No. 20 Ohio State, UCLA set for last-minute matchup

·3 min read

A pair of one-loss teams step away from tough conference schedules to go head-to-head Saturday afternoon when UCLA and No. 20 Ohio State hook up in the nightcap of the CBS Sports Classic men's basketball doubleheader in Cleveland.

North Carolina and Kentucky will duel in the earlier game.

UCLA was supposed to be facing Kentucky on Saturday with Ohio State meeting North Carolina, but the schedule was adjusted this week since UCLA and Ohio State have COVID-19 protocols that better align.

The UCLA-Ohio State matchup pits a Bruins team (5-1) that has won five straight since a season-opening loss to San Diego State up against a Buckeyes team (5-1) that saw a five-game winning streak snapped at Purdue on Wednesday night.

Both teams hope to use the showdown as a potential momentum-gatherer with big conference games on the immediate horizon. UCLA visits perennial Pac-12 Conference power Oregon on Wednesday, while on the same night, Ohio State hosts 19th-ranked Rutgers in Big Ten Conference play.

In Ohio State, UCLA will see a team that has suffocated most opponents with tenacious defense. The Buckeyes have held five of their six opponents to 67 points or fewer, and even gave up only 67 in Wednesday's seven-point road loss to a strong Purdue team.

Unfortunately, as UCLA coach Mick Cronin noted this week, the Buckeyes look familiar. Defensively, they resemble the San Diego State team that limited the Bruins to 58 points in a 15-point road defeat in November.

"It's going to be extremely hard to score on them in the half court," Cronin said of the Buckeyes. "They're as committed to (the) scouting report and team defense as anybody you'll play against."

UCLA, which will be leaving Southern California for the first time this season, survived a defensive struggle in its last outing, a 69-60 home win over Marquette. The Bruins won despite shooting just 41.1 percent overall and making 6 of 23 (26.1 percent) 3-point shots.

Balanced scoring has been a key for the Bruins this season, so they were able to overcome just a four-point night from starting guard Tyger Campbell against Marquette. Jaime Jaquez, the leading scorer at 14.8 points per game, paced the Bruins with 18, while reserve Jules Bernard added 15.

Campbell also contributed a game-high nine assists.

Ohio State couldn't overcome similar shooting woes at Purdue. The Buckeyes hit just six of their 24 3-point attempts (25 percent), making them 12 of 45 (26.7 percent) in their last two outings.

"We're very confident in those," guard CJ Walker said after the Purdue game. "Some days you're hot; some days you're not. Every game is not going to be the same. It's just a matter of stepping up with confidence and just shooting it and believing that every shot's going in."

Coming off the bench for the first time this season, Walker, one of four Buckeyes who average in double figures this season, was held to just six points by the Boilermakers. Justice Sueing (14) and Duane Washington Jr. (13) led the Buckeyes.

Ohio State played Wednesday without E.J. Liddell (COVID-19 precautions) and Harvard graduate transfer Seth Towns (knee). Neither has been ruled out from returning for the UCLA game.

--Field Level Media