Texas-Pan American-Ohio St. Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated December 02, 2011
Ohio State will enjoy the comfort of its home court once again this weekend, but an important trip is on the horizon. The second-ranked Buckeyes try to prepare for that test and help coach Thad Matta earn his 300th career win Saturday against Texas-Pan American. With a team that has 10 freshmen and sophomores, Ohio State is benefiting from an eight-game stretch in Columbus to begin this season, the longest since its 1909-10 team opened with 10 straight home contests. The Buckeyes (7-0) used the familiarity of Columbus to their advantage once again in an 85-63 rout of No. 3 Duke in Tuesday's ACC/Big Ten Challenge. "This basketball team is special,'' said sophomore Jared Sullinger, who had a team-high 21 points.. Three other starters scored at least 17 as Ohio State shot 59.3 percent during its 29th consecutive victory at Value City Arena. With a win Saturday, the Buckeyes would match a 30-game streak from Feb. 18, 1990-Feb. 8, 1992, as the second-longest in school history. "I wouldn't say I was worried, but this team is still so young at times I don't know what to expect from them. There's a lot of uncertainty going into games like this, so I'm always excited to see how we respond," Matta said. "Our guys played to their strengths tonight which is a credit to them." Sullinger gets most of the headlines, but William Buford has been just as key to Ohio State's early success. The team's lone senior has averaged 22.7 points over his last three games, hitting 8 of 9 from 3-point range. To point guard Aaron Craft, though, those perimeter looks wouldn't be possible without Sullinger. "It all started with Jared inside," said Craft, who had eight assists for a third straight game. "That just opens everything else up.'' The Buckeyes might need all their stars to step up when they play on the road for the first time next Saturday against No. 15 Kansas following a break for finals. First, they'll host Texas Pan-American (2-6), which has dropped 18 consecutive road games - all to unranked opponents. The Broncs suffered their most lopsided defeat of the season Monday, falling 92-60 at Texas-Arlington. They played that game without leading scorer Brandon Provost, who was reportedly suffering from an illness. The junior guard, averaging 15.3 points, is expected to return Saturday. Ruben Cabrera and Aaron Urbanus had season highs of 14 points in his absence, but senior guard Jared Maree - averaging 13.6 points - was held to a season-low three on 1-of-10 shooting. Texas Pan-American has dropped its past six games against ranked opponents by an average of 30.7 points and is set to face the No. 2 team in the country for the third time in seven seasons. Both of the previous two losses came against Texas, 82-54 on Nov. 29, 2005, and 104-42 on Dec. 15, 2009.
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