The Eagles (4-7) are the eighth consecutive unranked team to come to Columbus and those nonconference opponents were a combined 29-29 on the season entering the weekend. With recent upsets to Michigan, Nebraska and Purdue to the likes of N.J.I.T, Incarnate Word and North Florida, respectively, the Buckeyes aren’t overlooking any opponent.
“That just shows us we have to have our mind right every game,” senior Sam Thompson said. “No team is invincible. No team is unbeatable. You have to come out with your best foot forward or you face losing basketball games. I think it’s really opened our eyes a bit to the possibility of losing games. I think their struggles have sort of helped us.”
The Buckeyes (7-1) certainly looked invincible their last time out as they rolled High Point 97-43 on Wednesday. The Buckeyes shot 62.5 percent in that game and five different players scored in double figures.
Thompson said the team needed a performance like that after losing to Louisville on Dec. 2 and coming out sluggish before putting away Colgate on Dec. 6.
“We’d been winning games, with the exception of Louisville, by 20 to 25 points, but we weren’t doing what we felt we could do on the court,” the senior said. “We weren’t making shots at the rate that we wanted to make shots, we weren’t executing at the rate we wanted to and we weren’t getting stops at the rate we wanted to. For us to come out and dominate the game really in all facets for 40 minutes was huge for us.”
As Thompson said, the Buckeyes dominated the Panthers. Ohio State never trailed in the game and the Buckeyes bench outscored High Point’s entire roster 51-43.
Ohio State will look to build off that performance against the Eagles. Though Morehead State has struggled to get in the winning column this season Buckeyes head coach Thad Matta noted that the Eagles have lost single digit games to Cincinnati and UNLV and that Ohio State should be challenged on the boards Saturday.
“They play 11 guys, so there’s so many different combinations that you can see on the floor, they can play big they can play small, they’ve got guys on that team that as you go through every game that they played, guys that are capable of having just a huge night,” Matta said. “That’s the thing I’m trying to get our guys to understand that system-wise, no matter who is on the floor, we’ve got to go a great job of understanding this is how we are going to play them, these are the adjustments we’ve made and we have to execute it.”
Matta was cautious entering the High Point game as well, so his praise for the Eagles should be taken with a grain of salt. However, considering what’s happened to other Big Ten teams in their nonconference schedule, the Buckeyes aren’t taking anyone lightly.
“It’s amazing,” Matta said. “On any given night anything is possible. I simply state that we have gone into every game this season, and every game since I’ve been here with those things in mind. It just takes a bad stretch and you’re just not able to play yourself out of it and the other team catches fire, catches magic in a bottle.
“It’s on now. I don’t think there are any nights off now in college basketball.”