Florida Gulf Coast (2-5) at (2) Ohio State (8-0)
Wednesday, December 15th, 6:30 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Scott Haynes, Senior College Basketball Editor
FACTS & STATS: Site: Value City Arena (19,049) -- Columbus, Ohio. Television: BTN. Home Record: Florida Gulf Coast 1-1, Ohio St. 6-0. Away Record: Florida Gulf Coast 1-4, Ohio St. 2-0. Neutral Record: Florida Gulf Coast 0-0, Ohio St. 0-0. Conference Record: Florida Gulf Coast 0-2, Ohio St. 0-0. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: The second-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes continue an extended homestand that will keep them in Columbus until New Year's Eve, when they welcome the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles to Value City Arena this evening.
Thad Matta's Buckeyes have looked the part of the national title contender this season, with a wonderful mix of talented veterans and youngsters. The team has won all eight of its games thus far and enters this contest following Sunday's 85-60 blasting of Western Carolina.
Dave Balza's Eagles have not had much success in the early stages of the new season, with just two victories in the first seven games. The team is already in a 0-2 whole in Atlantic Sun play and comes into this game with a four-game losing streak in tow. This marks the third of four straight road games for FGCU, which hasn't played since a 71-56 setback at Jacksonville on December 4th.
This is the first-ever meeting between these two teams on the hardwood.
The Eagles have had problems competing at both ends of the floor this season and the result is a disturbing -12.9 scoring margin. Finding offensive consistency hasn't come easy, with FGCU shooting under 40 percent on the season (.381) overall, weighed down by a .250 effort from behind the line. Even free-throw shooting has been sporadic at a meager .624. The team does have a pair of reliable weapons in Reed Baker (17.7 ppg) and Anthony Banks (15.4 ppg), but the scoring pool dries up quickly after that. It was once again poor shooting that did in the Eagles against Jacksonville last time out, as the team delivered on just 29 percent from the floor in the game, while committing 20 turnovers. Banks recorded his third double-double of the season with 18 points and 14 rebounds. Baker struggled though, finishing 2-of-9 from the floor, with just nine points.
Offensive proficiency has been a strength for Ohio State this season, with the team shooting a healthy .495 overall, leading to 78.0 ppg. Similar success at the defensive end of the floor is what makes OSU so dangerous. Opponents are netting a mere 54.4 ppg this season, while Ohio State holding a +6.8 rebounding edge and forcing 18.4 turnovers per game. Freshman Jared Sullinger has been an instant success in Columbus, leading the team in both scoring (18.0 ppg) and rebounding (9.3 rpg). He gets plenty of offensive support from veteran guards David Lighty (12.5 ppg), Jon Diebler (11.3 ppg) and William Buford (11.7 ppg), along with fellow freshman Deshaun Thomas (11.6 ppg). The Buckeyes blew past the Catamounts last time out and starting subbing players in once the game was out of hand, settling for the 25-point victory. Sullinger led five Buckeyes in double digits with 17 points. Dallas Lauderdale, Buford and Thomas all scored 13 points, while Diebler added 10. OSU shot .519 from the floor in the game and forced WCU into 20 turnovers.
This one is simply a matter of too much firepower for the home team. Matta should have the opportunity to clear his bench for the second straight game and cruise to yet another lopsided victory.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Ohio State 88, Florida Gulf Coast 49
12/15 10:32:57 ET