Preview: North Dakota State at No. 3 Ohio State

By Kyle Rowland on December 14, 2013 at 11:00a
Marshall Bjorklund is the NCAA career leader in field goal percentage. If he shoots, he makes it. 
Ohio State Buckeyes #3 Ohio State 9-0, 0-0 Big Ten Roster | Schedule 8:15 PM ET - BTN —— The Schott Columbus, OH —— [TICKETS] North Dakota State Bison N. DAKOTA STATE 7-3, 0-0 summit Roster | Schedule

Ohio State began the season with many believing LaQuinton Ross would do most of the scoring and Amir Williams would continue to have growing pains under the basket. Well, consider a lot of people wrong.

One year after Deshaun Thomas led the conference in scoring, evening out the distribution has proven to be an asset for the Buckeyes. Having a No. 1 option isn’t a bad thing, but it can become too predictable at times. Through nine games this season, four starters average at least 10 points per game with the fifth just one step behind at nine points.

The current roster make up has numerous options while each one could be the leading scorer on any given night. There’s no more relying or leaning on one guy to get the job done.

Then there’s Williams’ play down low. The junior center is finally beginning to show why he was a five-star recruit. He’s averaging more nearly three blocked shots per game. Teams have taken notice of Williams’ aggressiveness and are staying out of the lane at times. His presence combined with Ohio State’s stout defensive backcourt has made offense a nightmare for opponents.

4 A. Craft SR 6-2/195 10.2 3.4 4.9 G 12 L. Alexander JR 6-3/180 9.8 5.6 3.0
3 S. Scott JR 6-1/185 9.1 4.2 3.8 G 22 K. Brown SO 6-4/200 6.5 3.8 1.4
32 L. Smith Jr. SR 6-4/210 12.9 5.1 1.6 G 24 T. Braun SR 6-7/210 16.3 3.9 4.0
10 L. Ross JR 6-8/220 11.1 4.9 0.7 F 32 T. Wright SR 6-7/185 12.1 5.8 0.5
23 A. Williams JR 6-11/250 10.7 7.1 0.3 C 42 M. Bjorklund SR 6-8/250 15.2 4.0 1.4

Opponent Breakdown

Most recently, North Dakota State became a national sensation on the football field. The Bison have won two consecutive FCS national championships with the trifecta a possibility. But North Dakota State isn’t bad on the hardwood either. It qualified the NCAA Tournament in 2009 and was a participant in the CBI in 2012 and 2013.

As the Bison stampede to Columbus, they carry a five-game win streak, including an upset at Notre Dame on Wednesday. Two of their losses have come against quality opponents – Saint Mary’s and Southern Miss – with another to archrival North Dakota.

North Dakota State is led by guard Taylor Braun (16.2 points) and forward Marshall Bjorklund (15.2). The duo averages more than 30 points combined and are among the top shooters in the country. Bjorklund is the active career NCAA leader in field goal percentage at 66.9 percent. He’s never shot worse than 64.7 percent in a season. This year, he’s at 71 percent. The three closest players to Bjorklund’s career shooting mark are Bill Walton, Lew Alcindor and Akeem Olajuwon.

Bjorklund scored 26 points in the win against the Irish and should pose a challenge for Amir Williams. But the Bison don’t just rely on Bjorklund – or Braun.

Two other players – TrayVonn Wright (12.1) and Lawrence Alexander (9.8) – average double figures. They’ve had four players reach the 20-point plateau this season. North Dakota State is eighth in team field goal percentage at 51.3 percent.

“As soon as they started watching film, they knew how good North Dakota State is,” Matta said of his team. “You look at some of the games guys have had, I know our guys are like, ‘Wow.’”

Buckeye Breakdown

At No. 3 in the country and sporting a 9-0 record, Ohio State has done things the easy way without a go-to guy on offense or that clear best player. Aaron Craft might be the closest thing. His offensive is sporadic, but defensively and leadership-wise, he’s off the charts. Fellow senior Lenzelle Smith Jr. is also becoming more of a name.

Statistically, Smith is having his best season. He leads the team in scoring with 13 points per game and has become a consistent player of the offensive end. The 20-point games followed by four points appear to be a thing of the past. In the last five games, Smith has 19, 17, 12, 10 and 20 points.

Lenzelle Smith Jr.: complete basketball player.The new face of the Buckeye offense?

Head coach Thad Matta noticed that when Smith has a chip on his shoulder, he plays much better. So following the Buckeyes’ win over Bryant, he jokingly asked reporters not to write about the 6-foot-4 guard.

“Nobody’s asked me about him this year, but I think he’s playing at a very high level,” Matta said. “He’s a complete basketball player.”

That would include an abundance of team-high marks he’s reached – field goal percentage (53), three-point percentage (46) and defensive rebounds (38). Smith has taken on a forgotten man persona, something that’s followed him his entire career.

He entered Ohio State with a highly acclaimed recruiting class and just stood in the background. His freshman season involved an injury, setting him back and giving people more opportunities to see Jared Sullinger, Thomas and Craft. Even as his senior season arrived, Craft and Ross garnered most of the headlines.

“I think we saw that a couple years ago when teams were choosing to double-team Jared off of him and he had the one game, I think it was Indiana, where he had 20 something points and rebounds, he was diving off the back side," Matta said.

Smith credits the newfound consistency with continuously working during the offseason, which lifted his confidence to the highest it’s been. With Ross and Williams stretching defenses, Smith has been the beneficiary, and teammates are getting him open looks.

“His ability to shoot right at 50 percent from three-point, he’s rebounding, his assist to turnover ratio is positive – something that wasn't last year and one of the things we challenged on,” Matta said. “He’s had a really, really good demeanor about him in terms of being a senior and knowing that, ‘Hey, this is my last crack at it.’ I just love the way he’s playing right now.”


  • This is the first meeting between Ohio State and North Dakota State. The Buckeyes are 5-1 all-time against Summit League opponents.
  • North Dakota State won at Wisconsin during the 2005-06 season.
  • Ohio State has shot better than 52 percent from the field in each of the past four games. 

Comments Show All Comments

Braxton2Devin's picture

Should be a good game.

bucksfan92's picture

I'm a little nervous about this one, mainly because I fear the arena may be more than half empty and quiet.  Students are on break, the weather is bad (although it looks like the snow is over) and 95% of the fans will think this is a typical "no name walkover" team.  NDSU beat ND last week, and like you mention, have a history of pulling upsets - beating Wisky in Madison when they were in their transition year to D1.  I think OSU gets the W but it might not be the comfortable 25 point shellacking people expect.

13THandSummit's picture

Favored by 16. Sound about right to me.

Bamabucknut's picture

I wish college athletes would place a higher value on the college experience....and getting a degree.

rosycheeks's picture

I think you forgot to label your comment as off topic.

xFactor11's picture

I have a question about parking. I've never had to drive to games before being a student but is there any free parking for basketball games? Mainly wondering about the lot that is southwest of the Schott. I appreciate any answers.

bucksfan92's picture

Sorry this is a bit late, but when OSU outsourced the parking last year all the free parking disappeared.  The best you can do is the stadium lot or a lot farther away with the damned self-pay kiosks.  I typically pay $4.50 for a 2 1/2 or 3 hour stay.

southbay's picture

Some stiffer competition before the B1G season starts is probably a good thing.  Thad seems to be bringing this team along nicely.  They seem to be well ahead of where they were at this time last year.
I'm getting over a little minor surgery that I had yesterday, so looking forward to sitting back and enjoying this game this evening when everyone else is out of the house.  Just what I need too.

Toilrt Paper's picture

I think Matta is pleasantly surprised how well this team is playing. Now that Ross is ok with the defensive concept and Team First page

yankeescum's picture

I don't mean this to be a gratuitous pointing out of a typo, but when it says up top that "Smith is having is best season", I read right through it, but with an thick English accent, and then I dropped the rest of the H's from the article.  It made for fun reading.  I 'ighly recommend it.

chirobuck's picture

Which sites had williams as a 5 star, I know scout had him as a 4


^ best post ever ^

Toilrt Paper's picture

He was a McDonald's All-American

Deadly Nuts's picture

ttun chokes yet again. Can't count on them for anything.


toledobuckeyefanjim's picture

I wish OSU was playing Arizona sometime in December instead of Summit League teams. Beating NDS doesn't build the Buckeyes' reputation as a powerhouse team. Bryant doesn't help, either. The nonconference schedule is too soft.

AlphaMaleBettor's picture

amen ... yet further proof that Gene Smith is a fricking JOKE

SouthernBuck's picture

We play in the Big Ten. Basketball wise, that is plenty of schedule. 

buckeyes763's picture

Not to be a dick, but that sounds exactly like an SEC fan would say about football when we say Alabama plays a week OOC schedule.

UrbzRenewal's picture

Except you're allowed to have a loss in basketball...the only time they make that is when arguing two equal schedules.

KBonay's picture

I want to love Amir. I want him to succeed. But this guys hands are softer....

Cleats8's picture

Here's a link for those like me stranded in NYC and other places without the BTN!

dubjayfootball90's picture

how can Amir's hands be so freaking bad!?!? SOFT HANDS, BIG FELLA!!!!!

You can feed a bobcat all the chili it wants. That don't mean it's going to crap out diamonds.

KBonay's picture

Could be from all the falls to the floor?

OSU069's picture

Ross needs to come back in. 

OSU069's picture

Wow Lenzelle Smith has been really good this year. 

KBonay's picture

It's a 'whistle party'....

buckeye4life050233's picture

Amir looks like he is sleepwalking out there.......

RunningFree's picture

Or sleep-falling...

BuckGuy003's picture

How are you guys watching this game when youngstowne boys is on!?

OSU069's picture

Recording Youngstown boys.

dubjayfootball90's picture

Loving is going to be a beast

You can feed a bobcat all the chili it wants. That don't mean it's going to crap out diamonds.

xrox's picture

I see the blacked-in Ohio State logo on TV graphics, and it just looks wrong. I see the open logo on the hardwood, and it feels right.
Please leave it as-is on the floor. Please.

chowoon97's picture

Marc Loving. So impressive.

Toilrt Paper's picture

He plays the game so smooth, effortlessly and intelligently. 

Oneida54's picture

This team reminds me of some of Coach Knights teams aI IU and come April that could be a good thing. Shooting can come and go but the D is there every night. Without that go to guy the team is moving and passing better than last year. Having seniors like Craft and Smith doesnt hurt either. 

Toilrt Paper's picture

KAM WILLIAMS???????????????????

Deadly Nuts's picture

Most likely going to redshirt.