Saturday , Dec , 02 , 2006 C.Y. Ellis

Buckeyes hope to get back on track against Valpo

Columbus, OH (Sports Network) – Fresh off a tough loss on Wednesday, the
third-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes will get back to action today against the
Valparaiso Crusaders.

Valparaiso got off to a strong start this season, as it posted three
consecutive victories over mediocre competition. The last three opponents have
been much tougher, however, and the result has been three straight defeats. On
Wednesday, the Crusaders dropped a 60-47 decision to Butler, two days after
almost knocking off nationally-ranked Marquette.

As for Ohio State, it put forth a strong effort on the road against North
Carolina Wednesday, but the result of that tilt was a 98-89 setback. The
Buckeyes had won six straight to open the season before suffering that
defeat, and the team has to be considered a legitimate national
championship contender. It is hard not to look ahead to a December 23rd
clash with Florida on the road, as those two teams may be the most talented
in all of college basketball.

Valparaiso beat Ohio State in the only previous meeting between these teams in
2000.

Valparaiso is not particularly explosive at the offensive end, as it is
averaging 67.0 ppg. Fortunately, however, it has been able to limit its
opponents to 65.5 ppg on 39.8 percent shooting from the floor. Shawn Huff is
the leading scorer for the Crusaders, as he is netting 14.0 ppg on the
strength of his 52.2 percent efficiency from three-point range. The only other
double-digit scorer for the club is Urule Igbavboa, as he is contributing 12.0
ppg and 9.3 rpg. In the rather ugly 13-point loss to Butler earlier this week,
Huff was limited to five points on 1-of-7 shooting from the floor. Brandon
McPherson hit 5-of-6 shots en route to his team-leading 14 points, and Jarryd
Loyd pitched in 10 points off the bench. Valparaiso connected on only 39.1
percent of its field goal attempts in the clash while also being outscored
20-8 from the foul line.

Ohio State continues to play without Greg Oden, the prized recruit who was a
two-time National High School Player of the Year. Oden is expected back from
wrist surgery in late December or early January, and while the Buckeyes figure
to be scary when the seven-foot center returns, there is plenty of talent in
place to carry the load in his absence. Ron Lewis leads the club with 18.9 ppg
on 57.1 percent shooting from the floor, and he is coming off a stellar 30-
point effort against North Carolina. Freshman Daequan Cook was overshadowed by
Oden coming into Ohio State, but the fact that he is scoring 17.3 ppg to go
along with 7.3 rpg suggests that he is far to good to take a back seat to
anyone. As for Ivan Harris, he adds 12.1 ppg off the bench. Keep an eye on
rookie point guard Mike Conley Jr., as he has recorded 19 steals and has 46
assists against 16 turnovers. Harris posted 17 points on 5-of-8 shooting from
three-point range against North Carolina, and Cook tallied 14 points and nine
rebounds. The Buckeyes suffered a 22-8 disadvantage in points from the foul
line and a 41-27 rebounding deficit, the two most obvious factors that led to
defeat.

OHIOST VALPO