After coasting through its first two wins of the season, Ohio State (2-0) will look to keep its momentum up against Texas Southern (0-2) at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Schottenstein Center.
Ohio State head coach Chris Holtmann said his team has spent a lot of time preparing for the Tigers by watching film and gearing up for a “really talented” team.
“They’re athletic. They’re explosive offensively,” Holtmann said. “It’ll be one of the better nonconference teams we’ll play. It’s clearly the best we’ve played up to this point. So our focus is on getting better and preparing for them.”
Texas Southern lost its leading scorer from last year, Zach Lofton, when he transferred to New Mexico State in the offseason. Sophomore point guard Demontrae Jefferson has filled the offensive void, averaging 21 points and 3.5 assists per game. He has shot 50 percent from 3-point range in the first two games of the season. Holtmann referred to the 5-foot-7 guard as one of the Tigers’ “dynamic playmakers.”
Averaging nine points and 11 rebounds per game, redshirt junior center Trayvon Reed represents a tall task for the Buckeyes. Ohio State has outrebounded opponents 48 to 27.5 on average to begin the season, but have not encountered the size and strength presented by the 7-foot-2 center.
Ohio State redshirt junior forward Keita Bates-Diop, who leads the Buckeyes with 20.5 points and 10.5 rebounds per game, understands his team must account for the threat Texas Southern poses inside. He said the team has been emphasizing the importance of playing physical in practice.
“A lot of box-out drills,” Bates-Diop said. “A lot of just making sure we’re hitting guys and checking guys and knowing where guys are at least on the defensive boards.”
Texas Southern redshirt senior guard Donte Clark also has been a force for the Tigers. The 6-foot-4 guard averages 17.5 points and 2.5 steals per game, along with 11 rebounds per game.
Ohio State redshirt senior Andrew Dakich, who serves as junior C.J. Jackson’s primary backup at point guard, noted he and Jackson will have to expand their responsibilities to deal with an aggressive backcourt.
“That’s been harped about from the point guard position because we don’t normally have to block out just because our guy’s getting back on defense,” Dakich said. “So that’s kind of been an area of improvement where C.J. and I have to go block someone out all the time, so we can get extra possessions and eliminate their extra possessions.”
Whichever team wins the rebounding battle and earns more possessions will put itself in a good position to win the game. Extra possessions lead to extra shots, and Texas Southern has shown some weakness defensively through two games.
Texas Southern has struggled defending the 3-point line, allowing 13 3-pointers per game at a 36.6 percent clip. While Ohio State has made only 6.5 3-pointers per game on 28.9 percent shooting, Bates-Diop, Jackson and redshirt senior guard Kam Williams have combined for five made 3s per game at a 41.6 percent rate.
The Buckeyes will need to keep the Tigers off the glass and win the physical battle in the paint to have success. Holtmann’s team will also look to capitalize on its opportunities from the perimeter in order to defeat Texas Southern. Holtmann said the Tigers are well-coached and use their combination of size and explosiveness to exploit defenses.
“They have kind of matchup issues all over the floor,” Holtmann said. “And with their ability to dribble, pass and shoot — spread you out — makes it a challenge.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story inaccurately said Texas Southern has averaged a rebounding advantage of 51 to 39.5 on average in its first two games. In fact, it was out rebounded 45-44 by Washington State and 57-35 by Gonzaga.