Where: The Schott â€“ Columbus, OH
When: 1:00pm EST
Records: OSU 13-3; Volunteers 13-3
Opponent: Out of the SEC, the #16 Volunteers are led by 2nd year head coach Bruce Pearl and head to Columbus after seeing their nine game winning streak snapped in an 82-81 loss at Vanderbilt Wednesday night. The Vols appeared to be in good shape after freshman Duke Crews threw down a dunk for an 81-80 lead with 4.7 seconds left but Vandyâ€™s Shan Foster got the winning basket on a putback as the clock expired. The loss dropped Tennessee to 1-1 in the SEC East and led off a stretch that will see the Vols play 5 of the next 6 on the road. Tennessee has a few impressive wins already this year including a 79-77 victory over then #14 Oklahoma State on 12/18 and a 111-105 decision over Texas on 12/23. The game should be very entertaining as the Vols push the tempo to the tune of 85.9 points per game, good for sixth nationally. The squad also forces an impressive 20.3 turnovers a game, usually the result of full or three-quarter court defensive pressure and ball-hawking inbounds defense. The official website claims UT has forced opponents to call timeout 17 times to avoid a five-second violation and have actually generated 15 five-second calls. Impressive.
Players: Even more impressive than some of their defensive statistics is the play of junior guard Chris Lofton. He comes in leading the SEC in scoring at 22.6 per contest on the strength of 52% FG shooting, including a 48% mark from downtown (61/127). Lofton has poured in over 30 points in 5 games and had 29 on 11-15 shooting in the loss at Vandy. Freshman Jajuan Smith joins Lofton the starting backcourt and is averaging 14.6 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.1 steals a game. Forward Duke Crews is the tallest starter at 6â€™7â€. The freshman averages 10.8 points per game and a team best 6.0 rebounds. Rounding out the starting lineup is freshman guard Ramar Smith (8.1pts) and senior Dane Bradshaw who averages 7.1 points and an impressive 4.9 assists from a forward slot. Off the bench, 6â€™9â€ 245lb. freshman Wayne Chism is likely to see increased minutes if Greg Oden and Othello Hunter stay out of foul trouble to combat OSUâ€™s height advantage in the paint.
Notes: UTâ€™s 9 game winning streak was their longest since the 2000-01 seasonâ€¦The Vols have eclipsed the 90point mark in 5 of their last 7 gamesâ€¦The bench is averaging an impressive 24.2 points per gameâ€¦The last meeting between the two schools was in 1979â€¦The #2 ranked Buckeyes were led by Herb Williamsâ€™ 18 points and Special Kâ€™s 14 points and 8 rebounds in the 91-65 spanking.
Buckeye Breakdown: The Bucks look to rebound from the 72-69 defeat suffered Tuesday in Madison. Even in defeat, the squad showed some moxie staging a late rally only to fall short to suffer their 3rd road defeat of the season. The game saw improved three point shooting as OSU shot 46% (12/26) but 15 turnovers and a 14-0 run in the second half sealed the Bucks fate. Ivan Harris led the Buckeyes with 17 points on the strength of a 5-11 performance from behind the arc. Ron Lewis had a decent night with 14 points and 7 rebounds but his 3 turnovers hurt the cause. Oden had 10 points and 7 rebounds but could only muster 6 field goal attempts as he dealt with double teams and the balky wrist.
Key Players: In what could very likely be a track meet, it will be interesting to see how Mattaâ€™s combinations look, specifically how he employs Oden. The big manâ€™s conditioning seems to be a little sketchy so Matta may look to use him in shorter spurts in an effort to increase his effectiveness and decrease the chances for â€˜tiredâ€™ fouls. Daequan Cook will look to respond after an uncharacteristic 1-8 shooting night that produced only 5 points although he did lead the team with 9 rebounds in just 14 minutes due to his typical foul trouble and the solid shooting performances of Ivan Harris and Ron Lewis. Harrisâ€™ 29 minutes represented the most heâ€™s played in a game this season. Othello Hunter will also be hungry after a 2 point, 4 rebound performance in 13 minutes after reaching double figures in the previous three contests.
Notes: Conley Jr. leads the conference in assists (6.6) and steals (2.6) while Oden leads in rebounding at 9.2 per gameâ€¦The Bucks lead the conference with a 48.9 FG% and place 2nd in three point shooting at 39.3%...OSU gets back to conference play on Wednesday against Northwestern...The game is the first of a relatively easy three game stretch followed by a home game against Iowa and then on the road at Northwestern before a home match up with the Spartans on 1/27.