The final installment of the 2011 Global Sports Shootout takes place tonight, as the North Florida Ospreys come calling on the Ohio State Buckeyes.
North Florida is 1-3 on the young season, and this game marks its third against a nationally-ranked opponent already. The Ospreys opened the year with a 20-point loss to Alabama, but bounced back with a narrow home win over Savannah State. Losses to fellow Sunshine State schools Florida (91-55) and Miami (75-62) followed, setting the stage for this clash with the Buckeyes. UNF is a member of the Atlantic Sun Conference, and the hope is that playing the kind of brutal schedule it is early on will have coach Matt Driscoll's club ready for the rigors of league play, which gets underway on December 3 against Jacksonville.
Ohio State is one of the top teams in the country, and coach Thad Matta's club is the favorite to win the Big Ten Conference this year. The Buckeyes are in the midst of an eight-game homestand to open the season, and they bring a perfect 3-0 mark into this contest after disposing of Wright State (73-42), Florida (81-74) and Jackson State (85-41). The team's next big test will come against Duke as part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge on November 29, and that will be followed by a trip to Kansas on December 10. The Big Ten slate begins for OSU with a home game against Northwestern on December 28.
This bout marks the first-ever meeting between North Florida and Ohio State on the hardwood. The Buckeyes are 11-0 all-time against teams from the A-Sun, while the Ospreys are 0-1 versus foes from the Big Ten.
North Florida's primary issue here in the early part of the 2011-12 season is its inability to shoot, and with that comes the fact that the team is averaging a mere 55.8 ppg. The Ospreys are hitting their field goals at a dismal 35.8 percent clip, and their three-point attempts are off the mark nearly 75 percent of the time. They are being outrebounded by nearly five caroms per contest, and they are guilty of 16 turnovers per outing. The team has three players currently averaging double digits in the scoring column, although Andy Diaz leads the way with just 12.0 ppg. Travis Wallace and Jerron Granberry net 10.3 and 10.0 ppg, respectively, and Diaz and Wallace combine to pull down 11.8 rpg. UNF trailed Miami by 18 points in the second half of Saturday's road clash, but rallied to get within six. Unfortunately, that's as close as the Ospreys would get as they fell by 13 points to the Hurricanes, dropping to 1-3 on the year. Wallace scored 14 of his team-high 16 points in the second half, while Diaz chipped in 13 points and narrowly missed recording a double-double as he also came up with nine boards. North Florida shot 40.4 percent from the field, while Miami hit 44.4 percent of its attempts and claimed a 20-8 edge in points from the foul line.
Though it has only been three games, the Buckeyes are averaging nearly 80 ppg while giving up just over 52. The are shooting 46.8 percent from the floor, although the three-pointer isn't falling the way they would like (.273). Ohio State owns a +6.0 rebounding advantage and goads the opposition into a whopping 22.3 turnovers per contest. With talent up and down the roster, the Buckeyes have any a number of guys capable of taking over a game, the most notable of course being sophomore sensation Jared Sullinger. A 62.5 percent shooter here in the early going, the 6-9 forward who averaged a double-double as a rookie last year is putting up 18.3 points and 8.7 rebounds per game through three games. He has been nearly perfect from the free-throw line (24- of-27), but he isn't forced to carry the load alone as help comes from guys like William Buford (15.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg) and DeShaun Thomas (11.7 ppg, 4.7 rpg). From a defensive standpoint, OSU is holding foes to just 37.7 percent success on field goal attempts, although those same teams are actually shooting better from beyond the arc (.388). Sullinger logged a double-double in the recent win over Jackson State, tallying 20 points and 11 rebounds, while Buford, Thomas and Jordan Sibert added 11 points apiece. Although the outcome was never in doubt, OSU managed just a 3-of-15 showing from three- point range.