SCOUTING THE BUCKEYES
The good news is Ohio State is just 1-4 in road games this year. The bad news is the losses were sans primetime player Evan Turner, and the lone Buckeye victory came at then-No. 6 Purdue when Turner (6-7, 205 lbs.) was in the line-up. The junior, listed as one of four guards in head coach Thad Matta's unique starting five, is averaging a team-best 18.6 points and 9.7 rebounds per game, and has appeared fine in a handful of games since coming off a back fracture suffered during a dunk in early December. He led OSU in consecutive wins over Wisconsin and the Boilermakers, and has actually increased his scoring average by a point after leading the Big Ten in average last year. Turner, who plays more like a swingman, is shooting well from close to the bucket (58 percent), but hasn't yet found his outside shot in missing 10 of 14 threes. He has solid quickness and dribble penetration ability, and is exceptional on the glass because of body control and length. Though he has played six fewer games, he has more defensive boards than any other Buckeye. The Chicago native also has a positive assist-to-turnover ratio, and has shown an inclination to take care of the ball at times while still continually challenging for shots and space. This is a difficult match for any team or player because of his skillset and varied game. Head coach Bob Huggins could choose to let Turner get his and slow the rest of the team, or see if Ohio State can compensate when its best player is limited.
The other trio of guards, with widely varying styles, are all about the same size. William Buford (6-5, 190 lbs.) is the most dynamic, averaging 13 points and five rebounds while also registering the most assist (58). The sophomore has taken a team-leading 220 shots, making 40 percent from the floor and 36 from three-point range. He is a good distributor and will attempt to get teammates the ball, but will also take mediocre-to-poor shots at times. He brings a dose of energy and upbeat pacing to the game, and though he is thinner than the other guards will still try to draw contact and get to the line. David Lighty (6-5, 220 lbs.), the de facto three or four player depending upon match-ups, hits for about 13 points and five rebounds. An experienced junior, Lighty was the first Ohio State player to start his first game as a true freshman in more than a decade. He plays 34 minutes per game and provides a claming influence as needed. He's a great interior shooter, but isn't a major threat from outside. WVU must beware of his offensive putback chances, however, and it needs to get a body on him and play physically to offset his strength. He has made just 58 percent from the line this year, so an occasional hack won't hurt, either. Jon Diebler (6-6, 205 lbs.) is essentially the shooting guard. The junior ranked second in the Big Ten in three-pointers made last season, and he ranks second all-time at the school for total treys. Diebler is a spot-up shooter, as an incredible 124 of his 157 shots have been threes. He has made 45.2 percent both inside and out and, as one would imagine, is excellent at the line at 42 of 50 this year. His shots must be contested, and that job becomes a bit easier when he isn't a threat to drive. Diebler could use a head fake and then drive, but he doesn't finish well in the lane, and his primary objective would be dumping the ball to others or kick back outside for a more open shots. The idea here is to play him closely and extend the defense far outside to avoid any open looks. He will hit his share, but the hope is that he can be limited, both by the Mountaineers and the sometimes difficult backdrop of the Coliseum.
|Sat. Jan. 23
2 p.m. EST
|Sirius Channel: 90|
WVU - 8
OSU - 44
Center Dallas Lauderdale (6-8, 255 lbs.), the only non-guard starter, is a beefy interior talent who operates well on the blocks and in the paint, but doesn't have much range. He is a very poor free throw shooter (48.1 percent), and his game is simply occupying space inside and putting a body on foes as much as posible to both wear them down and create better chances for himself and teammates. He scores seven points per game and averages five rebounds, so his numbers alone are not alarming. But he does have the second-most offensive rebounds on the team (31) behind Turner, and he can finish and draw contact around the rim. West Virginia must be cautious and not get into foul trouble when trying to match his strength on the inside. The primary reserves are all seniors. Guards P.J. Hill (6-1. 165 lbs.) and Jeremie Simmons (6-2, 170 lbs.) man the one and two slots, respectively, and average about four and seven points. Hill started six games this year when the line-up was shuffled because of Turner's injury, but never found a good shooting stroke. He is a pass-first guard who is a career back-up, and he'll be used perhaps 15 minutes a game as needed. Simmons is a much better shooter and is canning better than 50 percent of his looks from inside. He has made 24 of 56 threes, and will often settle for those looks. That pushes him away from the basket, furthering a problem with an already average rebounder. Matta has used him about 15 minutes per game as well. Center Kyle Madsen (6-9, 240 lbs.), two points, two rebounds per game, began his career at Vanderbilt, then transferred to his home-state school. He has some size and a few solid post moves, but he isn't a scorer and won't likely outrebound Kevin Jones, Da'Sean Butler or Devin Ebanks. Like the other reserve upperclassmen, he is used for minutes and perhaps a bit of a change-up in looks.
This isn't a bad match-up for West Virginia overall, as Ohio State's line-up lacks a true post player, doesn't offer much interior scoring on the block, and has just one player who is a three-point threat. The Mountaineers have the length and talent to match the Buckeyes at every slot, and though they might not have a player with the explosive skills of Turner -- Butler has similar abilities, but isn't as apt to blow past a defender -- they do have a deeper roster with just as much size. The key is making shots and allowing a free flowing game. WVU handled OSU last year because they didn't run a lot of set offensive plays. The Buckeyes could blow up what they saw on film, but had more difficulty defending Huggins' flowing motion style that gives players freedom to operate. WVU will be able to pack the interior while defending just one perimeter threat, and its athletes would seem to at least stalemate those of OSU. Make shots, attack the boards and make Ohio State work for every point. With a home court advantage, it reads here that should be enough. This game, perhaps more than any other this season, will be more in the hands of the players than the staff. Look for motion basketball that could resemble an organized playground game rather than anything structured. This one should be entertaining.
OSU: G Walter Offutt (Left Team), Out.
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West Virginia is 48-2 (.960) against non-conference foes in the Coliseum over the last seven years. The Mountaineers have won 29 non-league games in a row at the facility. A win would give the program 440 all-time at the Coliseum.
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Four Mountaineer starters are averaging at least 10 points. Truck Bryant increased his average to double digits by averaging 14.7 points over the last five games. Da'Sean Butler is averaging almost 16 points per game. His 90 career double-figure scoring games are second-most in school history.
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Butler is sixth in all-time scoring at West Virginia with 1,709 points. He needs 77 points to pass Hot Rod Hundley for fifth place. Hundley's No. 33 jersey will be retired by West Virginia University during the Ohio State game. Hundley is just the second basketball player all-time (Jerry West) to have his uniform number retired by WVU. Sam Huff's football jersey number was also retired.
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West Virginia has won 12 of its last 16 games televised by CBS. Many of those wins have come in the NCAA Tournament. The Mountaineers throttled Ohio State last year on the network; the 28-point margin was the largest non-conference home defeat ever for the Buckeyes.