Buckeyes Venture To Seton Hall

OSU will be without backup forward Matt Sylvester for Saturday's key nonconference game at Seton Hall (noon, ESPN-Plus). Head coach Jim O'Brien talks about Sylvester's one-game suspension as well as the challenge of playing the Pirates.

The OSU men's basketball team arrived in the Big Apple late today in preparation for a date with Seton Hall Saturday (noon, ESPN-Plus) at Continental Airlines Arena at the Meadowlands complex in East Rutherford, N.J.

But some of the focus at today's team interview session was on the one OSU player who was not making the trip. Backup forward Matt Sylvester will miss this pivotal nonconference match-up as part of a one-game suspension imposed by OSU coach Jim O'Brien for elbowing Furman's Nick Sanders in the face during the team's 70-68 win Wednesday night.

"It's just not right," O'Brien said. "We don't promote that stuff. I know that Matt regrets doing it. He is remorseful. I know he wishes he didn't. But sometimes these things happen. In everything we do, there are lessons that we learn and this is one that he has to learn. We're always talking to them about there are penalties for negative actions. He has to be held accountable. This is not something he is gloating over. He is regretful."

With our without Sylvester, OSU (5-3) figured to have its hands full with Seton Hall (4-2). The Buckeyes are in desperate need of every win they can get as they try and make up for their early season lapses at San Francisco and against San Diego State in the Maui Invitational.

They will likely find an unsympathetic band of Pirates, who dropped a 71-54 decision in Columbus last Dec. 21.

"It's going to be a hard game against a good team that has some terrific players," O'Brien said. "It could be a good win for us with our power rating because they are a member of the Big East, as Virginia Tech was. If we can play teams like this, typically our power rating will be good because of who they play. This will count a long way toward helping our cause and could go a long way toward helping our confidence if we're able to beat a good team on the road."

Seton Hall, coached by former Syracuse star Louis Orr, has won two of its last three games heading into this contest. The Pirates opened the season with a win over Morgan State (89-62) before going 2-1 at the Great Alaska Shootout. Wins there came against Alaska Fairbanks (62-57) and Liberty (65-47). The loss was to Purdue (75-63). Louisville defeated Seton Hall in a road game for the Pirates, 80-71, before SHU downed St. Peters at home, 91-62. A game against East Carolina was canceled due to poor winter weather.

Four Seton Hall starters average 9.8 points or more with another, reserve J.R. Morris pitching in with 10.7 points a game. Guard Andre Barrett, a 5-10 senior, leads the team offensively with 18.8 points a game. He is followed by juniors John Allen (12.0 ppg.) and Andre Sweet (11.2 ppg.). Senior forward Marcus Toney-El is close to double digits with 9.8 ppg. Sweet is the team's leading rebounder with 7.5 ppg.

O'Brien does not want to see his team surrender as many three-point shots and baskets to Seton Hall as it gave up against Furman, which made 12 threes including hitting 9 of 13 in the first half on Wednesday.

"I think for us it's always about defending," O'Brien said. "We can not continue to give up as many threes as we have been giving up. We have to try and contain Barrett as much as we can because he's got his fingerprints on everything they do offensively."

If the rest of the year is any indication, expect a nail biter. OSU has one double-digit win over Samford and the rest of the wins have gone down to the wire.

"We're not any place near where we need to be, but we are much farther along than we were when we lost the first two games of the season to San Francisco and San Diego State," O'Brien said. "I think that we're better right now. But we still have a long way to go."

Also Notable

* Orr, a 1980 graduate of Syracuse, is in his third season at Seton Hall and his fourth as a head coach. At SHU, Orr has compiled a record of 33-33. He was 20-11 in one season at Sienna before taking over at Seton Hall. His career as an assistant coach took him to Syracuse, Providence and Xavier.

* Tony Stockman scored Ohio State's last six points and the Buckeyes trailed for most of the game before beating Furman Wednesday. Stockman, who scored 21 points, broke a tie at 66 on a 3-pointer with 46 seconds left. After Moussa Diagne hit a layup with nine seconds left, Stockman made the front end of a double-bonus with 7.7 seconds left to give Ohio State a 70-68 lead. The rebound of Stockman's second free throw bounced out to the perimeter and a long pass ended up in the hands of Maleye Ndoye, but his driving layup with two seconds left bounced around the rim and fell off. The Buckeyes' J.J. Sullinger grabbed the rebound as time expired. Brandon Fuss-Cheatham scored 13 points and Terence Dials and Sullinger each added 12 for the Buckeyes.

* In O'Brien's seven seasons in Columbus the Buckeyes have won nearly 82 percent of their games when scoring 70 or more points. Ohio State is 3-0 this season when the 70-point mark is reached. The Buckeyes were 4-7 when scoring 70 points in O'Brien's first year in 1997-98. Since that season, Ohio State has been successful 87 percent of the time when scoring 70 or more points.

* Stockman leads Ohio State with an average of 16.3 points a game. He has connected on 86 percent of his foul shots (19-22). With a total of 17 steals, Stockman is fourth among Big Ten players with an average of 2.12 thefts a game. Sullinger averages 13.5 points a game, second on the team, and is the squad leader from 3-point range with a .417 shooting percentage (10-24). He also is connecting on 56 percent of his field goal attempts (41-73).

* Ohio State owns a 3-1 record all-time against Seton Hall, which includes a 71-54 win over the Pirates Dec. 21 of last year in Columbus. The series began with an Ohio State win (97-57) in the ECAC Holiday Tournament Dec. 27, 1960 in New York. Seton Hall's lone victory in the series came in 1992 in New Jersey, 68-64. The last two meetings took place in Columbus. The Buckeyes won a 1995 meeting 105-96 and then the game last year at Value City Arena.

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