Men's basketball: Buckeyes move up to No.3 in poll

By The Columbus Dispatch  • 
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Eamon Queeney | Dispatch
Ohio State’s LaQuinton Ross was named Big Ten player of the week after scoring 43 points in two victories.

The week that was

As they have in every game so far, the Buckeyes (8-0) posted double-digit win margins in their two games last week. The victory over Maryland gave them their fifth in six years in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Ohio State wasn’t as engaged against Central Connecticut but put the pedal down in the final 13 minutes to widen its lead.

The week ahead

Bryant and North Dakota State are the first of four opponents for Ohio State in the so-called Gotham Classic, in which they will play only one game in “Gotham” — Dec. 21 against Notre Dame at Madison Square Garden. The four games, which also include one at home against Delaware next week, comprise the Buckeyes’ exempt tournament this season. That means, in the NCAA’s eyes, the four count as only one against a team’s 28-game regular-season limit. Bryant, coached by former Ohio coach Tim O’Shea, is 6-4 after losing to Notre Dame last night. North Dakota State is 6-3 and won at Bryant on Saturday.

How good are they?

As the number of undefeated teams (15 entering last night) continues to fall, the Buckeyes rise. They are No. 3 in the Associated Press Top 25 this week, as high as they have been since they were third for a week early last season. Other than that, it’s hard to gauge how good they are. Their defense is top-ranked, according to the metrics at kenpom.com, but they have the least efficient offense (51st) among the top 24 teams in that rating. One of these weeks, they’ll have a close game.

Who’s hot?

LaQuinton Ross was named Big Ten player of the week after scoring 43 points and shooting 61.5 percent from the field, including 4 of 8 three-pointers. He had a career-high 23 points on Saturday. He is the first OSU player so honored this season. The Buckeyes defense, meanwhile, continues to set the tone by ranking among the national leaders in points and field-goal percentage allowed, and in forcing turnovers, while fouling less often than any other Big Ten team. Aaron Craft leads Big Ten players in steals per game (2.63); he and Shannon Scott are averaging nearly five steals and nine assists between them.

What’s not?

Rebounding became an issue last week as Maryland scored 19 second-chance points and had 16 more field-goal attempts. The Buckeyes were outrebounded even by a Central Connecticut State lineup that included no player taller than 6 feet 7. That could spell trouble in the Big Ten. Coach Thad Matta and his staff are examining substitution patterns after several games in which the Buckeyes have diluted the advantage of their fast starts with defensive lulls when the first wave of reserves takes the floor. Matta said he’s not thinking of shortening the nine-man rotation he has been using — yet.

Outside the lines

Amedeo Della Valle is among 12 players on the ballot for FIBA Europe’s Young Men Player of the Year award. The sophomore guard had an eventful summer overseas, leading his native Italy to an unexpected gold medal in the Under-20 European Championship in Estonia. Della Valle made a three-pointer to force overtime in a quarterfinal against Lithuania, then rallied the Italians to victory over Latvia in the title game by scoring 13 of his game-high 19 points in the final five minutes. Voting is open to the public at FIBAEurope.com.

Quotable

“A lot of times I have deja vu of myself when I was a player. He does things and I say, ‘That’s what I used to look like.’ ” — Matta, tongue firmly in cheek, when asked about Sam Thompson’s four alley-oop dunks against Maryland

bbaptist@dispatch.com

@BBaptistHoops

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