Head coach Chris Holtmann said at the beginning of the year that he hoped to win two out of the four marquee out-of-conference games on Ohio State's schedule.
Even with a disappointing loss to Syracuse at home, he won three of them, putting the final touches on his overachievement one week ago as the Buckeyes defeated UCLA in Chicago, 80-66.
|High Point (6-6)||Schottenstein Center||12 p.m.||BTN|
“Last year, we did not do a great job in non-conference games that are going to be evaluated at the end of the year by the NCAA tournament selection committee,” Holtmann said. “That was something we were trying to be a little more aware of. Doubt we're going 15-3 in the Big Ten this year. So, to have a non-conference where we could pick up some wins that are important was good. But more than anything, we have to keep growing and getting better.”
Progressing well through their schedule, the Buckeyes have won five games in a row following its only loss of the season, a 10-point defeat to Syracuse, No. 13 Ohio State will have a chance to move to twelve wins Saturday when it takes on High Point. The game between the Buckeyes (9-1) and Panthers (6-6) will tip off at noon.
Unlike Cincinnati, UCLA, Syracuse, and Creighton,teams that have been traditional powerhouses in the college basketball landscape, High Point isn't a particularly threatening mid-major opponent. The game allows for Ohio State to get back on track after some tough matchups and will be used as a final tune-up prior to Big Ten play, which Chris Holtmann thinks will be stressful for his team this year due to the increased quality of the league.
"I’ve never been a part of a league that is this deep and good from top to bottom,” Holtmann said. “I've been part of some great leagues, but never one quite like this.”
Twelve games into the season, High Point comes in at a pedestrian 6-6, and is currently ranked 235/353 in the KenPom rankings. In their last game, the Panthers lost to Richmond 74-59.
Their top scorer, 6-3 guard Jahaad Proctor, has been a man among boys this season. Proctor is averaging 22.3 points per game on 51% shooting. The only other player for the Panthers to average double figures is 6-5 junior guard Brandonn Kamga, who comes in with an average of 15.3.
This season, the Panthers have mainly played high-scoring contests. In seven out of 12 games this season, the opposition has scored at least 68 points.
Ohio State preview
The Buckeyes are currently playing pretty good basketball, coming in having won five games in a row, which includes two Big Ten contests and a neutral-site win over UCLA.
The Buckeyes have been paced by Kaleb Wesson, who recently won the Big Ten Player of the Week for his efforts. Wesson scored 31 points in a win over Youngstown State and then followed it up by recording a double-double against UCLA.
When Ohio State has managed to turn the games around and have spurts of impressive play, Holtmann said he has seen similar positives to last year's team.
"A connectedness defensively, sharing the ball offensively and we play with a certain edge to us and certainly an effort level that's kind of an expectation," Holtmann said. "I think all those things are consistent with when we play well."
How it plays out
Unless Ohio State cannot find a way from stopping Proctor from scoring 40, the Buckeyes should run away in an easy victory.
The Buckeyes have a size and length advantage, along with the athleticism edge, which should help shut down the Panthers.
Prediction: Ohio State 85, High Point 65