COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Ohio State men’s basketball team is back in action on Sunday after opening their 2018-19 regular season with a 64-56 road victory over Cincinnati this past Wednesday.
Despite the strong start to the season with a tough win over the Bearcats, the Buckeyes are taking their next opponent just as seriously as they face Purdue Fort Wayne in their first official home game of the season.
Ohio State Breakdown
Everyone should know what Ohio State did in their season opener at Cincinnati, but what some people who didn’t watch the game may not know is how they did it.
Ohio State had so much success against Cincinnati because of their defense, which held the Bearcats to just 27.4 percent shooting from the field. That success on defense could be the identifier for this Ohio State team this season.
Ohio State didn’t look the prettiest at times in the victory over Cincinnati as Ohio State struggled in stretches offensively. The Buckeyes also had a hard time moving the ball around as they only had a total of seven assists on 20 made shots against the Bearcats.
Despite their low-scoring performance against Cincinnati, Ohio State will most likely have much more success offensively against a team that isn’t on the same level defensively as the Bearcats.
“I think if you want to be a good team, you have to be sound in a variety of areas,” said head coach Chris Holtmann on showing improvement moving forward. “I think you have to try to eliminate holes to your team, whether it’s half-court offensive execution or transition defense or transition offense or whatever. You just want to be as sound as possible in as many areas so that when you do play teams that are stylistically very different that you can be ready to compete against those.”
Ohio State wasn’t too terrible offensively against Cincinnati though as four players scored in double digits against the Bearcats, one of them being freshman guard Luther Muhammad who scored eleven points on 4-10 shooting in Wednesday’s season-opening victory.
Muhammad will most likely be a big part of Ohio State’s success offensively this season, but the freshman showed off a little too much passion in the win at Cincinnati as he picked up a technical foul after saying something to a defender after making a big shot.
“It was an interesting conversation and it was pretty one-sided,” Chris Holtmann joked about talking to Muhammad after his technical. “He realizes [what he did]. I think when you’re young, you feel like you can do a lot of that stuff, but it’s different here [at the collegiate level]. He handled [the call] great though. Luther is a tremendous competitor and he recognizes he made a mistake in that situation.” But when asked about if he doesn’t want Muhammad to lose that competitive fire, Holtmann replied, “Absolutely not.”
Look for Muhammad to make a big impact in Ohio State’s game against Purdue Fort Wayne as well as sophomore forward Kaleb Wesson, who scored a team-high 15 points and grabbed seven rebounds against Cincinnati and also senior guard C.J. Jackson, who scored 13 points in the season opener.
Purdue Fort Wayne Breakdown
The big identifier for Purdue Fort Wayne isn’t anything they’ve done this season so far, it’s what they did last season.
All Chris Holtmann has talked about with his players these past few days is about Purdue Fort Wayne’s 20-point victory at Indiana last season, a stunning upset over the Hoosiers.
“Pretty much every day it’s been mentioned,” said sophomore forward Musa Jallow. “We know they’re capable of beating us just like we’re capable of beating them. So, we’re going to take them serious.”
Junior forward Andre Wesson as well mentioned Holtmann’s stress on the IPFW game. “Coach Holtmann has definitely let us know since before Cincinnati that we’ve got a big three-game stretch coming up with Cincinnati, IPFW and Creighton,” said Wesson. “IPFW obviously did beat Indiana by 20.”
The biggest thing that jumps off the page about this year’s Purdue Fort Wayne team is their scoring. Ohio State may have been great defensively against Cincinnati, but they will be facing a high-scoring offense on Sunday against IPFW as the Mastadons are averaging 91.5 points per game through two games this season.
The Mastadons opened their season with a 25-point loss to UCLA, but even in the blowout loss Purdue Fort Wayne scored 71 points against a now currently-ranked Bruins squad.
Purdue Fort Wayne then rebounded from their season-opening loss with a whopping 112-51 victory over Earlham. Yes, Earlham may be a Division III opponent, but scoring 112 points against anybody at the collegiate level is pretty darn good.
Purdue Fort Wayne is led by John Konchar, a 6′ 5″, 210 lbs. guard. He leads the team in scoring (21 PPG), rebounding (7.5 RPG) and assists (6 APG). He’s been named first-team All-Summit League for three years in a row now and is on pace to extend that streak to four.
“He’s phenomenal,” said Ohio State head coach Chris Holtmann about Konchar. “They play in the same league obviously with [Mike] Daum, who we played last year, South Dakota State. He’s been one of the best players in the league. His numbers are incredible. 15 [points], eight [rebounds] and five [assists] last year. Phenomenal. He’s versatile. I know many people have had him as one of the best players in the country, but they have good players around him, as well.”
Ohio State is favored over Purdue Fort Wayne by 18.5 points. I believe Ohio State will win this game, but I don’t think by that many points. IPFW scored 71 points in their loss to a Top-25 UCLA team and even though the Buckeyes looked great defensively, I don’t believe they’ll hold the Mastadons to a whole lot less than that.
Also, the Buckeye offense wasn’t exactly clicking on all cylinders at Cincinnati. The offense could get going in time, but in order to cover the spread, Ohio State would most likely have to score 80+ points, and I just don’t see that happening on Sunday. However, I do still believe the Buckeyes will get a double-digit win in their first home game of the season.
Score Prediction: 78-66 Ohio State
Ohio State tips off against Purdue Fort Wayne on Sunday at 4:00pm ET at Value City Arena. The game will be televised on Big Ten Network.
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