The Ohio State men’s basketball team is coming off a defensive showing coach Thad Matta called one of the best performances by a team since he’s been at OSU.
“I thought we were as tuned in, as dialed in as we could possibly be,” Matta said Tuesday, referring to the 52-35 win against then-No. 17 Marquette (2-1, 0-0) Saturday. “I thought guys used their length, their athleticism, they understood what we were trying to take away … It was probably about as good defensively as we could play.”
The Buckeyes held the Golden Eagles to only 18.9 percent shooting in that game, and submitting a similar effort against American University (1-1, 0-0) Wednesday remains the focus. The American Eagles run an offense that has given the No. 8-ranked Buckeyes (3-0, 0-0) fits in the past.
“We know they run the Princeton Offense. That’s going to be fun to guard like always,” said junior guard Shannon Scott Monday with a smile. “We just gotta treat them like any other team. Just because they’re not ranked doesn’t mean they can’t come in here and beat us.”
The “Princeton Offense” is a style predicated on constant motion, quick cuts behind defenders and solid outside shooting. Matta said it takes extra time to prepare for the offense itself, and the Eagles shoot a high number of shots from beyond the 3-point arc.
“It’s just the cutting is unique, you’ve got five guys out there that can shoot,” Matta said. “I think 47 percent of their field goal attempts are threes.”
An in-conference foe, Northwestern, also runs the Princeton Offense, and the Wildcats have given the Buckeyes all they can handle in recent memory. Two seasons ago, OSU slipped by to beat Northwestern on the road, 75-73, as then-Buckeye forward Jared Sullinger scored the game-winning basket in the waning seconds. Last year, OSU needed late runs in both games against Northwestern to put them away.
“It’s one of those deals where you may give up a lay up, you may give up a (3-pointer) here or there,” Matta said. “But it’s the possession after possession after possession of doing what you’re supposed to do and how you’re supposed to do it. And then in the end, you hope that you can rebound long shots, long rebounds. We gotta scoop those up. We’ve definitely learned our lesson over time playing Northwestern in that regard.”
Staying disciplined on the defensive side of the ball is going to be key, as the Buckeyes look to win their fourth straight to open the season.
“We have to be really sound on defense. We can’t gamble like we probably would,” Scott said. “I know for myself, I like to be in the passing lanes, I probably can’t do that too much cause they’re going to back-door it. Just playing honestly, defensively. Staying between the man and the basket is a huge key for us.”
Tipoff between the Buckeyes and Eagles is set for 7:30 p.m. at the Schottenstein Center.