Columbus, OH (SportsNetwork.com) - The Delaware Blue Hens have the unenviable task of tangling with the third-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes at Value City Arena on Wednesday night.
The game is part of the Gotham Classic, and both teams will head to Madison Square Garden this Saturday to conclude the event.
Delaware is an even 5-5 on the season, and the team is in the midst of a two- game slide, which came on the heels of three straight victories. This bout marks the fourth straight on the road for the Blue Hens, who have played only twice in front of the hometown faithful, and who won't do so again until hosting Liberty on New Year's Day.
Ohio State brings a perfect 10-0 record into this contest, with nine of those victories coming at home. The Buckeyes have won each game by double figures, and while they've faced some quality teams, they haven't been seriously tested as of yet. They really only have one more significant trial prior to the start of Big Ten Conference play at Purdue on New Year's Eve, as the team will battle Notre Dame in New York City this Saturday.
Ohio State won both previous meetings with Delaware, the most recent of which being a 74-49 final in Columbus on Nov. 19, 2004.
Offensive production hasn't been Delaware's problem this season, as the team averages 81.3 ppg in knocking down 45.4 percent of its total shots, which includes a 37.9 percent showing from 3-point range. The effort at the defensive end on the other hand, has been somewhat lax as foes are generating 78.5 ppg in hitting 46.2 percent of their total shots, but only 28.3 percent of their long-range launches. The team is just about dead even in terms of rebounding (-0.1) and turnovers (-0.8), and boasts five double-digit scorers, led by Devon Saddler and his 23.3 ppg. Saddler, who recently returned from suspension, hit for 24 points in the Blue Hens' 85-66 loss to North Dakota State on Monday. Davon Usher (18.1 ppg) is among UD's other capable scorers, which also includes Jarvis Threatt (17.6 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 6.0 apg), Kyle Anderson (15.0 ppg, 3.3 rpg) and Carl Baptiste (11.9 ppg, 7.7 rpg). Saddler's effort against NDSU not withstanding, Delaware shot just 39.7 percent from the field, missing 17 of its 22 3-point tries along the way, while being outscored at the foul line (26-11) and outworked on the glass (38-29).
Ohio State's bread and butter is its ability to play shutdown defense, as evidenced by the fact that opponents are scoring just 54.6 ppg in hitting a mere 36.6 percent of their field goal attempts, which includes a 23.2 percent showing from beyond the arc -- all of which rank the team in the top-5 nationally. Offensively, the Buckeyes are putting up 76.2 ppg behind shooting efforts that check in at .487 overall and .374 from 3-point range. Factor in nearly 16 forced turnovers per outing, as well as a rebounding differential that is presently in the black (+2.1), and it's not hard to see why coach Thad Matta's club is off to such a tremendous start. Balance is the key for OSU, as six players average between 8.5 and 13.4 ppg. Lenzelle Smith, Jr. is high man at the moment, while Amir Williams serves as the team's top rebounder (7.3 rpg) while shooting a gaudy 69.6 percent from the floor. Ohio State's last game was also against North Dakota State on Saturday (79-62 win), and the club made good on 52.9 percent of its total shots, which included 10 treys. Smith, Jr. and LaQuinton Ross both scored 18 points for the Buckeyes, who also got double-digit efforts from Marc Loving and Sam Thompson with 12 points apiece. Aaron Craft dished out seven of the club's 16 assists, and OSU's bench outscored NDSU's, 29-14.