Norse in unenviable position of taking on ornery Buckeyes

Coming off their first loss of the season, the fourth-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes face a quick turnaround as they play host to the Norse of Northern Kentucky on Saturday afternoon.

Northern Kentucky has yet to taste victory as a member of Division I, logging an 0-4 record, with all four games taking place away from home. The Norse, who play their basketball out of the Atlantic Sun Conference presently, dropped a 69-58 decision to Cal State Northridge in their most recent outing, and their last win over D-I opponent came on Jan. 14, 1984 when they defeated Tennessee State, 66-64.

Ohio State had opened the campaign with four straight wins, but the team faced its toughest test to date in Wednesday's Big Ten/ACC Challenge clash at No. 2 Duke, and fell to the Blue Devils in a 73-68 final. The Buckeyes are happy to be home following the setback, as they have won 34 straight non-conference game in Columbus, averaging nearly 90 ppg along the way. OSU will play its next eight games at home, and won't hit the road again until playing at Illinois on Jan. 5, 2013 in its second conference game on the schedule.

While this is the first official bout between Northern Kentucky and Ohio State, the two teams met in an exhibition game in 2004, with the Buckeyes posting a 77-67 victory.

A lack of offensive punch has been Northern Kentucky's issue through the first four games, as the team is averaging a paltry 56.8 ppg in hitting just 38.2 percent of its field goal attempts, which includes a 25.0 percent showing from three-point range. Eshaunte Jones (15.8 ppg) is the only double-digit scorer for the Norse, and he has nearly as many three-point baskets (11) as his closest teammate has attempts (16). The team hasn't played all that poorly on defense, allowing 66.5 ppg, despite permitting the opposition to connect on 50.0 percent of their total shots. Jones poured in 24 points on the strength of four treys, but his effort went for naught once again as NKU shot just 36.9 percent from the floor, missed 18 of its 24 long-range bombs, and suffered a crippling 22-4 deficit in points from the foul line as it dropped an 11-point decision to CS Northridge the last time out. Jalen Billups chipped in 10 points in the setback.

Poor shooting proved to the Buckeyes' undoing in the recent loss at Duke, as they hit just 33.8 percent of their field goal attempts, converting a mere 6- of-21 three-point tries along the way. Conversely, the Blue Devils made good on 47.1 percent of their total shots which was remarkable considering they were just 30 percent accurate in the first half. Deshaun Thomas led Ohio State with 16 points, while Aaron Craft and Lenzelle Smith, Jr. pitched in with 11 apiece. Thomas has been a man possessed for the Buckeyes in the first few weeks of the season, averaging 22.4 points and 6.2 rebounds per game. Craft adds 13.6 points and 4.4 assists per outing, while Smith, Jr. contributes 11.4 points and 5.2 caroms per contest. The team as a whole is putting up 77.4 ppg in knocking down 47.7 percent of its field goal tries, which includes a rock- solid 43.2 percent effort from beyond the arc. At the other end, foes are netting only 60.4 ppg behind a .397 field goal percentage, and they are guilty of more than 13 turnovers per game while the Buckeyes cough it up only 9.0 times per tilt. OSU is +5.8 in rebounding margin.