USC Upstate (6-4) at (2) Ohio State (8-1)
Wednesday, December 14th, 7:30 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Scott Haynes, Senior College Basketball Editor
FACTS & STATS: Site: Value City Arena (19,049) -- Columbus, Ohio. Television: BTN. Home Record: USC Upstate 4-0, Ohio St. 8-0. Away Record: USC Upstate 1-3, Ohio St. 0-1. Neutral Record: USC Upstate 1-1, Ohio St. 0-0. Conference Record: USC Upstate 0-0, Ohio St. 0-0. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: Coming off their first loss of the season, the second-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes return to the friendly confines of Value City Arena, as they take on the USC Upstate Spartans this evening in a non-conference affair.
Thad Matta's Buckeyes opened the season with eight straight wins in Columbus, but a short-handed OSU squad took to the road this past weekend and fell to the Kansas Jayhawks in Lawrence, 78-67. Matta, who reached 300 career wins with OSU's victory over Texas-Pan American recently, is closing in on his 200th victory with the Buckeyes, as he currently sits at 198-58 with the school.
The Spartans are 6-4 on the season, but come into this contest following back- to-back losses against UNC Asheville (88-81) and most recently, Dayton (72-68). The competition thus far has not exactly been up the Ohio State's caliber, as this is just the second game against a program from a major conference. USC Upstate opened the 2011-12 campaign with a 20-point loss at Arkansas.
This is the first-ever meeting between these two program. Ohio State is a perfect 12-0 against Atlantic Sun Conference members all-time.
The Spartans went toe-to-toe with the Flyers over the weekend, but just weren't able to get over the hump in a four-point road loss. The team shot the ball well enough to win, hitting 50.9 percent from the floor overall, including 53.6 percent in the second half. The problem was that Dayton shot the ball better, at a 57.8 percent clip for the game. The loss spoiled a strong performance by Torrey Craig, who led the charge with 21 points and seven rebounds. Fellow forward Ricardo Glenn chipped in 10 points in the loss. The Spartans aren't an offensive juggernaut by any means, but the team has been efficient in terms of scoring, averaging 74.1 ppg on .467 shooting. Craig is the go-to-guy, averaging 16.9 points and 7.6 rebounds per game. No one else is currently averaging double figures, although Adrian Rodgers (9.7 ppg), Glenn (9.3 ppg) and Ty Greene (9.0 ppg) do provide some depth.
The road wasn't kind to the Buckeyes over the weekend, although not having All-American Jared Sullinger on the floor was certainly a big reason for the loss. The Buckeyes fell behind early and never led in the 11-point loss to the Jayhawks. William Buford led the way offensively, scoring 17 of his game-high 21 points in the second half. Deshaun Thomas poured in 19 points, while Aaron Craft finished with 11 points and six assists. Clearly, the Buckeyes are a far better team all around with Sullinger in the lineup. The 6-9 sophomore has missed the last two games with back spasms and is expected to miss this contest. On the season, Sullinger is averaging a double-double with team-highs of 19.1 points and 10.3 rebounds per game. Balance comes in the form of Buford and Thomas at 16.6 and 13.6 ppg, respectively. Craft runs the offense and has shown the ability to score (9.9 ppg) as well as distribute (5.6 apg).
The Spartans can compete with a lot of teams this season, but this contest in Columbus will certainly present a problem. Even without Sullinger in the lineup, expect the Buckeyes' superior talent to shine in yet another lopsided win at home.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Ohio State 79, USC Upstate 51
12/14 10:43:16 ET