Before Ohio State’s talented freshmen make their Big Ten debut, the Buckeyes have one more non-conference tune-up when they host Coppin State on Saturday.
The sixth-ranked Buckeyes (10-2) will look to extend their non-conference home winning streak to 28 games before hosting Indiana on Tuesday to open their Big Ten schedule.
Ohio State is expected to challenge No. 4 Wisconsin for the conference title and its young stars will be expected to sustain their solid play.
For the most part, Ohio State’s heralded freshman class has lived up to the preseason hype during non-conference play where the Buckeyes’ only losses came on the road against two of the nation’s highest-ranked teams currently—No. 2 North Carolina and No. 3 Florida.
While 7-footer Greg Oden and point guard Mike Conley Jr.—high school teammates from Indianapolis—remain the focus of the class, guard Daequan Cook leads the team in scoring at 15.3 points per game and is averaging 5.6 rebounds off the bench.
Cook has been in a bit of a slump lately, scoring less than 10 points in three of his last four games. He did have 21 in a 75-56 win over Iowa State on Dec. 19.
In five games since returning earlier than expected from a wrist injury, Oden is averaging 13.8 points, 8.0 rebounds and 4.0 blocks. However, he battled foul trouble against Florida and was held to seven points on 2-of-6 shooting as the Buckeyes lost 86-60 last Saturday.
Conley, who led the team with 13 points versus the Gators, is averaging 10.0 points and 6.5 assists.
“I think we’re still growing,” Conley said. “We are such a young team. We just have to stick together.”
The Buckeyes lead the Big Ten in scoring at 81.2 points per game and field-goal percentage at 50.4.
As good as the Buckeyes had been early this season, the loss to Florida proved humbling.
“I never thought this team could be beaten like that,” Ohio State guard Ron Lewis said. “It is something we just have to learn from.”
The Buckeyes were held to season lows in points and field-goal percentage (36.5), and allowed Florida to shoot 60.3 percent from the floor.
“They played a good game and we couldn’t beat them,” guard Jamar Butler said. “This game will be a motivating factor for us. When you play the national champions and you play like that, it is not fun. Hopefully, it will motivate us to stay in the game in the future.”
Ohio State might not need much motivation Saturday. The Buckeyes are allowing less than 60 points per game in nine home games this season, and are facing a Coppin State team which is averaging only 62.1 points.
The Eagles (2-10) are looking to snap a five-game losing streak as they face a Top 25 opponent for the third consecutive game.
They lost 99-49 to then-No. 10 Alabama last Saturday, and 84-41 to No. 12 Connecticut on Wednesday. They also lost to then-No. 25 Tennessee on Dec. 19.
Coppin State has played only one home game as part of a tough non-conference schedule that also included games against Virginia Tech, Kansas State, Missouri, Iowa and Oklahoma.
Junior guard Tywain McKee is the only player on Coppin State’s roster averaging in double figures at 17.8 points per game.
The Eagles have lost their two previous games against Ohio State, including a 58-51 defeat on Nov. 25, 2002 in the most recent meeting.