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Buckeyes with a Lot to Prove Against UConn
By John Porentas

December 12, 2015: Connecticut 75, Ohio State 55. 

It’s been almost a year to the day that the Buckeyes travelled to Storrs Connecticut and had their rear ends handed to them by the UConn Huskies. Ohio State never had a lead in that game and trailed by 21 at the half. It was a particularly bad game for freshman point guard JaQuan Lyle who was 0-7 from the field and did not get to the free throw line.

It’s a score the Buckeyes have to settle but the rematch game has taken on an added dimension. OSU is coming off a rather shocking loss to Florida Atlantic earlier this week, and is very anxious to right the ship after that loss.

“We just don’t want to have reoccurring events that we had last season, stringing multiple losses together,” said senior forward Marc Loving.

”We just want to be prepared. Today’s practice and yesterday’s practice, we came back later in the night and it was pretty decent. I just want to make sure today’s practice is pretty good going into the day before.”

Lyle had an 0-fer night last year, but he wasn’t the only Buckeye struggling to put the ball in the basket. The Buckeyes shot a fairly miserable 34.7 percent from the field and a totally miserable 22.7 percent from three point range in that loss. UConn meanwhile shot 60.4 percent from the field and 42.9 from three.

It was an ugly mismatch.

UConn finished 25-11 last year. They qualified for the NCAA tournament where the defeated Colorado 74-67 in the first round before falling to Kansas 73-61 in the second round. The Buckeyes – well  - lets just say they didn’t do as well.

The Huskies are not exactly off to a great start this season. They come to Columbus a .500 team at 4-4,  but in their last outing earned a 52-50 win over Syracuse. Other wins include a 51-49 decision over Boston University, 65-62 over Loyola Marymount and 92-82 over host Chaminade in the Maui Classic. Their losses include consecutive home losses to Wagner 67-58 and Northeastern 64-61 as well as a 98-90 loss to Oklahoma State and a 79-69 loss to Oregon.

If nothing else, the Huskies will bring size to the table. Starting center Amida Brimah goes 7-0 while forwards Junan Durham and Stephen Enoch both go 6-11. Kentan Fancy comes in at 6-10 and the Huskies have four more players at 6-8.

“Long, athletic, talented, it seems like they play with a great edge,” said OSU Head Coach Thad Matta.

“They’re a little bit like us.  When they get rolling they’re really, really good, even some of those games in Hawaii where they got down and the comebacks they made were tremendous.  We’ve got to do a great job of defending all their actions then know that when the shot goes up the battle is just starting. They do a great job of offensive rebounding.”

Despite the number of big men on their roster the Huskies will likely go with a three-guard lineup. Their scoring leader is 6-3 guard Jalen Adams averaging 17.8 point s per game. Three other Huskies are averaging double figures in 6-8 guard/forward Terry Larrie at 13.5, 6-4 guard Rodney Purvis at 12.5 and 6-0 guard Alterique Gilbert at 10.3.

OSU will have the services of Kaita Bates-Diop again after he missed considerable playing time with a high ankle sprain. He returned to action against Florida Atlantic, but Matta says he is still not quite 100 percent.

“You could tell he’s not where he needs to be completely.  Obviously serviceable, hit a couple shots,  blocked a couple shots, but he’s still not where he wants to be and where we need him to be.”

The game tips off at 6:00 PM at the Schottenstien arena in Columbus. It will be televised on the Big Ten Network.

Player profiles relevant to story:
2 - Loving, Marc | 13 - Lyle, JaQuan | 33 - Bates-Diop, Keita | Coach - Matta, Thad
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