Men's basketball: Ohio State turns up defense with Maryland looming

By The Columbus Dispatch  • 
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Jay L aPRETE | Associated Press
Ohio State’s Amedeo Della Valle, being fouled by Travis Wallace, scored 17 points against North Florida.

The week that was

The Buckeyes improved to 6-0 with their most lopsided win since a 39-point victory over Morgan State in the season opener. They shot 69.2 percent against North Florida, the sixth-best field-goal percentage in school history. Seniors Aaron Craft and Lenzelle Smith Jr. reached 100 wins (in 119 games) faster than anyone else in program history.

The week ahead

An honest-to-goodness opponent from a power conference will be in Value City Arena on Wednesday when Maryland visits for the 15th edition of the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. The Terrapins are 5-2 against a schedule rated about as challenging as Ohio State’s has been. Central Connecticut State is 1-5 and lost 109-73 at Purdue three weeks ago.

How good are they?

More losses by teams in front of them pushed the Buckeyes farther up the top 25 ladder this week, to No. 5 in the Associated Press poll. It is the highest they have been since they were No. 4 before an ACC-Big Ten loss at Duke last season. Analytics expert Ken Pomeroy has Ohio State No. 2 behind Louisville in his overall ranking, on the strength of a defense that he has as the best in NCAA Division I by nearly four points per 100 possessions.

Who’s/what’s hot?

The Buckeyes have limited opponents to a .353 field-goal percentage, seventh-best nationally, and forced five more turnovers per game (16.5) than they have committed, which also ranks highly. Offensively, pretty much everybody was on fire against North Florida. LaQuinton Ross got off the schneid, finally, with 17 points and eight rebounds. Smith, four nights after he had 20 points and eight rebounds against Wyoming, had 10 points, six rebounds and six assists. Amir Williams set at least one career high for the fourth time in five games with 18 points and two assists. Amedeo Della Valle scored a career-high 17 points, including five threes, in only 15 minutes. Craft (2.5) and Shannon Scott (2.2) rank second and third, respectively, among Big Ten players in steals per game.

Who’s/what’s not?

There was not much to quibble with against North Florida, except for the loose defense played when four of five starters were out of the game in each half. It remains to be seen whether the marksmanship the Buckeyes showed against the Ospreys was the start of a warming trend or just one really hot night. Will the good looks be harder to come by against Maryland, which has limited its opponents to a .387 field-goal percentage?

Outside the lines

When Ohio State led by 33 points with seven minutes left and Kam Williams was still on the bench, it was the best indication yet that, although he’s not saying it, coach Thad Matta plans to redshirt the freshman, who missed a month of preseason practice because of mononucleosis. Matta is asked almost weekly what his plans are for the scoring guard. He has not been definitive, but then redshirts aren’t requested until after the season, and Matta conceivably could use him in an emergency. But with the wealth of guards on this team, it seems unlikely he will.

Quotable

“When you have two elite guards like (Craft and Scott) … (you) can really dominate a lot of games. It’s really hard to prepare for and really hard to guard against because it gives Smith, who’s a great shooter, the opportunity to just kind of stay (on the perimeter) as these guys are going to the rim and making plays.” — North Florida coach Matthew Driscoll

bbaptist@dispatch.com

@BBaptistHoops

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