Ohio State will go on the road for the second time this season when it faces No. 6 Virginia Wednesday night in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.
In a contest that will feature a pair of 6-0 teams, Ohio State head coach Thad Matta knows his group’s play at one end of the floor can’t influence its play at the opposite end.
“I think that the thing that you have to do is just sort of brace yourself,” Matta said Tuesday. “There may be a stretch where you don’t score, but don’t let them score. You can’t let, in a game like this, your offense affect your defense."
Though it is early in the season, the Buckeyes and Cavaliers already have a common opponent. Both squads played Providence this year, with Ohio State winning, 72-67, at home and Virginia also prevailing, 63-52, at a neutral site.
Those 52 points were the most Virginia has allowed in a game this season. In fact, the Cavaliers held their opposition to fewer than 40 points in three straight contests vs. St. Francis Brooklyn (32), Yale (38) and Grambling State (34).
“They’ve played the same defense for the last couple years – heavy gap team,” Ohio State senior forward Marc Loving said of Virginia's defense. “But the type of pace that we have, the type of screening we have is going to separate us and be able to get us some open shots. Just being able to swing the ball from one side of the floor to the other and hopefully get the best shot possible and just minimize the amount of bad shoots we take.”
The Buckeyes, meanwhile, are averaging 79.0 points a game and junior forward Jae’Sean Tate is leading the team with 14.3 points per contest.
While Virginia is ranked and Ohio State is not, the two teams do share some similarities. Both teams like to spread the wealth when it comes to scoring.
Six Buckeyes are averaging 10 or more points a game this season while eight Cavaliers are posting somewhere between 7.0 and 11.0 points per game.
The scoring distribution has been a byproduct of the two teams sharing the basketball. Virginia has 104 assists while Ohio State is not far behind with 101.
The Buckeyes will likely be without junior forward Keita Bates-Diop for the fourth consecutive game, however. The Normal, Ill., native sustained a high-ankle sprain vs. Providence on Nov. 17.
Matta said Bates-Diop will be a game-time decision for the Virginia game but also said it is unfortunate that the team is going into the road matchup not at full strength.
Regardless, OSU will try to avenge a 64-58 loss to the Cavaliers last year in Columbus.
For that to happen, Ohio State must play a clean game.
“They’re just sound,” Matta said of Virginia. “They’re not going to beat themselves. You have to beat them.”