There was already a possibility for Cleveland State head coach Gary Waters that his team would encounter Greg Oden. Instead of being the lucky team to face the 7-footer in his debut, they get him one week later.
The Vikings invade the Schottenstein Center today at 4 PM against an Ohio State making it's second appearance with Oden, the preseason All-Big Ten freshman.
Cleveland State (5-5) enters the game losers of their past two games. The Vikings lost to undefeated Butler 70-45 and were tripped up at Kansas State in a 93-60 route on Tuesday. Ohio State (7-1), meanwhile, has had a week of rest after beating Valparaiso 78-58 in Oden's debut last Saturday.
It's the sixth time Cleveland State and Ohio State have clashed with the Buckeyes winning four of the previous five. The only Viking victory in the series was in 1994-95 with Cleveland State taking a 75-73 upset at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, formerly known as Gund Arena.
The Buckeyes enter the game No. 4/5 in the coaches and AP polls respectively. Although Oden's debut wasn't without some minor imperfections, the 7-1 two-time Gatorade High School Player of the Year managed 14 points, 10 rebounds and blocked five Crusader shots.
Waters, a former head coach of Rutgers University, brings in a senior-laden team with four veteran starters. The leading scorer for CSU, however, is sophomore J'Nathan Bullock, a beefy 6-5 240-pound forward averaging 14.1 points a game. Bullock also leads the team in rebounding at 6.4 a game.
Rebounding has not been a consistent problem this season for the Vikings, but lacking a true presence inside (Cleveland State has just one player in their rotation over 6-7), they have had little margin for error. On the brightside for the Vikings, an expected area of weakness has been a pleasant surprise. Cleveland State leads the Horizon League with 14 offensive rebounds a game.
It's been a tale of two seasons shooting the basketball for the Vikings and Buckeyes. Cleveland State enters today's contest shooting just 40.7 percent from the field and the Buckeyes are giving up just 40 percent. Meanwhile, while Ohio State has been lightning in a bottle, shooting 52.4 percent, Cleveland State is allowing opponents to shoot a lofty 45 percent.
Shooting has been the name of the game for Ohio State. Through eight games, six regulars (excluding Oden) have shot at least 50 percent. Daequan Cook (18-of-35), Ivan Harris (20-of-40) and Ron Lewis (21-of-44) continue to shoot near or above 40 percent from three-point range.
Lewis leads the team in scoring at 17.8 points a game while the freshman Cook is close behind with 17.6 points a game. For the Vikings, 6-1 guard Victor Moss is second in scoring at 9.3 points a game.
The return of Lewis to his hometown two years ago, transferring to Ohio State from Bowling Green, was well documented. However, today will be a homecoming of sorts for a Viking player as well.
Raheem Moss, a 6-4 senior guard, was a former teammate of Lewis at both Bowling Green and at Brookhaven High School in Columbus. The two formed a powerful high school program that included Xavier guard Andrew Lavender, former Oklahoma forward Brandon Foust and Penn State forward Jamelle Cornley.
On the season, Moss is averaging 8.7 points and 3.9 rebounds although shooting just 38 percent and 26 percent from three-point range.
In 2002, Moss and Lewis helped lead the Bearcats to a 27-1 record and Division I State Championship in Ohio. In the Championship game against Winton Woods, Moss scored a team-high 15 points while Lewis added 6 points.
Lending a Helping Hand
The point guard duo extraordinaire of Michael Conley and Jamar Butler has been about as effective as effective can be for Ohio State this season. Between them, the freshman and junior have combined 12 assists a game for the Buckeyes.
While Ohio State leads the Big Ten with nearly 18 assists a game as a team, Conley (No. 2) and Butler (No. 6) have been among the league's leaders. Conley is tied for the conference lead with Michigan State's Travis Walton with a 2.94-1 assist-to-turnover ratio this season.
Lewis, Cook and David Lighty are also averaging at least one assist a game.
Right On Target
With Oden playing 23 minutes in last week's 20-point win against Valpo, even OSU head coach Thad Matta surprised himself with how much use he got out of his center. Playing primarily with his left hand, Oden made 8-of-15 free throws and grabbed double-digit rebounds while fouling out three Crusaders.
This week, Matta indicated Oden may see more and more action with his progressing right hand. Currently Oden wears a brace that limits the amount of flexibility in the wrist, but Matta is hoping Oden can begin shooting in earnest with his rehabilitated hand.
As to whether or not Oden cracks the starting lineup today... Matta was non-committal. Once Oden starts, Harris, Othello Hunter and Matt Terwilliger will battle for the starting power forward position.
Ohio State (7-1) vs. Cleveland State (5-5)
Date: Saturday, Dec. 8, 2006
Time: 4:00 PM ET
TV: ESPN+ (Tom Hamilton & Bill Hosket); WBNS 10TV in Central Ohio