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Buckeyes set to tackle Bobcats for first time since 1994

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Senior guard Aaron Craft (4) drives to the basket during a game against Morgan State Nov. 9 at the Schottenstein Center. OSU won, 89-50. Credit: Shelby Lum / Photo editor

Senior guard Aaron Craft (4) drives to the basket during a game against Morgan State Nov. 9 at the Schottenstein Center. OSU won, 89-50.
Credit: Shelby Lum / Photo editor

An in-state rivalry that’s been dormant since 1994 is set to be reignited on the basketball court at the Schottenstein Center, hitting home with a Buckeye point guard and assistant coach.

The Ohio State men’s basketball team (1-0, 0-0) is scheduled to take on the Ohio Bobcats (1-0, 0-0) Tuesday, the first time since the 1994 preseason National Invitational Tournament, which was taken by the Bobcats, 78-67.

That game was played at St. John Arena, and saw current Buckeye assistant coach Jeff Boals pour in 14 points and collect eight rebounds for OU.

“The thing I remember the most (from the win) is getting yelled at at halftime,” Boals said Monday. “Like every other team, (OSU) triple teamed (former Bobcat) Gary Trent, so I had wide open jump shots … I was wide open at the top of the key and Coach (Larry) Hunter said ‘If you’re not going to shoot the ball, we’re going to sit you down.’ So I started shooting every time I got the ball and scored 12 points in the second half.”

Boals is entering his fifth season as an OSU assistant, and although he said the matchup with alma mater is “just another game” to him, it’s hard to hide that the game will be a big one.

“What I’ve come to realize in my four years, starting my fifth year, every game’s a big game against Ohio State,” Boals said. “When I came here, I was an Ohio kid. Like everyone in Ohio, I wanted to come here, (but) I wasn’t good enough to play at Ohio State. I think you just try to tell your guys, ‘this is a huge game …’ I think our guys understand that.”

The Bobcats have three players who went to high school in Central Ohio — senior guard Nick Kellogg (St. Francis De Sales), redshirt-senior forward Jon Smith (Grove City) and junior guard Stevie Taylor (Gahanna Lincoln) — as well as five seniors.

“They’ve got a very senior/junior dominant, lot of redshirts, guys that have been in the program for a long time,” said OSU coach Thad Matta Monday. “Guys that have won a lot of basketball games. I think that’s exciting for us in terms of what we’re going to be going up against.”

Those Central Ohio ties coupled with the fact that the game is against an in-state opponent might bring OU supporters to the Schottenstein Center Tuesday, but Matta hopes the OSU faithful will come out strongly like they did Saturday for the team’s win against Morgan State.

“I think Saturday, from our student section to our fans, what an incredible environment we had in here for Morgan State,” Matta said. “I’m sure there will be some green in here, but the scarlet and gray will outweigh that, I hope.”

OSU senior guard  Aaron Craft said he’s had experience playing with Kellogg and other OU players during AAU basketball in high school and open gyms over the summer in Columbus when they’re back home.

“We’ve played a couple open gyms when they’re back, in the summer when we’re here,” Craft said Monday. “Obviously, the better games you can play in open gyms (are) the best. They came back a couple times this summer and we got to play a little bit.”

Craft added the Bobcats are “competitive and they want to win just as much as we do,” which Boals echoed.

“Coming into the Schottenstein Center for them tomorrow, (OU’s) played in the big games,” Boals said. “They’ve won NCAA Tournament games. Obviously, with the three kids from Central Ohio coming back, it’ll be even more to it.”

Tip off between the Buckeyes and Bobcats is scheduled for 8 p.m. Tuesday.

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