Albany (NY)-Ohio St. Preview
Though it took a little bit longer than expected, Ohio State is finally ready to kick of its 2012-13 campaign.
After their first game was canceled, the No. 4 Buckeyes are surely eager to take the floor Sunday against visiting Albany.
Ohio State was set to open its schedule Friday against Marquette aboard the USS Yorktown at Mount Pleasant, S.C., but the game was called off after all parties agreed the court was too dangerous to play on due to continuing condensation.
"Yeah, we didn't get to play," coach Thad Matta said. "But the purpose was served."
The Buckeyes would appear to have a tough challenge ahead of them in filling the voids left by two-time All-American Jared Sullinger and senior standout William Buford. With juniors Deshaun Thomas, Aaron Craft and Lenzelle Smith Jr. all returning, though, expectations remain sky high in Columbus.
"Those guys, you can't replace them," said Matta, whose team went 31-8 last season, claimed a share of the Big Ten regular-season title and made the Final Four. "You say to your guys, 'Look, I don't need you to be Jared or William. I need you to be yourselves and be the best you can be.'
"We don't need a superstar (although) we'll have some nights where guys (play like one). We've got guys who can do certain things. They have to do those things all the time."
Thomas finished second on the team last season with 15.9 points per game. Craft and Smith averaged 8.8 and 6.8 points, respectively, though both figure to take on bigger scoring loads.
"Without Jared and Will we have to find ways to score the basketball," said Craft, who dished out 4.6 assists per contest in 2011-12 to rank third in the conference. "We'll just try to take what the defense gives us. We have a lot of guys around us that worked really hard and can knock down a lot of shots."
Ohio State has won 32 consecutive home games over non-conference opponents by an average of 29.6 points. After trailing 41-34 at halftime, the Buckeyes came back to beat Albany 87-62 on Nov. 20, 2001, in the only previous matchup in this series.
The Great Danes (1-0) got off to a good start Friday with a 69-66 victory over Duquesne - their first season-opening win since 2006-07, when they made their most recent NCAA tournament appearance. Albany was outrebounded 39-35 but limited the Dukes to 37.9 percent shooting.
"Whether we won this game or lost this game, we're a better team right now than we were at the end of the year last year," said coach Will Brown, whose team went 19-15 last season. "This group is just a team, there's no egos. They're so easy to coach. They play together. They just wanna win."
Senior guard Mike Black had a team-best 15 points while 6-foot-10 junior John Puk scored a career-high 14 to go along with eight rebounds in just 17 minutes.
"I'm happy for him and I'm proud of him, he's worked extremely hard," Brown said of Puk, who averaged a combined 2.3 points during his freshman and sophomore seasons. "Our bigs are the most improved players in our program and we're gonna go to them early, we're gonna go to them often."
The Great Danes dropped both their matchups against ranked programs last season by a combined 57 points, falling to then-No. 10 Pittsburgh and No. 5 Syracuse.