Following a pair of dominant victories that bolstered Ohio State men’s basketball into the nation’s elite, the Buckeyes are poised to continue pushing the pace and dominating the glass Friday.
No. 10 Ohio State (4-0) hosts the Mastodons of Purdue Fort Wayne (2-4), who will head to Columbus, Ohio, after a narrow loss to Kent State.
Purdue Fort Wayne head coach Jon Coffman leads an athletic and steady-shooting unit, averaging 10 3-pointers a game and shooting 47 percent from the field.
Ohio State head coach Chris Holtmann understands the challenges the Mastodons will create Friday.
“We’re really trying to lean on the understanding and leadership of our older guys,” Holtmann said. “They start 6-5, 6-5, 6-5, 6-7, 6-11, so I think your leadership has to be strong. A lot of their guys are back, and they have a really talented transfer from Kansas State. I’m anxious to see how our guys respond from a game that was really unlike any we will play the rest of the year.”
Sophomore forward Justin Ahrens is recovering from a back injury –– one of several banged-up Buckeyes.
“With my defensive part of the game, in order not to be a liability on defense, I need to be able to hold my own ground, and I’m learning the concepts of our defense pretty well,” Ahrens said. “I need to understand where I need to be in my spots a little bit better and be faster, which will come in time.”
Ohio State has stifled opponents this season, holding then-No.10 Villanova and Stetson to 51 points each, while Purdue Fort Wayne has given up an average of just less than 77 points per game.
“Breakdowns happen defensively. As long as we know that we are playing hard, it’ll make up for itself,” Ahrens said. “Our motto for each game and before every game is, ‘Give your best effort.’ Every play, every possession, and things will work out.”
The ability to defend the 3 and force turnovers with aggressive, physical defense is crucial against Purdue Fort Wayne.
“They have a five-man who can make threes, their forward can make threes, and every year, they’re top 25 in the country in 3-point attempts and 3-point makes, which all lead to a very dangerous team,” Holtmann said. “They really spread you out, and they get to the free-throw line.”
Led by junior forward Kyle Young, senior forward Kaleb Wesson and freshman guard D.J. Carton, Ohio State’s offense is scoring early and often, shooting efficiently and slashing to the rim.
Young leads the Buckeyes in scoring with 11.8 points per game, while Wesson is averaging a double-double, scoring in the paint at ease and controlling the boards.
Holtmann commended Young on his continuous development as a scorer and playmaker, with or without the ball in his hands.
“He doesn’t need the ball in his hands to impact the game,” Holtmann said. “That’s hard to find nowadays in basketball. Guys want the ball; they need the ball, and they want touches, and he doesn’t need to. He can do it with his energy and playing off other people. That’s also a fact that teammates appreciate how unselfish he is.”
Ohio State looks to stay unbeaten at 7 p.m. Friday in Value City Arena against Purdue Fort Wayne.