What- Ohio State Buckeyes (2-0) vs. Delaware Blue Hens (0-0)
When- Tonight, 7:00 P.M
Where- Value City Arena
Television- ESPN Plus; WAOH-TV (Cleveland), WBNS 10-TV (Columbus), MVC (Dayton), WNGT-TV (Toledo)
Series- Ohio State leads 1-0 in the all-time series (109-38 victory in 1960)
Delaware (16-12 last season, 6-8 in road games)
Head Coach – David Henderson (Duke, 1986)
PG – Mike Slattery (5-11 SR. Philadelphia, Pa.) 11.0 PPG last season
SG – Andrew Washington (6-3 JR. Washington D.C.) JUCO transfer
SF – Robin Wentt (6-7 SR. Silver Springs, Md.) 6.3 PPG, 5.6 RPG last season
PF – Harding Nana (6-8 JR. Doula, Cameroon) 12.6 PPG, 8.5 RPG last season
C – Raphael Madera (6-10 SO. Queens, N.Y.) 5.0 PPG, 4.0 RPG last season
PG – Brandon Fuss-Cheatham (6-1 SR. Beaver Falls, Pa.) 5.0 PPG, 4/1 A-TO
SG – Tony Stockman (6-0 SR. Medina, Oh.) 9.5 PPG, 4.0 RPG
WF – J.J. Sullinger (6-5 JR. Columbus, Oh.) 13.5 PPG, 5.0 RPG
PF – Ivan Harris (6-8 SO. Springfield, Oh.) 5.0 PPG, 5.0 RPG
C – Terence Dials (6-8 JR. Boardman, Oh.) 16.5 PPG, 5.0 RPG
Ohio State is coming off of two impressive performances where they gave up just 53 and 50 points respectively to Towson and Robert Morris. The only time Ohio State gave up as few points as either of those games was a 69-50 win over Eastern Illinois last December.
Delaware figures to be a more formidable opponent for the Buckeyes, unlike Towson, the Colonial Athletic Association member Ohio State faced on Monday.
The Blue Hens return three starters from a year ago and also have six of their top eight scorers back and add a talented JUCO guard in Andrew Washington.
Thad Matta wants to build off of the progress they are making defensively after two games, but an upbeat coach would also love to see the results carry over longer.
"I wish the season were over today," Matta joked on Thursday when meeting with the media. "We're shooting over 50 percent and our opponents are shooting 31 percent. I think if you sit down and watch us play we're doing some good things defensively, but in order for us to play our best basketball we have got to continue to learn and teach the little things defensively and getting guys to pick up things a little bit quicker."
On paper, the Blue Hens will be a physically challenging opponent for the Buckeyes. They have a couple of players that are very strong inside.
Last season, the only common opponent of Delaware's with Ohio State was San Francisco. The Buckeyes lost to the Dons by 11 points on the road to begin the season. Meanwhile, a week after that loss, Delaware lost to San Francisco by two points at home.
Matta is very cautious about how the Buckeyes match up with such an opponent.
"They have got depth at each position and the size and strength is something we're going to have to contend with," Matta added. "They have got depth, they have got size, and they have got experience. They are a team that's coming off a good season last year and predicted to do well this year."
When Ohio State has the ball against Delaware
As has been the norm, Ohio State will try to center their game-plan around 6-9, center, Terence Dials. Dials is averaging 16.5 points a game this year, and is hitting on 70.6 percent of his shots from the field.
Ohio State is thriving thus far on better offensive execution. In two games, the Buckeyes have turned the ball over just 15 times total. By comparison, the Buckeyes averaged 14 turnovers a game last season.
One of the major keys has been the addition of newcomers Je'Kel Foster and Jamar Butler in the backcourt. Both Foster and Butler have committed no turnovers through two games (neither committed one in the exhibition win over Northern Kentucky), and they have played a combined 40 minutes a game.
Butler has been instrumental in filling in for senior point guard Brandon Fuss-Cheatham. Fuss-Cheatham, who sprained his ankle in action against Robert Morris on Tuesday, was feeling comfortable before landing on another player's foot on a jump shot.
Expect for Fuss-Cheatham to play tonight.
"(It's) one hundred percent (likely) I'll be out there tomorrow," a confident Fuss-Cheatham said on Thursday. "I'm not going to sit out or anything. I'll be out there."
Ohio State has had a balanced scoring attack this season that has five players (Tony Stockman, J.J. Sullinger, Matt Sylvester, Foster, and Dials) averaging 8.5 points a game or more.
In addition to those five, Butler, Fuss-Cheatham, and Ivan Harris are all guys very capable of adding points to the Buckeye scoring attack on any given night.
The Buckeyes are hoping the third time is a charm, as far as shooting goes. In each of their first two games, the Buckeyes hit on at least 50 percent of their shots from the field. Ohio State is 40-1 all-time in Value City Arena when that happens.
Matta is happy with the execution and must like the defensive intensity. However, he is treating it with a large grain of salt, as one would expect.
"We let our guys know that yes, we had some good wins, but this team still has a lot of room to improve," Matta explained. "By no stretch are we close to playing where we hope to be playing."
When Delaware has the ball against Ohio State
Delaware is a very physical team and will try to use that size and strength to pound the ball inside consistently and hopefully even force Dials into foul trouble.
The Blue Hens are led by 6-8 power forward, Harding Nana. Nana is a junior native of Cameroon, Africa. He averaged nearly 13 points and nine rebounds last season.
In addition to Nana, Raphael Madera, a 6-10 sophomore from Queens, N.Y., is another guy down in the low post that could give Ohio State some problems. Madera averaged five points and four rebounds off the bench last season for Delaware.
Ohio State will most likely have to keep an eye out on Delaware's starting point guard, Mike Slattery, who makes their team go.
Last year as a junior, Slattery was a tri-captain and averaged 11 points a game. Slattery is a good-ball handler and a capable shooter. He's their team leader and everything usually runs through him.
"The point guard, Slattery I think is his name, is a proven player," Matta commented. "The wings have shown they can shoot it and drive it, and in their post game they have got some depth in there and have some good size. I think we're playing a really good basketball team."
Delaware is probably going to give a very disciplined effort tonight. J.J. Sullinger is expecting the Buckeyes to have to be on top of their defensive game to be successful.
"They are a big team, they are physical, and they run a lot of back-door screens," Sullinger said. "That's something we've been concentrating on in practice."
Ohio State is a team still searching for an identity. The results of the first two contests speak for themselves, but after last year's debacle, Ohio State can only take it one game at a time.
That seems to be the approach of the players.
"We're not in any way, shape, or form in any position to look at ourselves as Delaware coming in as an underdog," Sullinger pointed out. "We've got to consider ourselves the underdogs until the very end of the season because of the season we had last year and the things we've been through."
As Matta commented, the Buckeyes would love to just end the season right now knowing they were out-shooting their opponents 50 to 31 percent, knowing they were out-scoring their opponents 77 to 51.5, knowing they had just 15 turnovers to 32 by their opponents, and they have 33 assists to just 18 by their opponents.
But despite those numbers, Delaware won't be Towson, and in the future, Illinois won't be Delaware. In the meantime, Matta wants to continue to build off of the things they have done thus far.
"I would like to continue to take care of the ball," he said. "We have got to continue to put together segments of playing hard. I think those are the biggest things I'm looking for out of this team."
The game against Delaware is one that Matta is hoping creates a lot of excitement. He's been happy to see the fans have responded to the things the team has done.
"I've been encouraged that the fans have responded to the things that are important," he said. "I would hope that tomorrow night our fans come out as kind of a prelude to the football game and I know they are going to be in town."
Because of it being Michigan week in football, the team is hoping the atmosphere feeds off of the November football excitement.
It will be easy to get motivated to root against Delaware.
After all, Delaware's colors are Blue and Yellow, and they are notorious for having winged helmets in football, just like, you guessed it—Michigan.
"I guess will make sure I don't wear a blue tie," Matta joked.