Blue Devils face tall task in clash with fifth-ranked Buckeyes

Dec 7, 2013 - 4:02 PM Columbus, OH ( - The fifth-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes hope to continue their perfect run through the early part of the 2013-14 season, as they entertain the Blue Devils of Central Connecticut State on Saturday afternoon.

CCSU plays its basketball out of the Northeast Conference, and the team is off to a sluggish start, recording wins in only two of its first seven games. The Blue Devils actually opened the season at 0-4, but have won two of their last three, the most recent of which being a 65-56 decision at home over New Hampshire on Wednesday.

Ohio State is a undefeated after the first seven games, winning by double digits each time. The team hasn't faced many top-flight opponents during the first month, its only victories of note coming in a 52-35 defensive struggle against Marquette, and a 76-60 triumph over Maryland. The win against the Terrapins took place on Wednesday night as part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, and the team will only play one other tough bout before opening conference play at Purdue on New Year's Eve, that being a neutral-site (New York City) clash with Notre Dame on Dec. 21.

Ohio State won the only two previous meetings between these clubs, the most recent of which being a 78-57 verdict in the first round of the 2007 NCAA Tournament.

Neither team shot the ball well, but Central Connecticut State put four players in double figures, took advantage of 17 turnovers, and claimed a 21-11 edge in points from the foul line in slipping past New Hampshire earlier in the week. Matt Hunter scored 13 points, Faronte Drakeford added a dozen, Brandon Peel came close to posting a double-double with his 11 points and nine rebounds, and Khalen Cumberlander chipped in 10 points for the Blue Devils, who made good on only 36.2 percent of their field goal attempts, but held the Wildcats to just 33.9 percent. CCSU missed the mark on 14 of its 16 3-point tries, lowering the team's long-range efficiency on the season to 27.3 percent. Kyle Vinales leads the club in scoring with his 19.3 ppg, but he hit for only six points in 29 minutes of action against UNH. Drakeford is the Blue Devils' only other double-digit scorer at the moment, and his 10.9 ppg goes well with his 6.1 rpg. CCSU is giving up nearly 82 ppg, and is being routinely hammered on the glass (-7.4).

LaQuinton Ross shot 7-of-13 from the floor, four of which were 3-pointers, to tally a game-high 20 points, leading the Buckeyes to their recent win over Maryland. Help came from reserve Sam Thompson (14 points), as well as fellow starters Lenzelle Smith, Jr. (12 points, six rebounds) and Aaron Craft (10 points, six assists), the team as a whole hitting 52.1 percent of its field goal attempts, including 8-of-18 long-range tries, while holding the Terps to just 39.1 percent shooting efficiency, which encompassed a dismal 2-of-18 showing from downtown. OSU won the game despite being badly beaten on the glass (44-30), using an 18-8 edge in points from the foul line while scoring 25 points off 14 UM turnovers. The Buckeyes boast only three double-digit scorers, with Smith, Jr. (11.4 ppg, 5.0 rpg), Craft (11.1 ppg, 5.4 apg) and Amir Williams (10.4 ppg, 7.3 rpg) helping the team net 74.7 ppg. Where Ohio State really earns its keep is at the defensive end, as foes are permitted just 54.3 ppg in hitting a paltry 35.9 percent of their total shots, which includes a 22.4 percent effort from beyond the arc. Three others are close to cracking the double-digit barrier, netting between 9.0 and 9.9 ppg.

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