The Buckeyes are back home after their less-than-perfect trip to Cameron Indoor Stadium. Next up are the Norse of Northern Kentucky, the perfect cure for the post-loss blues, and the perfect opportunity to employ some of the new things we learned on Wednesday night. Let’s take a look.
|School:||Northern Kentucky University|
|Location:||Highland Heights, Kentucky|
|Division:||NCAA Division 1|
|Stadium:||The Bank of Kentucky Center|
|Head Coach:||Dave Bezold|
As I’m sure we’re all aware, the Buckeyes are coming off a rather unfortunate loss to the Duke Blue Devils. Credit where credit is due to Mike Krzyzewski and all, but that was certainly a tough pill to swallow. I’ll have more thoughts about the game at a later date (when I have more than an hour to write), but Tim Shoemaker did an excellent job covering the major talking points. I’ll refer to him for all further post-Duke discussion for now.
It’s time for us to look forward to the next game in our list of one game seasons. The Northern Kentucky Norse are not having what one might call a story-book season so far. In fact, it’s been downright dreadful. They have so far lost every game they’ve played: San Diego (65-61), Tulsa (76-56), Sienna (56-52), Cal State Northridge (69-58). And now they have to face a pissed off Buckeyes team? That’s almost as bad as not being able to play a game on your home floor until January 5th. That’s right, other than the previous three games which were all neutral site, the Norse don’t get to go home until they play University of South Carolina Upstate.
|#32||L. Smith Jr.||5||30.6||11.4||45.5||72.7||47.4||5.2||1.8||0.8||0.0||2.0|
Interestingly, the Norse have a similar substitution pattern to the Buckeyes. They only play about 8 deep off their bench, and their starters tend to see the vast majority of the time on the floor. Unlike the Buckeyes, however, this has a lot more to do with production off their bench (or lack of it) than any particular coaching preference. In their case, there’s an actual need to keep the starters on the floor for long stretches.
The biggest issue for the Norse is the total lack of size on the team. While their smallest player stands at a measly (for basketball) 5-9, their biggest only hits 6-8 – and he doesn’t even see the court frequently. Their tallest starter stands at 6-7, about Sam Thompson’s size. This necessitates the use of smart passing and strategy to create mis-matches in either size or number that will allow for a reasonable shot at the basket.
Unfortunately, those shots don’t seem to come easily for the Norse. They are averaging a mere 56.8 points per game so far this season on 38.2% shooting from the floor overall. Compare that to Ohio State’s 47.7% overall shooting and you can get a pretty good feeling for how difficult things have been for Northern Kentucky this year.
Northern Kentucky’s offense begins and ends with senior three-man Eshaunte Jones (6-4, 200, #40). Jones is the most efficient scorer for the Norse, putting up more than 15 points per game for his 30 minutes of play. Much of this is a direct result of his ability to both get to the free-throw line and shoot the three. He takes most of his shots from beyond the arc, but he’s not particularly effective from that range, hitting only 31% of his looks. His best game comes when he attacks the paint, where he’s 10/15 for the season. If Jones gets near the basket expect the Norse to score.
It’s hard to believe the Buckeyes will be seriously challenged in this game. I expect them to come out and display significant effort on both sides of the ball for forty minutes. Hopefully they will be crisp, especially in their shooting, and make an effort to play the best basketball they can for the whole evening. If they do, and they can make it a consistent thing over the course of the year, it’s hard to imagine this team losing too many games.
The Buckeyes will take on the Norse in Value City Arena on Saturday, December 1st at 4:30 PM Eastern time. You’ll be able to see that game on the Big Ten Network.