For months, Chris Holtmann discussed Ohio State’s season-opening three-game stretch.
He worried about Cincinnati, though Purdue Fort Wayne might be a trap game and was anxious about playing Creighton. He didn’t necessarily know what to expect out of his team. His worst fears of an 0-3 or 1-2 start weren’t realized, though.
|South Carolina State (1-3)||Schottenstein Center||2 p.m.||BTN Plus|
Instead, the Buckeyes opened up the season with an eight-point road win against the Bearcats, a 46-point home win against the Mastodons and a nine-point road win against Creighton. Not a bad way to start the year. A three-game sweep.
There’s a reason Holtmann never talked about a four-game stretch to open the season. Ohio State’s fourth opponent of the season – South Carolina State – is one of the worst teams in the nation. The Buckeyes should make quick work of the Bulldogs when they face off at the Schottenstein Center at 2 p.m. Sunday.
South Carolina State is the sixth-worst team in the country and has the second-worst defensive rating in the nation, according to KenPom ratings. The Bulldogs shoot worse percentages both from the field and from beyond the arc than their opponents. They have turned the ball over more than their opponents and have fewer assists.
The one area South Carolina State has had an edge this season has been on the boards. The Bulldogs average 3.5 more rebounds per game than their opponents, and in order to keep Sunday’s game close, they’ll need to dominate the glass. They’ll rely on 6-foot-7 Ozante Fields and 6-foot-8 Damani Applewhite to control the boards. Both average at least five rebounds per game.
Applewhite is one of two players who averages at least 10 points per game. He’s the leading scorer at 19 points per game, and he hits shots at a 61.5 percent clip. If Ohio State can shut him down, it shouldn’t have a problem handling the rest of the offense. Janai Raynor-Powell, a 5-foot-10 senior guard, averages 12.8 points and a team-best 2.8 assists per game. He has hit 7-of-11 3-points, but don’t expect that success rate to carry over.
Ohio State Preview
What a start to the season it has been for Ohio State.
Everyone who has needed to step us has done so. The four rotation guards – C.J. Jackson, Keyshawn Woods, Duane Washington Jr. and Luther Muhammad – immediately stepped into already defined roles and have been able to control games regardless of which pairing has been on the court together.
With South Carolina State maintaining a slight rebounding advantage thus far, keep an eye on Kaleb Wesson, Jaedon LeDee and Kyle Young. Last week, Woods said the guards have to take a larger role in grabbing rebounds, but those three post players have to improve on the boards because Holtmann plans to consistently play three-guard and four-guard lineups. Musa Jallow and Andre Wesson, who often play power forward, will also be key on the boards.
How it plays out
It’s hard to imagine this being a close game, let alone South Carolina State even coming remotely close to pulling off an upset victory. Ohio State has never lost to a team in 17 games against Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference opponents, and don’t expect an upset to happen on Sunday.
The Buckeyes should win handily. The only unknowns are how many points they will drop and what the margin of victory will be.
Prediction: Ohio State 102, South Carolina State 60