arena atop the Southeastern Conference with a 7-1 record. It will the OSU's fourth in a stretch that sees them play seven contests in less than 19 days, but only two of those foes boast winning records.

What might not be exciting about the contest with the Gamecocks, however, is the parallel head coach Thad Matta drew to one of his team's victories from earlier this season.

"Their defense in some regards is a lot like Florida State's with the size (they have)," he said. "They're going to get up and pressure and really try to disrupt you and take you out of what you want to do."

On the final day of November, the Buckeyes traveled to Tallahassee to face the Seminoles as part of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. They emerged with a 58-44 victory that would not be classified as pretty by any stretch of the term. OSU was held to 27.6 percent shooting in the second half and finished at 32.2 percent overall – its worst performance of the season.

With his players holding an 11-point lead at the half, Matta gave them a directive in the early going of the second stanza.

"We got to a certain point in the second half where I said I don't care if we score or not, just don't let them score," the coach said.

Matta said the two teams boast comparable size, athleticism and depth. The stats paint the Seminoles as the more formidable challenge, however. FSU leads the nation in field-goal defense (32.5 percent), are fourth in three-point percentage defense (24.9 percent) and 23rd in scoring defense (58.0 points per game.

The Gamecocks rank 38th (38.1), 71st (30.4) and 106th (64.6), respectively.

Although they had not yet watched extensive game film of their next opponent, senior Jon Diebler and David Lighty recalled the problems they had against the FSU defense.

"They're long and athletic and have big guys who can get up and down the floor and block shots as well," Lighty said. "I would compare them to Florida State."

One part of the game that made the Seminoles a tough matchup was their ability to block shots. FSU was credited with 10 blocks against the Buckeyes and altered a number of others. Not surprisingly, the Seminoles rank second nationally with an average of 8.1 blocks per game.

The Gamecocks are tied with Norfolk State for 25th in the nation with an average of 5.4 per contest. Leading the way is junior forward Sam Muldrow, a 6-9 player rated 37th in the country with an average of 2.4 per contest. FSU boasts two players among the top 30 shot-blockers in the nation.

"Getting into the paint was a grind, trying to get it over top the big men," Lighty said. "We got a couple shots blocked that game. We've got to be smart, use head fakes and find open gaps and try to get fouled this game."

Although the Buckeyes had a hard time scoring against the Seminoles, the reverse was also true. FSU's 44 points marked a season-low and Matta said he has been encouraged with his team's defensive progression.

According to, the Gamecocks are also one of two teams during this seven-game stretch for OSU to be rated among the top 195 nationally in the Ratings Percentage Index used to help determine which teams make the NCAA Tournament.

South Carolina checks in at No. 90 while Oakland, which makes the trip to Value City Arena on Dec. 23, is ranked 50th.

"I think this will be a good test for us," Diebler said. "(The Gamecocks) like to play fast but they can slow it down, which is good for us. We've played some fast teams and we've played teams who have tried to slow it down against us. It will be a fun game."

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