Buckeyes End Nonconference With Wright State

After seven weeks of basketball just one game stands between Ohio State and the Big Ten schedule. The Buckeyes tune-up for the brutal conference slate with Wright State tonight at 7 p.m.

Ohio State entered the season ranked No. 20 in the preseason Associated Press Poll. On the surface, not much has changed in the seven weeks since then as the Buckeyes (10-2) sit at No. 21 entering their final nonconference game of the season.

That game, a 7 p.m. contest with Wright State, serves as the final tune-up prior to the start of Big Ten play and will conclude an up-and-down nonconference slate. While just one spot removed from their preseason ranking, the Buckeyes have lost both of their games against ranked opponents, a 64-55 loss at Louisville and an 82-74 defeat at the hands of North Carolina in Chicago.

Still, the nonconference season is about growing, about preparing for league play, and in that regard head coach Thad Matta is pleased with his squad.

“I like the strides that this team has made,” he said. “On the two given nights that we’ve been defeated this year, I haven’t seen a lot of teams that are going to beat those two teams, especially at Louisville. Carolina played as well as I’ve seen them play.

“That’s one of the things that you’re constantly building on. You could ask any coach in college basketball, his team is probably not where he wants it. That’s the nature of coaching.”

Tonight the Buckeyes look to build against the Raiders (8-5). Wright State is led by J.T. Yoho at 17.2 points per game, one of three Raiders that average double figures.

Ohio State also enters the game with three players averaging double figures: D'Angelo Russell at 17.2, Marc Loving at 12.3 and Sam Thompson at 10.3. Reserve center Anthony Lee is doubtful for the Wright State game with an ankle injury he sustained against Miami on Dec. 22.

When asked about Wright State, Matta first addressed the team’s tendency to shoot from outside. The Raiders shoot an average of 21 threes per game but connect on just 33.9 percent of them, the 160th mark in the country.

“In terms of what we want to do against them is, A we’ve got to take care of the basketball, and B we’ve got to have great awareness of where guys are and their cutting and moving,” Matta said. “It’s a high-communication type game.

“I want to play well tomorrow night and then kind of assess where we are. We’ve got to keep building. The consistency would be the biggest thing, just in terms of offensively doing what we are supposed to do and taking care of the ball.”

As the coach said, the Buckeyes have had some inconsistencies offensively. The team is shooting the 13th best percentage in the country from outside (40.9 percent) and connecting on 57.2 percent of their two-point field goals (eighth). However, shooting percentages in the two losses have been dreadful for the Buckeyes as they combined to hit 42 of 128 shots in their losses (32.8 percent).

Ohio State will have to develop more offensive consistency if they are to compete for a league title this season. They did a nice job of righting the ship after the North Carolina loss as they throttled Miami (Ohio) 93-55 the last time they took the floor. They will look to keep that going against Wright State tonight and carry it over into Big Ten play, which the team opens Dec. 30 against Iowa.

“I think it’s very important just to set the tone going into the Big Ten season,” freshman Jae’Sean Tate said of the Wright State game. “Try to finish out 11-2. I feel like it will give us confidence and get us prepared for the task at hand.

“Just from coming to the games last year, every Big Ten game is like a championship game. There’s so many good teams. You just got to come out and get prepared for the teams and just play. I’m looking forward to the competition of the Big Ten and the atmospheres.”

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