Two teams eager for their first test of the young season square off Thursday in the first round of the PK80 Invitational in Portland as Ohio State meets No. 17 Gonzaga. The Buckeyes have cruised to a 4-0 start under first-year coach Chris Holtmann while Gonzaga has averaged 94 points in lopsided wins over Texas Southern, Howard and Utah State.
Ohio State has scored at least 80 points in its four wins behind the stellar frontcourt duo of Jae’Sean Tate and 6-7 junior Keita Bates-Diop, who opened the season with three straight double-doubles and leads the Buckeyes in scoring (19.3 points per game) and rebounding (10.0). “He looks like he’s having fun,” Holtmann told reporters. “Keita has to play full throttle to be at his best, and we’ve challenged him with playing with a great motor. When he does that, he is really hard to handle.” Diop will need another strong outing against Gonzaga, which has eight players averaging at least 6.7 points. Zags point guard Josh Perkins is averaging 13.3 points and shooting 45.8 percent from 3-point range but faces a tough matchup against Ohio State’s C.J. Jackson.
TV: 12 a.m. ET, ESPN2
ABOUT GONZAGA (3-0): Freshman wing Corey Kispert recorded 12 points and nine rebounds in last Saturday’s 79-66 win over Utah State and has made an immediate impact with 35 points and 18 rebounds in his first three games. This week is a homecoming for Portland native and senior guard Silas Melson, who is averaging 11.7 points and is one made 3-pointer away from 100 for his career. Gonzaga’s impressive frontcourt includes 6-foot-9 Johnathan Williams and 6-10 Killian Tillie, who had a career-high 20 points and nine boards in the win over Utah State.
ABOUT OHIO STATE (4-0): Sophomore center Micah Potter, who has started all four games and averaged 8.8 points on 61.9 percent shooting, is expected to be available against Gonzaga after spraining his ankle in last Sunday’s 80-55 win over Northeastern. Tate, a 6-foot-4, 230-pound senior, made all 10 of his field-goal attempts and finished with a career-high 24 points in the victory. Freshman forward Kaleb Wesson added a career-high 12 points off the bench for the Buckeyes, who own a plus-14.8 rebounding margin through four games.
1. The teams are meeting for the first time since March 17, 2012, when Ohio State recorded a 73-66 win in the NCAA Tournament.
2. Gonzaga has posted a 20-2 record over its last six Thanksgiving tournaments.
3. Ohio State could face Holtmann’s former team, Butler, in Sunday’s final round of the Motion Bracket.
PREDICTION: Gonzaga 82, Ohio State 74