Buckeyes Set To Host Florida A&M

Ohio State will take a break from Big Ten action tonight by hosting Florida A&M from the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (8 p.m., ESPN-Plus). The Buckeyes, led by Ron Lewis, will try and get back on the winning track after losing three of their last six games.

Ohio State takes a break from Big Ten play tonight by hosting Florida A&M from the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. The game is set for an 8 p.m. start and will be televised by ESPN-Plus. (Some schedules may have listed it as an 8:30 p.m. start.)

The Buckeyes (14-3, 4-3 Big Ten) need to get back on the winning track after a tough 67-62 loss at Iowa on Saturday. That was OSU's third loss in six games after an 11-0 start.

But a win tonight would give OSU a perfect 11-0 nonconference record. It would be the school's first unbeaten showing in nonconference play since the 1990-91 team went 10-0.

It would also mark just the sixth time Ohio State has gone unbeaten in nonconference play since it joined the Big Ten for the 1912-13 season. The others were: 1923-24 (5-0), 1926-27 (5-0), 1960-61 (10-0) and 1961-62 (10-0).

Florida A&M comes in at 10-10 overall and 6-2 in MEAC play. In terms of major conference opponents, FAMU has lost to Indiana (100-63), Georgia (95-74), Xavier (79-51), Northern Iowa (76-53), Dayton (73-48) and Florida (84-47). Those were all road games for the Rattlers.

Ohio State and FAMU have met once before with OSU taking a 99-47 win in the 1999-2000 season.

OSU is 21-3 in nonconference games under coach Thad Matta, including 17-0 in home nonconference games. The Buckeyes are 25-3 overall at home under Matta.

Some points of emphasis I see for Ohio State:

* The Buckeyes need to get back on track with a brutal stretch run to come in the Big Ten. That stretch starts Saturday at home against Minnesota, the follows with a game next Thursday at Michigan, Feb. 12 at home against Illinois, Feb. 15 at Wisconsin, Feb. 18 at home with Northwestern, Feb. 22 at Michigan State, Feb. 25 at home with Michigan State and March 1 at Northwestern.

Only the season finale at home with Purdue on March 5 would appear to be a certainty, at least on paper. (OSU cruised to an 80-64 win at Purdue on Jan. 11.)

OSU is one game behind four teams (Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa and Illinois) who are tied for the conference lead at 5-2.

* At times, the Buckeyes have tried to ride senior center Terence Dials. He had 16 points in Saturday's loss at Iowa, but managed just two points in the second half. That refrain was similar to the double overtime loss to Michigan State, where the Buckeyes failed to involve Dials in key possessions as the game slipped away to the Spartans.

* Senior guard Je'Kel Foster was OSU's leading scorer at 16.5 points per game during the first 10 nonconference games of the year. But he is fourth in scoring in Big Ten play at just 10 points per game. Foster is shooting just 37.3 percent (25 of 67) from the floor in Big Ten games after getting off to such a hot start on the year.

* Junior Ron Lewis has started the last two games in place of Matt Sylvester, who is dealing with some back issues. Lewis has averaged 14.3 points per game in Big Ten play and had 19 in the loss at Iowa.

* Perhaps this will be a game where junior guard Sylvester Mayes can turn things around. In seven Big Ten games, Mayes has scored 19 points and hit just 27.6 percent (8 of 29) of his shots from the floor.

At worst, this should be a game where several of OSU's reserve players will get to see at least a few extra minutes of playing time.

* FAMU comes in off a 61-50 loss to MEAC-leading Delaware State on Saturday. That snapped a four-game winning streak for the Rattlers. Senior guard Tony Tate leads FAMU at 16.6 points per game.

* Saturday's game with Minnesota will start at 3 p.m. and will be televised by ESPN-Plus as part of the Big Ten regional package across much of the Midwest.

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