After having a rare full week off to sharpen their skills, the 5-1 Buckeyes again take the hard-floor at the Schott. This week’s matchup is the 3-5 Long Beach State 49ers. You only get two guesses for where they hail from, and the first one doesn’t count. Let’s take a look.
|School:||California State University, Long Beach|
|Location:||Long Beach, California|
|Division:||NCAA Division 1|
|Head Coach:||Dan Monson|
As a notable aside, the 49er’s baseball team goes by a slightly more colorful official mascot. Since 1989, they’ve been known as The Dirtbags. That is listed as one of the official nicknames of the school, despite being described as only “unofficial”.
Going back to Baskeball, do not sleep on this Long Beach State team. Yes, they are 3-5, but they have currently played the 12th toughest schedule in the nation (compare to OSU’s 64th), and have an RPI of 62 – high enough that they would be in tournament consideration were it late in the season. Their losses this year include at USC, a 15 point loss to North Carolina, at #10 Arizona, and at #4 Syracuse. They’ve played with the big dogs and will not be afraid to give the Buckeyes everything they’ve got.
Speaking specifically about their regular players, this 49ers team has a serious height dichotomy. Their tallest active player stands at 6-9, and they have three of them. They also field a triplet of 6-7′s and a 6-6. The remainder of the regulars are a pair of 6-0 guards. While they won’t struggle quite as seriously as Northern Kentucky did with the Buckeye’s height, who’s tallest player was 6-7, LBSU will still have difficulties, specifically in the backcourt with OSU’s taller guards.
|#32||L. Smith Jr.||6||29.167||10.5||41.5||72.7||44.0||5.167||1.833||0.667||0.0||1.833|
While they may not be tall, they’re certainly not young. The team is led by Senior guard James Ennis (6-7, 210, #11), who likely plays the 3 in a 3-guard, 2 forward system. Ennis scores just under 16 points, pulls down nearly 8 rebounds, and collects about 2 assists per game. However, he does repay that with 4 turnovers a game, so watch out whenever Craft and Scott get to play defense on him after a switch.
Also worth keeping an eye on, particularly with the way opponents shoot the three-ball against the Buckeyes, is sophomore guard/forward Kris Gulley (6-7, 180, #0). Gulley is shooting at a 48.1% clip from beyond the arc this year, which means he’ll probably hit 60+% against the Buckeyes tomorrow afternoon.
As for the Buckeyes, last week’s game against Northern Kentucky continued to demonstrate an ice-cold shooting team. While their free throw shooting is improving, after focusing on it in practice, the shooting percentage has taken a big hit. Hopefully the team has made an effort to practice their jumpers this week and come out with a hot shooting night to build some confidence.
I’d specifically like to see Lenzelle Smith have a hot shooting night in the early going this season. We are going to need him on occasion this year to be a big scorer when the defenses key on Thomas and Craft. He’s proven in the past he can do it, but it’s got to come more naturally for him. He needs to be scoring closer to 15 points per game on average for the minutes he’s putting in.
Also critical, and we haven’t really seen it yet, is a strong scoring night in the paint for the big guys. Evan Ravenel did have one 12 point game, but he and Amir Williams are averaging nine points per game total. That needs to become a bigger part of our offensive threat so that the shooters outside can get better looks at the hoop. Starting to develop that in this game would be a big step towards getting us ready for better competition.
The Buckeyes will take on the Long Beach State 49ers in Value City Arena on Saturday, December 8th at 12:00 PM Eastern time. You’ll be able to see that game on the Big Ten Network.