Preview: UNC Asheville at #7 Ohio State

By Kyle Rowland on December 15, 2012 at 6:00a
Sooooo... close.Asheville nearly pulled off an all-time upset.
Ohio State Buckeyes #7 Ohio State 7-1, 0-0 Big Ten Roster | Schedule 12:00 PM ET - BTN —— The Schott Columbus, OH North Carolina Asheville Bulldogs UNC Asheville 3-6, 0-0 Big South Roster | Schedule

Raise your hand if you thought Trey McDonald was going to become a regular part of Ohio State’s rotation this season. OK, whoever has their hands raised is lying.

No one could have foreseen what McDonald would bring to the 2012-13 Buckeyes. This is a guy who wasn’t a heralded recruit and played in only 13 games last year. And, oh, by the way, he scored two points.

But that is all out the window now. Head coach Thad Matta has a knack for recruiting on potential and then further developing that into bona fide talent.

In eight games, McDonald has already eclipsed all of his stats from last season and drawn applause from his coaches.

“There’s no doubt in my mind his best basketball is right around the corner,” Matta said.

The head coach also alluded to McDonald earning more playing time in the near future. While Evan Ravenel and Amir Williams, Ohio State’s other two post players, like to stay close to the basket, McDonald – when the coaches want it – can step out further due to a reliable mid-range jumper. It’s something, along with his defense, that he worked on this past summer.

“Basketball is not a game of perfection for sure,” Matta said, “but he understood, ‘this is what my team needs me to do and I’m going to do it to the best of my ability.’”

Assistant coach Chris Jent, who’s helped further the development of some of the world’s best players, worked with McDonald during the offseason on his back-to-the-rim game.

It helped reinforce every skill set he possesses – shooting, rebounding and low-post moves. Combined with a penchant to run the floor with grace, McDonald could be a sleeping giant. 

4 A. Craft JR 6-2/195 9.6 3.1 4.4 G 55 T. Meyer JR 6-3/170 11.6 4.1 3.9
32 L. Smith Jr. JR 6-4/210 10.6 5.5 1.9 G 4 K. Hornsby SO 6-4/190 12.1 3.6 3.1
12 S. Thompson SO 6-7/200 7.4 4.9 1.5 F 32 W. Weeks FR 6-6/220 7.2 3.8 1.8
1 D. Thomas JR 6-7/215 20.8 6.3 1.3 F 15 J. Atkinson SR 6-4/210 18.1 7.9 1.8
30 E. Ravenel SR 6-8/250 5.9 4.4 0.3 F 35 J. Nwannunu SR 6-8/225 7.9 4.9 0.3


Hours before second-seeded Ohio State easily defeated No. 15 seed Loyola (Maryland) in last season's NCAA Tournament, the unthinkable nearly took place in the same Pittsburgh arena. That’s when little 16th-seeded UNC Asheville nearly became the ultimate David. 

Asheville led top-seeded Syracuse with 11:15 left in the second half and trailed by as little as three points in the final minute. But Syracuse escaped with the help of multiple controversial calls by the officials.

The Bulldogs were in the NCAA Tournament for a second consecutive season, but they are now in a rebuilding phase. Four of the five starters that led Asheville to a 24-win season are gone. So, too, is a majority of the scoring and a level of leadership that contributed greatly to back-to-back NCAA Tournament berths.

It’s been evident so far, as the Bulldogs are off to a lackluster 3-6 start. They’ve played some high-level opponents, but their 0-3 showing in Puerto Rico proved more work needs to be done.

Three players average at least 10 points per game, led by Jeremy Atkinson’s 18. Atkinson, the lone returning starter, was the team’s leading rebounder a season ago, a role he has continued by pulling down eight boards per game. He’s easily Asheville’s best player and one of the best in the Big South Conference. 

“We’re counting on him to be our toughest player inside and to give us what he did last year,” head coach Eddie Biedenbach said. “Jeremy is an outstanding young man who will be a leader on this team.”

Guards Trent Meyer (11.6 points per game) and Keith Hornsby (12.1) have been adequate in replacing J.P. Primm and Matt Dickey, two of Asheville’s best players ever.

Meyer, the point guard, has been a good facilitator on offense, dishing out four assists per game. He and Hornsby are also the Bulldogs’ top three-point shooters.

Biedenbach calls Hornsby one of the “most athletic and electrifying” players he’s coached. Hornsby also is one of the best shooters – he is making more than 50 percent of his field goal attempts, 47 percent of his three-point attempts and shooting nearly 90 percent from the free-throw line.

Forward Jon Nwannunu is finally back to full speed after knee surgery two years ago, and Will Weeks, just a freshman, has fit into the starting lineup nicely, providing seven points and four rebounds.

“You can just tell that Will Weeks knows how to play the game,” Biedenbach said. “He has big-man size but excellent quickness.”

But as a whole Asheville is still getting up to speed with almost an entirely new starting lineup. The lack of depth hasn’t helped matters. Only two reserves are averaging at least 10 minutes per game. When you’re trying to beat a top-10 team on the road, youth and a short bench is not the most direct route.

“This is a new year, and we’ve got a lot of work to do,” Biedenbach said. “However, we have a good group returning that knows what you have to do to be successful.”

Buckeye Breakdown

Ohio State’s season has been full of surprises. Aaron Craft’s recent slump, the rise of LaQuinton Ross and the sophomore class’s contributions, to name a few. But perhaps the biggest is Ohio State’s depth.

Matta has rarely used his bench in the past, and rarely has it been so productive. Last season’s Achilles’ heel was that fact. In the Final Four loss to Kansas, Ohio State scored 62 points, all of which came from the starting five. In fact, every loss was dotted with spotty bench points.

Not anymore.

Ross has earned Matta's trust.

In the past three games, the Buckeyes’ bench has scored 104 points. The lowest output they’ve put forth during that stretch has been 32 points. On the season, Matta has been able to count on 25 points a night from a handful of reserves.

“All of those guys have played very well and very cohesively,” he said.

Most of the upside has come against lower competition. Still, the idea of a deep rotation to complement an impressive starting five has fans thinking about another deep tournament run.

The Kansas game next Saturday will be the first glimpse of how much Matta truly trusts the bench. At Duke, he shied away from them and admitted afterwards that it probably wasn’t a wise decision.

“We are all going to be in foul trouble at some point during the season, so it is important to rotate guys in and let them get confidence early in the season,” junior guard Lenzelle Smith Jr. said. “When we have a lot of guys with confidence we are a scary team.”

Even with Deshaun Thomas’ unlimited confidence, Ross might be the most self-assured player on the team at the moment. He’s averaging 17 points and nine rebounds the past three games, all while coming off the bench.

Said Matta, about the emerging Ross: “He is playing his best basketball.”


  • Ohio State is 4-0 all-time vs. UNC Asheville and 13-0 against teams from the Big South Conference.
  • The Buckeyes won the last meeting with the Bulldogs, 96-49, on Dec. 21, 2010 at Value City Arena.
  • Tom Hamilton and Jim Jackson have the call on BTN.

Comments Show All Comments

oregonianbuckeye's picture

Trey remiinds me a bit of a young Ravenel. He plays really hard, crashes the boards, and understands his role. He is also surprisingly athletic, and Matta has called him the strongest player on the team (my money is still on Rav). Nevertheless, it's been really nice to see Trey get some time, and I hope he continues to improve. There will be games where we need him this year due to foul trouble or other guys not showing up.

bhartman13's picture

Trey will be needed at times and getting him action early on has to be big for his confidence.  The B1G conference games will be tough battles so I agree Amir and Rav will find themselves in foul trouble at times and Trey will need to step up for a few minutes here and there and as a fan I am becoming confident he can handle it.  Matta is trusting the bench and that is very nice to see.  It will be interesting to see how much he truly utilizes the bench during big games like Kansas and some of the big dogs in the B1G.
Buckeyes by 30 today!

carton's picture

looking into our projected starters and their heights, I am not getting a good feel for this game.
we are dead meat once UNC ashville starts to feed their inside big men on every posesssion.

bhartman13's picture

Haha yep the Buckeyes are screwed throwing out a starting 5 where everyone is 6 feet tall and 190 pounds!!  UNC Ashville should dominate the boards!

whobdis's picture

Yea..we look so much bigger on TV...had no idea we were that small.

baddogmaine's picture

No one could have foreseen what McDonald would bring to the 2012-13 Buckeyes. This is a guy who wasn’t a heralded recruit and played in only 13 games last year. And, oh, by the way, he scored two points.
But that is all out the window now. Head coach Thad Matta has a knack for recruiting on potential and then further developing that into bona fide talent.
In eight games, McDonald has already eclipsed all of his stats from last season and drawn applause from his coaches.

I'm all for cheering success but there's spin and there's spin. If all McDonald scored was 2 points a year ago I would hope he would eclipse that this year. In 54 minutes he's scored 8 points including 2 for 6 on FTs (!!) which is better than nothing but not anything a team is really going to cheer for. The reality is that though he has pulled down some boards he's getting time not so much because of what he's doing as what Ravenel and Williams are not doing, and Matta knows he needs to find some answers inside. He has yet to find an adequate compensation for Sullinger - who can't be replaced but needs to be substituted for.
As for recruiting and developing talent we'll see what happens this year. So far good enough. But in past years Matta develped confidence in almost no one coming off the bench. And while Smith has proved a good defender who plays within himself on the offensive end my sense is that relatively few Buckeyes who did not come in as superstars-in-waiting have turned into stars under Matta's guidance, Smith so far included.
Ross has had flashes. He is scoring as much as Smith while playing a lot less, but that he is scoring but playing less suggests that there is still too much down-side to his game. In past years Matta has been reluctant to use pre-cponference games to develop talent. If Ross doesn't start getting more minutes now based on Matta's tendencies in the past Q is going to see time when it matters only when Matta has no choice. And McDonald is going to see his PT cut below 9 min/game.
This team may win a lot of games and prove a tough out in March but it is more likely to be because Matta finds a rotation based on role players who work well together than because anyonel but a very few become bona-fide talents. This year's squad may have to be Butler.

bhartman13's picture

I actually don't agree with much of this.  Yes Matta has been pretty awful in the past at developing his bench but the main reason for that is having stars in the starting 5 who were capable of playing 35-40 minutes per game.  His system has worked well and the Buckeyes have made some nice runs in the tourney in the past 6-7 years so it's hard to complain.
Ross has actually been getting good minutes and I think those will increase as the season moves along and scoring is needed, especially against top tier defenses in the B1G.  Matta is making an effort to play his bench more this year and with young talent like Scott, Amir, and Ross this is a positive and it's tough to distribute a lot of minutes when the rotation is 8-9 guys deep.  At least Ross his getting his chance and taking advantage which will lead to more PT.  As for McDonald he should probably never see the court for more than 5-10 minuters per game.  The only way he plays more is if Amir and Rav are in foul trouble, otherwise those 2 should see just about all the PT at PF/C.
This years squad is far from Butler but hey if that means tOSU is going to the National Championship then I would love a season and team like Butler had!  Deshaun and Ross are bona-fide talents on offense and Craft is a bona-fide talent on defense so the star power is there, as well as leadership.  The role players will need to step up at times but there is enough talent in the starting 5 to win most games IMO.

baddogmaine's picture

Bhartmen, are you someone who votes down because you disagree? My comment started out by observing that what saff was saying about McDonald was way overblown and you agree. I suggest that the team needs to be Butler, and you agree that being a team of only one star that gets to two NCs is pretty cool. I don't say that Ross won't get minutes, I'm saying that if Matta does not give guys minutes before conference starts he has not typically increased their playing time once things get crunchy. Matta typically  has NOT subbed to create offense, once he settles on his handful of trusted players he generally subs only for injury or serious foul trouble or because someone is getting destroyed on defense, and he leaves scorers on the floor even when they are laying some serious bricks.
JT's teams made nice runs during his tenure too, but now we are seeing (or actually, some already saw but more are now accepting) that the team could have been more. Matta is OSU basketball's Tressell - he's exciting in his way but very conservative in his team development. He has run his teams in similar ways enough that predictions about what might happen this year are possible. If I'm wrong about how he will use the bench this year (and that pays off) then great! But my pointing out a past tendency hardly seems a legitimate reason for a down-vote.

This years squad is far from Butler

In what way are we clearly not like Butler during their two great years? We are scoring a lot of points now but we're doing it against bad teams. One real difference is that Butler had a better center and better outside shooting.  And since you seem to take my comment as an insult how are we better than Butler was?

bhartman13's picture

I just thought the entire comment was off base on how this team is managed. Matta is a great coach who has developed top tier talent like Diebler, Lighty, Turner, etc.  Also Butler was a solid team who played smart and shot great from deep and this team is a fast paced athletic team that plays great defense. I think Butler is a bad comparison.  

baddogmaine's picture

Our great defense yesterday gave ANC-A 72 points. We do generally play solid defense, but suggesting that Butler doesn't is silly.  Butler's defense just beat the Hoosiers. It may turn out to be a fluke win for the Bulldogs, IN may turn out to be over-rated, but right now that was a better team performance than anything OSU can point to this year. Essentally your comments, while containing grains of truth, are based on what underlies far too much of the comments in 11W - we are OSU, how dare you compare us with anyone else. We have the best coaches in the country, how dare you criticize!
Except for Turner who is finally coming imto his own few players coached by Matta are doing very well in the NBA. Only six OSU players are on NBA rosters and other than Turner it's hard to find a name that was "developed" by Matta. Mullens is exceeding expectations, Sulliger may meet them. Lighty did not get drafted, and neither he, Buford nor Diebler is in the League. Matta may have squeezed out of them what was there but he did not turn them into "top tier talent". In fact, he let Buford continue bad habits that hurt the Buckeyes and hurt Buford. Daequan Cook is a pro but that is arguably despite Matta who played him very little, not because of Matta.
This does not mean that Matta is a bad coach - his record speaks for itself. Including too many losses below seed in March. This year with only one proven scorer, a defensive-minded guard who is struggling on offense and a void in the middle Matta is going to have to build a team around roles, not players. As Brad Stevens has done but Matta has not done particularly well. We will find out if we can do to Indiana what Butler did. I can't imagine OSU under Matta beating even a half-decent team if three of our starters foul out, as Butler did yesterday. I will probably get down-voted again but IMHO there is no comparison between the quality of work done by Thad Matta at a school in one of THE prestigious conferences with a HUGE athletic budget and what Brad Stevens has done at a small school playing in the relative shadows.

baddogmaine's picture

This gets a down vote? Really? for pointing out that we gave up 72 points to UNC-A? what, that is not supposed to be mentioned? for pointing out that there are only six Buckeyes in the NBA? shooting the messenger is now legal?
As for Stevens he has coached five full years at a school with limited resources, no TV exposure, nothing to draw the "top-tier talent" and has a wining percentage of 78%. This could come against a weak schedule, but making two championship games and coming within one basket of winning one is, simply, a better coaching job than Matta has performed with a program attracting one-and-dones. For head-to-head he has a better winning percentage at Butler than Matta had at Butler. This doesn't prove that Stevens is a better coach than Matta, but it does prove that down votes for saying that he might be are are an abuse of the voting system.

smithwessonBuckeye's picture

This is the new 11W. Where suggesting anything other than total Buckeye excellence is downvoted.

LouGroza's picture

FWIW all the OSU starters pegged above in the piece are 6-0/190 :)
Edit: Carton/BHartman noticed at same time as well I now see......

highwire's picture

That just makes Sam's dunks even more impressive.

BeijingBucks's picture

almost game time!  time for those boys to go grab a few burgers and grow a coupla inches and pack on a few pounds!!

None can love freedom heartily, but good men; the rest love not freedom, but license. ~ John Milton

highwire's picture

Especially's just tragic watching him waste away like this.

sb97's picture

Actually, I did see Trey getting some real minutes this year.  With both Amir and Evan being prone to foul trouble there are no other options at 5.  I assumed Trey would find himself in some tough situations in big games.  No I did not see him being part of the regular "Non-foul" rotation though and frankly I still don't.  I don't see Matta going more than 8 deep and I don't see Matta leaving Scott, Ross, or Williams on the bench.

osubuckeye4life's picture

Can we now refer to Sam as "Slam"?