The No. 5 Buckeyes (3-0) are coming off their championship in the three-day BCA Classic last weekend. Senior guard Ron Lewis averaged 20 points during the tournament and was named MVP. He was also selected as the Big Ten's Player of the Week.
Eastern Kentucky (2-0) opened its season with wins over Asbury College (63-46) and East Tennessee State (70-53). The Colonels are led by sophomore guard Mike Rose with 18.5 points a game. Senior forward Michael Brock is the team's leading rebounder with 9.5 a game in the early going.
"Eastern Kentucky had a big win the other night over East Tennessee and we got a chance to see that game," OSU head coach Thad Matta said. "They are a well-coached team and they play a lot like West Virginia with some of their actions. They have good shooters and they're smart and they have athletes up front. It will be another unique challenge for our guys. We've had a couple good practices and hopefully that continues (Thursday) as well."
Matta explained what he wants to see out of his team on Friday.
"Take care of the ball, rebound the ball, defend on the ball and off the ball and execute better offensively," he said. "I know that's a lot of things, but that's what we're working on."
The coach also reflected on the BCA Classic and how his team was able to respond to playing three games in as many nights.
"I would say that I thought we did a nice job of competing in the three games in three days," Matta said. "The one thing I liked is that I saw some good out of everybody throughout the course of the weekend. Now what we've got to do is get that good more often and more together. I think for the veterans – Ron and Jamar (Butler) and Ivan (Harris) and Matt (Terwilliger) – I was pleased with their job of kind of leading us through some tough moments. I thought the freshmen and the new guys with Othello (Hunter) did a nice job for the first college games.
"As I told the staff, probably the best thing that happened to us was playing VMI first and that style. There wasn't a second to think about, ‘I'm playing my first college game.' You just had to make plays and that was unique and I've never had that situation before."
Through three games, OSU is shooting 55.6 percent from the floor and 45.5 percent from three-point range. By now, fans shouldn't be surprised that Matta-coached teams shoot well. He puts as much or more emphasis on practicing shooting than any coach in the nation.
"I just hope all the shooting that we've done in the offseason is paying off for us," Matta said. "We shoot as much as we can and hopefully we're better shooters. We shoot a lot of shots and I've always been of the belief … you know, you can take 20 minutes and run five on zero and get all your sets down and there's no time for shooting. So, maybe you'll run the play well, but you can't make the shot."
Matta was asked about the adjustment that Butler is making from playing point guard to primarily playing shooting guard to make room for freshman PG Mike Conley Jr.
"I think Jamar is playing well," Matta said. "He has shown no signs of, ‘Gosh, I wish I was the point guard.' And in one of our games last weekend, Mike played 22 minutes, so for half the game Jamar was at the point.
"Jamar continues to grow as a player. He has more of an understanding of moving without the ball. And Jamar knows that we need him playing his best basketball for us to be a good team."
Butler is averaging 12 points and 4.7 assists thus far.
OSU-UM Game Could Help With Basketball Recruiting
This is a big recruiting weekend, not just for the OSU football team, but for the basketball program as well. The entire sports world is talking about Saturday's OSU-Michigan football game and Matta hopes his program will reap some benefits.
"We have kids coming in this weekend. And I hope and I've heard that it will be a great environment in the Schottenstein Center on Friday night. I think it will be average over at the ‘Shoe on Saturday," Matta joked. "Two years ago for my first rivalry game between these two teams, I had never felt anything like that and hopefully some of that rubs off on the Schott Friday night as the fans use that for a tune-up for Saturday. It is a big weekend because you feel it all week and this is maybe one of the top five college football games ever. For kids to see that … and heck with them, so I can see it."
Matta was asked how many basketball recruits will be on campus this weekend.
"I don't know the exact number right now," he said. "I would say 10, 12 maybe more. The hard part is they are all practicing right now and some of them are scrimmaging and I don't think we've actually finalized who's coming yet, but I would venture to say 10 or so."
When asked if he's text messaged OSU football coach Jim Tressel with any words of encouragement, Matta said: "Not yet, but I will."
The coach also addressed the situation of freshman center Greg Oden who is still recovering from wrist surgery but is expected back soon.
"I haven't heard anything yet," Matta said. "But (Thursday) is exactly four weeks (since the screw was taken out). I haven't talked to (head basketball trainer) Vince (O'Brien) yet."
* Here is the full television schedule for Friday's OSU-EKU game, which will start an hour earlier than most OSU home games:
Market Channel Network, New York NY YES RSN, Cleveland OH FSN-OHIO RSN, Sacramento-Stockton-Modesto CA CSN-WEST RSN, Baltimore MD MASN RSN, Indianapolis IN WHMB IND, Columbus OH ONN RSN, Providence- New Bedford RI COX-NE (Tape Delay 9 p.m.) RSN Toledo OH WTVG-DT ABC.
* Matta is now 33-3 in Columbus as OSU's head coach, including a mark of 32-3 at Value City Area.
* Matta coached in his 200th game as a head coach against Kent State last Sunday. He is now 151-49 (.755) overall, which includes a record of 49-18 (.731) at Ohio State.