In his team's lone loss of the season, the Buckeyes dropped a four-point loss to a North Carolina team that ran big man after big man out on the court. Matta countered with senior Kyle Madsen and junior Dallas Lauderdale, but both were saddled with foul trouble that hindered their effectiveness.
To be successful against the No. 21 Seminoles (9:30, ESPN2), the No. 15 Buckeyes will especially need the 6-8, 260-pound Lauderdale – who has started the ensuing three games – to be a more productive player than he was against the Tar Heels.
"I think it's a great challenge for myself personally and us as a team," Lauderdale said. "Obviously I do need to stay out of foul trouble, but I take it as a challenge to be able to try and not let them do what they want to do, whether it's post ups or ball-screen defense. I'm going to take pride in defending them and stopping them."
In that game, Lauderdale saw 21 minutes of action and recorded six rebounds, four points and three blocked shots. Since then, the junior is averaging 10.7 points, 5.3 boards and 5.3 blocks per game.
He will be facing the likes of Chris Singleton (6-9, 227 pounds), who leads the team with 12.8 points and 8.1 rebounds per game. As the Seminoles were capturing the title of the Old Spice Classic, he was earning most valuable player honors by averaging 14.8 points, 6.8 boards and 3.0 steals in four games.
Singleton figures to be joined in the starting lineup by 6-9, 235-pound senior Ryan Reid (6.9 points, 5.8 rebounds) and 7-1, 251-pound sophomore center Solomon Alabi, a potential All-American candidate who has more than 100 career blocked shots to his record. He sits third on the team with an average of 9.9 points per game.
It does not figure to be an easy task, but at least Lauderdale has some experience to look to.
"What North Carolina did a good job of was sealing me in the lane and staying on my body because I like to block shots," he said. "When I block shots, I have space. They took my legs away from me so I wasn't able to block shots. I have to stay of their bodies, think a pass ahead and I think I'll be fine."
As Matta pointed out, the game against UNC was just Lauderdale's second of the season after suffering a broken bone in his right hand prior to the start of camp. The coach said it is no coincidence that Lauderdale has not been in foul trouble since that game.
"I think first and foremost he's getting back in," the coach said. "He was out four weeks and as much as you try to simulate with a cast on his hand and 5-on-0 (drills) and ‘we can't touch Dallas' and this and that, I think it's just more him getting back to playing and gaining more confidence in himself and his hand. That would probably be the biggest thing for him."
Although they came into the year planning on relying on man-to-man defense, the Buckeyes figure to use the 3-2 match-up zone they have almost exclusively relied on for the past two seasons for this game. That likely means 6-5, 225-pound swingman David Lighty will man the other spot down low.
In addition, Matta said the Buckeyes have practiced with combinations of their big men in the game at the same time. That could mean Madsen (6-9, 250) or sophomore Zisis Sarikopoulos (7-0, 265) might pair with Lauderdale down low if the situation presents itself.
At any rate, the coach said he expects to have to rotate his big men more than he has to this point.
"The pace of the game will probably be pretty fast," he said. "It will be a game where we need everybody to be ready to play."
Where the Seminoles have the size, the Buckeyes might have the speed advantage. OSU starts four wings who range from 6-5 to 6-7 and all weigh between 220-225 pounds, giving them a formidable presence from the perimeter.
Leading that attack will be junior point guard Evan Turner, who had a season-high 10 turnovers against UNC.
"They might try to do the same thing North Carolina did to me," he said. "I just try to be a step ahead, spread the ball around and not let them attack me. Keep moving and keep them on their heels and be in attack mode. I have to read the defense and give my teammates open shots."
Which will prevail – the bigger lineup or the quicker one? Lauderdale said he is excited to find out.
"They're going to have an advantage (and) we're going to have an advantage," he said. "That's why it's going to be a great game. We're going to be able to do some things that they can't do and they're going to be able to do some things that we can't do. That's why we need to have mental toughness and play hard, play our game and execute at the highest level.
"It's going to be a challenge on both sides."