Columbus, OH (SportsNetwork.com) - The eighth-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes tip off a season-long, eight-game homestand on Wednesday night, as they entertain the American University Eagles.
American has split its first two games of the season. After a hard-fought loss at George Mason on opening night (63-60), it bounced back with a 63-61 overtime victory versus UMBC in its home opener on Nov. 14. The Eagles hope that this season comes with better results than last, when it went just 10-20 overall and 5-9 in the Patriot League.
After defeating Morgan State (89-60) and Ohio University (79-69) at home to open up the season, Ohio State had its first road test on Nov. 16 at nationally-ranked Marquette, and it was able to outlast the Golden Eagles in a physical, low-scoring matchup, 52-35. The Buckeye's 3-0 start has allowed them to creep up in the latest AP poll from No. 10 to No. 8.
Ohio State has defeated American in four previous encounters, although the teams haven't met since 1999.
The Eagles came up with a pair of dramatic finishes in their latest win over UMBC. After trailing by two in the waning seconds of regulation, Darius Gardner drilled a jumper to send the game to overtime, and in the extra session, Jesse Reed snapped a tie on a layup with just one second left -- his only bucket of the game -- to give his team the thrilling victory. Gardner had an outstanding all-around effort, as he tallied 22 points (on 7-of-11 from the field), nine rebounds, six steals and four assists. John Schoof netted 15 points, while Kyle Kager logged a double-double with 12 points and 10 boards.
American has not had a great offensive start to the season, as it has made less than 41 percent of its field goal tries. Gardner (18.0 ppg) is off to a hot start, while Schoof (11.5 ppg) has been ice-cold from the field (7-of-26, .269). Kager (10.0 ppg, 9.5 rpg) is a sturdy presence on the interior.
Ohio State was able to snap Marquette's 27-game home winning streak behind an outstanding defensive effort, as it held the Golden Eagles to a lowly 18.9 percent from the field while forcing 20 turnovers. The catalyst in the victory was Aaron Craft, who stuffed the stat sheet with 10 points, 10 assists, seven rebounds and two steals, and in the process became the first player in school history to reach 1,000 points, 500 assists and 200 steals in his career. Shannon Scott and Sam Thompson each poured in a team-high 13 points, with Scott adding five steals of his own.
Pressure at the defensive end against Marquette allowed the Buckeyes' scoring defense to dip to a minuscule 51.3 points per game this season, while they manage to score more than enough themselves at 73.3 points per game. Thompson comes off the bench and is the team's leading scorer with 13.0 points per tilt, while Scott, Craft and Lenzelle Smith, Jr. all average in double figures as well. Craft, who averages 36.0 minutes per game, is one of the most well- rounded guards in the nation, adding 5.7 rebounds, 6.7 assists and 2.0 steals per game to his resume.