The Winthrop Eagles take on their second straight opponent from the state of Ohio, as they fly into Columbus for Tuesday night's clash with the seventh-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes.
Winthrop opened the season with an 80-48 rout of visiting St. Andrews, but then went on to lose four of its next five. Since a 10-point loss to James Madison on Dec. 1 however, the Eagles have won two-in-a-row, the most recent of which being a 50-49 upset at Ohio University on Saturday. OU, which has its 16-game home winning streak come to an end with the loss, reached the Sweet 16 in last year's NCAA Tournament.
Winthrop, which is facing a top-10 team for the first time since taking on No. 2 North Carolina back on Nov. 15, 2006 (73-66 loss), opens Big South Conference play at home against High Point on Jan. 5, 2013.
As expected, Ohio State has gotten off to a fast start, winning eight of its first nine games. The team's lone setback came against Duke (73-68) on Nov. 28, and since then it has run off four straight wins. The Buckeyes were most recently in action on Saturday against visiting UNC Asheville, and they topped the Bulldogs in a 90-72 final. OSU's average margin of victory during its current win streak is nearly 30 points per game. The Buckeyes will entertain nationally-ranked Kansas this Saturday, and they will open Big Ten Conference action against Nebraska on Jan. 2, 2013.
A win this evening will be Ohio State's 39th straight at home against non- conference foes, and the team is an astounding 75-2 in Columbus in nine seasons under head coach Thad Matta.
Ohio State won the only other meeting with Winthrop, 78-54, during the 2001-02 season.
Winthrop entered its recent bout with Ohio University ranked second in the Big South in scoring defense, and the Eagles took it to the Bobcats by holding them 25 points below their season average. Ohio shot less than 27 percent from the field in the second half, and a mere 36 percent for the game. The Eagles fared even worse (.327), which included a dreadful 4-of-22 showing from 3- point range, but a 14-7 edge in points from the foul line coupled with the fact that OU committed 18 turnovers helped push the Eagles to the upset victory. Derrick Henry was high man for Winthrop with 14 points, while Andre Smith and Joab Jerome chipped in with 10 points apiece. Larry Brown was close to logging a double-double for the Eagles with nine points and as many rebounds. Henry (15.6 ppg) is the only player currently averaging double digits in the scoring column for Winthrop, the team as a whole putting up just 61.4 ppg on 40.7 percent field goal efficiency, which includes a poor 29.1 percent effort from beyond the arc. The Eagles' defensive effort has been rock-solid though, with foes netting a mere 60.4 ppg in hitting their shots at a 41.9 percent clip, which includes a 31.3 percent showing from downtown.
If the Eagles are to win their third straight non-conference game for the first time since the 2007-08 season, they will need to dial up the defensive pressure once again, a task that won't be easy against an Ohio State squad that averages 80.1 ppg and has never lost in 14 previous matchups against teams from the Big South Conference.
The Buckeyes are fortunate to have one of the top players in all of college basketball wearing their uniform, as Deshaun Thomas is knocking down nearly 48 percent of his field goal attempts, and he has been lights out from long range (.429). His scoring average of 20.3 ppg ranks him in the top-20 nationally, and he contributes elsewhere by pulling down 6.7 rpg and converting 84.4 percent of his free throws (27-of-32). OSU's only other double-digit scorers are Lenzelle Smith, Jr. and LaQuinton Ross, but they average just 11.2 and 10.3 ppg, respectively, so the team is quite reliant on Thomas at this point. OSU's defensive effort yields a mere 57.4 ppg, with foes connecting on only 37.1 percent of their total shots, which includes a paltry 29.4 percent of their 3-point tries. Sam Thompson scored 18 points, Thomas had a double-double with 17 points and 10 boards, Smith, Jr. tacked on 16 points and Evan Ravenel finished with 12 points and seven caroms, as Ohio State knocked off UNC Asheville over the weekend. The Buckeyes shot 59.0 percent from the floor, while the Bulldogs settled in at 42.4 percent.