Buckeyes Head Downtown

Ohio State plays North Carolina A&T at nationwide arena tonight, its final tune-up before a Top 25 matchup with North Carolina Saturday.

When Ohio State faces North Carolina A&T tonight, it will be just the second time this season that the Buckeyes play outside of Value City Arena.

Granted, traveling the 3.7 miles from the Jerome Schottenstein Center to Nationwide Arena in downtown Columbus is a far cry from the Buckeyes trip to Louisville earlier this season, but head coach Thad Matta thinks there is something to be gained from playing the Aggies downtown.

“From the standpoint of we want to play as well as we can possibly play,” the coach said. “Coming off Saturday night’s game, the debriefing was kind of long in terms of what we didn’t do well both offensively and defensively, I want to see those things get corrected.

“I think the fact that you’re in Columbus, but you’re not in the Schottenstein Center. I want to play really, really well tomorrow night, take a deep breath, look at the film and then go from there.”

As Matta said, there are things to improve upon for No. 12 Ohio State (8-1) from the last time they took the court. Against Morehead State on Saturday the Buckeyes committed 17 turnovers, 14 in a second-half that saw the Eagles outscore Ohio State by three.

Ohio State got 15 points each from Sam Thompson and D’Angelo Russell in that 87-71 win, but Russell and Shannon Scott, the team’s two point guards, recorded five turnovers apiece.

The 1-10 Aggies seem to be the right team for the Buckeyes to use to get back on track. NC A&T has shot just 39.5 percent on the season and has just one player averaging over 10 points per game (Bruce Beckford enters with 14.5 points per contest). The Aggies have turned the ball over more than 15 times per game this year and scores just 56.6 points per game.

Because Nationwide Arena will host NCAA tournament games this season, a regular-season college game must be played in the venue. The Buckeyes elected to play the Aggies there in preparation for their neutral-site game against North Carolina Saturday in Chicago.

“We were supposed to play Monday’s game down there but we had the opportunity to move this one,” Matta said. “I thought it was a great opportunity to go neutral site, neutral site, just in terms of what we have this week.”

Today also marks the beginning of a few weeks off from school for Ohio State. The Buckeyes had their last finals today and will not return to classes until January.

Point guard Shannon Scott said the time off should give the team a chance to focus on basketball.

“I think it’s just a great time for a lot of players to get better,” the senior said. “We can just get in the gym, get some extra shots up and help our game get better. So I feel like it’s going to be a big couple of weeks for us heading in to Big Ten season.”

That stretch begins tonight with the hapless Aggies, the Buckeyes last tune-up before a contest with No. 24 North Carolina Saturday.

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