The old cliche goes, "if at first you don't succeed, try, try again." The Ohio State Buckeyes have a better idea: try something different.
For the third time this season, Ohio State struck out on the road against a top-five opponent. Instead, the Buckeyes and head coach Thad Matta return to Columbus hosting No. 19 Tennessee at 1 PM today at Value City Arena on the campus of Ohio State.
The Volunteers, like the Buckeyes, are 13-3 and coming off a loss that came down to the buzzer. Tennessee lost Wednesday to Vanderbilt on a last-second shot.
Both Matta and Tennessee head coach Bruce Pearl are trying to nurse young teams to consistent success. The Vols have lost to North Carolina, Butler and the heart-breaking defeat to the in-state Commodores. The Buckeyes, meanwhile, have lost to the top three teams in the country, but they're still trying to develop an identity on offense since the debut of 7-1 center Greg Oden.
Offensively, Tennessee and Ohio State are a lot alike, and yet, they're polar opposites. Ohio State plays a pro-style offense that relies on their athletes to make plays, get shots off and beat their opponents from the triple-threat position. Tennesee, meanwhile, likes to trap, press and beat teams up and down the floor. The Volunteers are an undersized team with all five starters at 6-7 or less.
Ohio State has four players averaging in double-figures - Daequan Cook (14.8 ppg), Oden (13.9 ppg), Ron Lewis (13.2 ppg) and Ivan Harris (10.1 ppg). Tennessee has three players scoring in double-figures: Chris Lofton, JaJuan Smith and freshman forward Duke Crews. It's been Lofton, however, that has done by far the most damage. Lofton is scoring 22.6 points a game and has led the Vols in scoring in 12 of their 16 games this season.
While Tennessee is averaging 85.6 points a game, behind Lofton's 48 percent from 3-point range, the Buckeyes are averaging an impressive 79.4 points a game in their own right. Cook leads the team in 3-point shooting at 50 percent, while Harris is shooting 41.8 percent and Jamar Butler 40.7 percent. Ohio State as a team is shooting 39.3 percent from behind-the-arc.
Tennessee owns impressive victories this season against Texas, Memphis and Oklahoma State. Ohio State is searching for their first non-conference victory against a ranked team on a slate that includes marquee wins against Iowa State and Illinois.
Ohio State is 10-0 at home this season. Tennessee is 1-1 on the road with their only win against Louisiana-Lafayette.
Tennessee vs. Ohio State
When: 1 PM ET (CBS)
Where: Columbus, Ohio
Series: Ohio State leads 1-0 (91-65 victory on Dec. 22, 1979)
PG Ramar Smith (6-2 Fr.) - 8.1 ppg, 3.1 apg
SG Chris Lofton (6-2 Jr.) - 22.6 ppg, 3.5 rpg
SF JaJuan Smith (6-2 Jr.) - 14.6 ppg, 4.0 rpg
PF Dane Bradshaw (6-4 Sr.) - 7.1 ppg, 4.9 apg
C Duke Crews (6-6 Fr.) - 10.8 ppg, 6.0 rpg
PG Mike Conley (6-1 Fr.) - 9.0 ppg, 6.6 apg
SG Jamar Butler (6-2 Jr.) - 8.0 ppg, 4.2 apg
SF Ron Lewis (6-5 Sr.) - 13.2 ppg, 3.6 rpg
PF Ivan Harris (6-8 Sr.) - 10.1 ppg, 3.1 rpg
C Greg Oden (7-1 Fr.) - 13.9 ppg, 9.2 rpg