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What To Watch: OSU-Long Beach State

After a one-week hiatus, No. 7 Ohio State will be back on the court at Value City Arena Saturday. The Buckeyes will host Long Beach State in a noon game (Big Ten Network).

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In the video boxes, we have comments from OSU head coach Thad Matta (above) and players Evan Ravenel and Aaron Craft (below).

On Tuesday, basketball columnist Lee Caryer shared this column on the games against Duke and Northern Kentucky and much more.

Here is our What We Learned feature Saturday’s game:

Opponent: Long Beach State

* Where: Value City Arena (Capacity: 19,049); Columbus

* Date, Time: Saturday, noon Eastern

* TV: Big Ten Network (Announcers: Kevin Kogler, Jim Jackson)

* 2012-13 Records: Ohio State, 5-1 overall; Long Beach State, 3-5 overall.

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* Key Players (2012-13 Stats): Ohio State – F Deshaun Thomas, 6-7, jr., 21.0 ppg, 6.5 rpg; G Aaron Craft, 6-2, jr., 12.0 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 4.3 apg, 1.7 spg; G Lenzelle Smith Jr., 6-4, jr., 10.5 ppg, 5.2 rpg; F LaQuinton Ross, 6-8, so., 9.3 ppg, 3.8 rpg; C Amir Williams, 6-11, so., 3.3 ppg, 3.3 rpg; F-C Evan Ravenel, 6-8, sr., 5.7 ppg, 4.2 rpg; F Sam Thompson, 6-7, so., 6.2 ppg, 4.8 rpg; G Shannon Scott, 6-2, so., 6.5 ppg, 4.0 apg, 1.8 spg. Long Beach State – G-F James Ennis, 6-7, sr., 15.6 ppg, 7.8 rpg; G Mike Caffey, 6-0, so., 10.5 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 4.8 apg; G-F Kris Gulley, 6-7, so., 8.1 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 2.0 apg; G Peter Pappageorge, 6-0, sr., 8.6 ppg, 2.5 rpg; G-F Deng Deng, 6-6, fr., 5.8 ppg, 2.4 rpg; F Dan Jennings, 6-9, jr., 8.6 ppg, 7.0 rpg.

* Quality Of Opponent: Middle of the road or worse. Long Beach State went 25-9 last season, winning the Big West regular season and tournament titles and qualifying for the NCAA Tournament. The 49ers lost their NCAA opener to New Mexico 75-68.

Unfortunately for LBSU coach Dan Monson, he lost four of his five starters off that team and the 49ers have struggled mightily so far this season. They come in to Columbus on a two-game losing streak after losses to Fresno State (64-59) and at Syracuse Thursday night (84-53).

* OSU-Long Beach State Series: Ohio State won its only previous meeting with Long Beach State on Dec. 26, 1987, at the Lobo Classic in Albuquerque, N.M. OSU won the game 93-86.

Against members of the Big West Conference, Ohio State is 7-1 all-time. Three wins have come against California-Santa Barbara. Ohio State owns two wins vs. California-Davis and lone victories against both California State-Northridge and LBSU. The Buckeyes have not faced Big West members Cal Poly, Cal St. Fullerton, Pacific, Cal-Irvine or Cal-Riverside. Thad Matta is 1-0 against Big West members, a 68-51 win over UC-Santa Barbara March 19, 2012 in Milwaukee, Wis., in the 2012 NCAA Tournament.

* Fun Facts: If Monson’s name looks familiar, he was the head coach at Minnesota for part of eight seasons between 1999-2006. He followed Clem Haskins and preceded Tubby Smith with the Gophers. He led Minnesota to one 20-win season and NCAA berth in 2004-05. He was fired after a 2-5 start in 2006-07. His LBSU teams have won the Big West regular season title the last two years. Prior to Minnesota, he was the head coach at Gonzaga for two years and led that team to an NCAA Elite Eight in 1999 … Against nonconference opponents, Thad Matta’s OSU teams are a combined 113-21 in his nine years. That includes a record of 72-2 at home against nonconference teams. His teams are also 187-21 against unranked opponents. Over the last three years, OSU is 57-1 against unranked opponents with the lone loss at Illinois last January (79-74) … Ohio State owns a 140-12 home record during the Matta era. The Buckeyes are 58-3 in Columbus over the past four seasons … Ross recorded a career highs with 22 points and eight rebounds in OSU’s win over Northern Kentucky on Saturday (70-43) … Thomas now has a career total of 1,023 at Ohio State, ranking 47th on the all-time scoring list … Long Beach State is already 0-3 this season against ranked teams with losses to No. 11 North Carolina (78-63), No. 10 Arizona (94-72) and Thursday at No. 4 Syracuse. In that 31-point loss at the Carrier Dome, Jennings led the way with 20 points and seven rebounds. But the 49ers shot just 29.2 percent from the floor and 20.8 percent behind the three-point arc … LBSU is a distant 289th nationally in field goal percentage (40.1 percent).

* Match-Up To Watch: Ennis, a 6-7 forward, is the lone holdover from last year’s Big West championship team. He averaged 10.0 points and 4.1 rebounds a year ago. It looks like Deshaun Thomas, Sam Thompson and LaQuinton Ross will all have turns against him.

One other match-up would pit the 6-9 Jennings against OSU’s Ravenel and Williams. Jennings is coming off his best game as a college player. He spent two seasons at West Virginia before transferring to Long Beach State last year.

* What’s At Stake: This is a chance for Ohio State to continue to build momentum. This is the first of four games in a two-week stretch as the Buckeyes prepare for their Dec. 22 rematch with Kansas at VCA. Matta wants to work out all of the kinks prior to that showdown as well as the start of Big Ten play in January.

* What They’re Saying: Matta on what he wants to get tuned up: "First and foremost, a heightened defensive awareness especially off the ball. I thought coming out of the Duke game and going into Northern Kentucky, we did a good job of positioning on the ball. But our awareness off the ball wasn’t as heightened as it needed to be.

“Offensively, we need to clean up some things in transition. Our spacing on offense, there are times when we are all jumbled up. And just our patience on offense and understanding the difference being at 18 feet and 22 feet.”

Matta on Craft’s recent shooting slump (5 for 24 in the last two games): “I have given it thought. I haven’t done anything drastic like using a shot doctor or anything like that. The big thing for Aaron is I don’t know if there is a guy in college basketball who has shot more than Aaron has. It’s more of him getting back his comfort. He has shot it really well this week in practice. He knows where the ball needs to be and what he needs to do offensively.”

Matta on Ross coming off his biggest career game: “I told LaQuinton this summer that, ‘Sometimes the way you think, you’re going to get 20 points one game and not score the next. I want to see how you handle success.’ He has to keep his mind totally focused on exactly what needs to be done on every single possession and not float in and out. I think he is getting better at that. I told him with eight minutes to go the other day, ‘Stay locked in.’ I think he’s grown. That’s just a maturity.”

Matta on Long Beach State in transition this year: “They are extremely talented, athletic and long. They play at a very fast pace. They’ve shown multiple defenses. They have several guys who can have a big night. They’ve played a tough schedule. They are a scary team with their length and athleticism and how hard they play.”

Craft on his recent struggles: “It just comes down to putting the ball in the basket. With the number of shots I’ve shot and the number of shots our teams shot during the spring and summer, there is no reason for us to be shooting that low of a percentage. We put in too much work to be missing the type of shots we’re missing. We have taken some bad shots, but we are also missing some shots that we usually make. We’re not getting discouraged. We just need to knock down some shots and that will help us in the long run.”

Ravenel on Ross’ emergence: “LaQuinton is one of the most talented players I’ve had a chance to play with. It’s just the fact of him bringing it every night and staying with that same intensity level. He just needs to do that every game.”

* Next On The Docket: The Buckeyes move on to the third game in an eight-game homestand as they host Savannah State (5-4) Wednesday night (7 p.m., Big Ten Network).

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