No offense, but University at Albany wishes Ohio State played its season opener against Marquette Friday night rather than taking out its frustrations against the Great Danes this afternoon in Columbus.
The fourth-ranked Buckeyes had their scheduled game with Marquette aboard USS Yorktown at the Carrier Classic canceled because of moisture on the court.
Instead, the Buckeyes will open against the Danes in the Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off in the Value City Arena.
“They are No. 4 in The Associated Press poll, and they just reload,” said coach Will Brown. “They’ve got Deshaun Thomas, and they’ve got Aaron Craft, who is probably the best defensive guard in the country. They are definitely a top-five team, and we have a tremendous amount of respect for them.”
Brown conceded that few people believe the Great Danes have a shot against the powerful Buckeyes, despite UAlbany’s 69-66 defeat of Atlantic-10 representative Duquesne Friday night in the Great Danes’ home opener at SEFCU Arena.
“I know nobody in this room thinks we can beat Ohio State,” Brown said. “But our kids have to believe they can do it. [Duquesne coach] Jim Ferry told me after the game that our guys are a good team, with the emphasis on the word team, and that’s the message that I relayed to our players. All they want to do is win. We’ll need to get big shots from Mike Black, and we’ll need our bigs to play as well as they did against Duquesne.”
Junior center John Puk scored a career-high 14 points, including the game-clinching dunk, and grabbed eight rebounds against the Dukes. He averaged only two points and two rebounds in limited action a year ago but lost 30 pounds and hit the weight room hard. Black scored a game-high 15 points, and sophomore forward Sam Rowley added 11 points.
“John is a monster now,” said senior swingman Jayson Guerrier of Puk. “He’s a different player now.
“Ohio State will be a big challenge for us, but we will do a good job of scouting them. There is no intimidation for us. We feel we can beat anybody,” Guerrier said.
Rowley, whose pass set up Puk for the game-winner against the Dukes, said he feels no pressure against the Buckeyes.
“There is nothing to lose,” he said. “We’re expected to lose, but we’re not afraid.”
Maybe the Danes should be very afraid of the Buckeyes. After all, they advanced to last year’s Final Four with just one senior on the roster, and this year’s team, although also young, features Craft, the reigning Big Ten defensive player of the year, and Thomas. Both are set to join the 1,000-point club. Thomas needs just 103 points, and Craft needs 399.
Thomas is the team’s top returning scorer at 15.9 points per game, while Craft produced 8.8 points. Craft is also second on Ohio State’s all-time list for steals with 171.
Other key players for the Buckeyes include 6-11 sophomore Amir Williams, a shot-blocking ace, and Sam Thompson, an outstanding leaper.
The Buckeyes are perennially one of the toughest defensive teams in the country. They allowed just 59.8 ppg last year.
Ohio State has made three consecutive appearances in the NCAA Sweet 16. The Buckeyes have produced eight straight 20-win campaigns and have spent 46 straight weeks in the AP’s Top 25.
The Danes are used to playing top-ranked teams. Since the 2005-06 season, the Great Danes have faced No. 2 Connecticut in the 2006 NCAA tournament,
No. 16 UCLA in the 2006-07 regular season, No. 6 Duke in the 2007-08 regular season, No. 23 Villanova in the 2008-09 regular season, both No. 23 Syracuse and No. 9 North Carolina in the 2009-10 regular season and both No. 5 Syracuse and No. 10 Pittsburgh in the 2011-12 regular season.
Following today’s game, the Great Danes continue play in the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament at Washington Tuesday. They will play two more Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament games at Mohegan Sun Saturday and Sunday.