USC battles No. 2 Ohio State on Saturday

The Gamecocks will face off against the number two team in the country on Saturday at Colonial Life Arena as they battle the Ohio State Buckeyes. The Buckeyes are a serious national title contender this season, and are led by super sophomore forward Jared Sullinger. Look inside as Coach Horn previews this Big Ten – SEC matchup.

With two straight wins, the Gamecocks are starting to head the right direction on the court, but face by far their stiffest test of the season this weekend when Ohio State visits Columbia for a noon tipoff.

Coach Darrin Horn emphasized the positive from wins over in-state rivals Clemson and Presbyterian in the last two contests, but again stressed the challenge the 9-1 Buckeyes will present.

"After having the opportunity to look at the game the other night, I think it's really very similar to what we've talked about before," said Horn. "I see some real positive things happening. There's no question that this team is getting better and individuals are making progress. That being said we've got to find a way to make sure that we continue to do that, both individually and as a team. We've got a tremendous test coming up on Saturday with Ohio State."

This weekend's contest will be just the fourth meeting between the two schools, with Ohio State currently holding a two games to one advantage in the series. Last year's 79-57 Buckeye victory was the first game played between the two schools since the 1988 and 1989 seasons.

Although last year's contest in Columbus, Ohio was not at all what the Gamecocks hoped to accomplish, Horn said he is approaching this "David vs. Goliath" matchup with a clean slate, and not dwelling on the past.

"Yeah, I'm not really big on comparing last year versus this year or whatever. It's two totally different seasons, two totally different teams. Their team is different, they lost a couple seniors that maybe won as many games as anyone in their school history collectively. That's not something I spend a lot of time thinking about."

The Gamecocks will have their hands full with an extremely talented roster from top to bottom for OSU, but the Buckeyes biggest star is forward Jared Sullinger, who returned to Ohio State instead of going to the NBA after his first year. Sullinger comes in leading the Buckeyes and averaging a double-double with 18.3 points per game and 10.3 rebounds per game.

"Obviously, Jared Sullinger sticks out, just because of his incredible production and ability, and the focus that he demands," added Horn. "In watching film on them I'm really impressed by them as a team, not just in their personnel, but how they play. They're extremely solid defensively. They don't give up a lot easily when they get their defense set. Offensively they've got a couple of dynamic players, and I'm not so sure Buford (sp?) isn't just as good a pro prospect as Sullinger. I think he's terrific."

Horn said that what makes Sullinger so good is not only his talent, but the way he uses his basketball smarts and prowess to take the fight right at his opponents for the entire game.

"I think it's his ability to play basketball (is what makes him so dangerous)," said Horn. "His IQ is off the charts. Yes he's big and strong, he can finish and score, get rebounds and all of that. But he is an incredibly smart basketball player and he does a lot of little things. He's got a very mature game. He's like that older guy you go play against when you're young down at the YMCA or church league, and he's just giving it to you. He's got all the little things down. He's a terrific talent but he's got all of the little basketball stuff too."

But Sullinger is not alone, as guard William Buford and forward Deshaun Thomas also average double figures in points, with 16.3 and 14.5 points per game respectively. Point guard Aaron Craft also adds just under ten points per contest to go along with 5.4 assists.

Horn said that this team mentality, and not just the reliance on one superstar, is what really makes Ohio State such a basketball power.

And while coach Thad Matta's Buckeyes will be a big favorite Saturday, Coach Horn hopes that hard work and the excitement of the contest can help level the court a little bit for the Gamecocks.

"The way they play, they share the basketball well, they make the extra pass, they do those kind of things," said Horn. "So it's a tremendous challenge for our guys on Saturday and at the same time a tremendous opportunity. A national television game against a terrific opponent, we're expecting a good crowd, and it's military day. That is something that's exciting for our program. It's the kind of game that you want to be in, that you want to play. We've got work to do to prepare for it. Obviously we're going to have to play well. But at the same time I think these are the kind of games that you want to be in."

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