Ohio State looks to remain perfect under new coach Chris Holtmann when it hosts Texas Southern in a non-conference contest Thursday night. The Buckeyes have won their first two contests this season while the Tigers come into the contest looking for the first win of 2017-18.
Juinor forward Keita Bates-Diop has come back better than ever after a stress fracture in his left leg sidelined him for much of the 2016-17 campaign, averaging 20.5 points and 10.5 rebounds in the first two games this season. He’s joined by four other teammates sporting double-figure scoring averages, led by junior guard C.J. Jackson’s 13 and senior guard Kam Williams’ 12.5. The Buckeyes have shown some strength on the boards so far this season, outrebounding their opponents 48.0-27.5 on average. The Tigers started the season out west, falling to Gonzaga and Washington State, though the setback to the Cougars was a two-point loss in overtime.
TV: 7 p.m. ET., Big Ten Network
ABOUT TEXAS SOUTHERN (0-2): Over the years, college basketball has proven that smaller players can make a big impact, and Tigers guard Demontrae Jefferson is proving to be the latest example of that. Jefferson, listed at 5-7, averaged 21 points and 3.5 assists in the Tigers’ first two contests, nearly pushing Texas Southern to an upset of the Cougars with 22 points, six assists and two steals on Sunday. The setback could be looked at as a moral victory, though coach Mike Davis would certainly have rather had his team hold onto the 22-point lead it had in the first half, something he’ll stress to his young floor general in the games to come.
ABOUT OHIO STATE (2-0): The Buckeyes earned a 10-point win over Radford in their last outing, but Holtmann certainly had some criticism for his squad after they nearly squandered a 26-point second-half lead. The Highlanders’ Carlik Jones scored 14 points in the final six minutes, making what had been a ho-hum blowout into a competitive game in the closing moments. After looking dominant in the first half on both ends of the floor, Ohio State seemed to let up late, something Holtmann is certainly going to point to as something that needs to improve going forward.
1. Jackson scored a career-high 19 points in the win over Radford.
2. The Buckeyes have had their trouble from 3-point range, hitting 13-of-45 (28.9 percent) over the first two games.
3. Bates-Diop has eight career double-doubles — including two this season — and the Buckeyes are 8-0 in those contests.
PREDICTION: Ohio State 86, Texas Southern 70