Ohio State welcomes the next pre-conference foe – the UNC Asheville Bulldogs. The Buckeyes and Bulldogs have not met since just about two years ago, when the Buckeyes sent UNCA packing with a 96-49 loss on December 21st, 2010. It might not be quite that easy again this time, though. Let’s take a look.
|School:||University of North Carolina at Asheville|
|Location:||Asheville, North Carolina|
|Division:||NCAA Division 1|
|Head Coach:||Ed Biedenbach|
Asheville is no stranger to surprising ranked teams on their home floor, so the Buckeyes could be in for a fight. On November 23rd, the Bulldogs nearly caught #16 NC State napping, eventually falling 82-80. Now, it’s important to point out that (now #25) NC State hasn’t lived up to their billing this season. They got killed by unranked Oklahoma State, but did manage to give Michigan a run for their money in Ann Arbor. Long story short, do not sleep on the Bulldogs tomorrow.
There are three players in particular to keep an eye on, all of whom play at least 30 minutes per game. Senior forward Jeremy Atkinson (6-4, 210, #15) leads the team in scoring and rebounding with 18 points and 8 boards per game. Despite his stature, he does the majority of his scoring on the inside, meaning that while Thompson may be defending him most frequently it will be up to Evan Ravenel, Amir Williams, and Trey McDonald close off the paint.
Also critical to the Bulldog’s chances are guards Keith Hornsby (6-4, 190, #23, Soph), and Trent Meyer (6-2, 165, #55, Junior). These two provide the balance for UNCA’s offense, particularly Meyer, who averages a little more than eight attempts from three per game. Hornsby only takes about 3 and a half, but is more likely to connect, and therefore requires more defensive attention. They also combine for about 7 assists per game (compared to Craft and Scotts 9), but considering Atkinson’s shooting and play style, this should not be too surprising.
|#32||L. Smith Jr.||8||27.625||10.625||45.3||68.8||51.6||5.5||1.875||0.625||0.0||1.5|
UNC Asheville will likely try to make their living playing defense. The three mentioned above combine to average nearly six steals per game (OSU’s starters average 4). Asheville will attempt to slow up the Buckeye’s offense and make opportunities from OSU’s mistakes. If they can keep the Bucks off balance early and keep the score close, they will be able to control the pace of the game much like they did against NC State. Considering the struggles the Buckeyes often have defending the perimeter, Asheville may be able to take advantage of their shooters to achieve that goal.
I don’t expect that things will be easy for the Bulldogs offensively. The Buckeye’s defense has been incredibly stout this year, except in one half against Duke. While OSU has been slow to engage on defense on several occasions this year, we’ve seen an incredible improvement in that regard the last few weeks. Expect the Bucks to be ready to counter Asheville’s gameplan, and hopefully severely limit Atkinson’s scoring for the game.
The Buckeyes will play UNC Asheville on Saturday, December 15th in Value City Arena. You’ll be able to see that game at Noon on the Big Ten Network.