Coming off a win in their Big Ten opener against Penn State, the No. 21 Buckeyes switch gears to a mid-major challenge before a battle with No. 22 Wisconsin Sunday.
Looking to avoid a trap game setback against Towson (6-3, 0-0 Colonial Athletic Association), Ohio State (6-2, 1-0 Big Ten) assistant coach Jake Diebler emphasized that the Buckeyes can’t get too complacent heading into their meeting with the Tigers.
“Although they’re not ranked, they’re a good team. All the metrics say they’re a really good team,” Diebler said. “In college basketball this season, it seems like more than typical seasons; we’re reminded multiple times a week that you can’t take anybody lightly.”
Towson kicked off the season splitting its first six games, before ripping off a three-game winning streak heading into its meeting with the Buckeyes. The Tigers triumphed over New Mexico, Long Island and Kent State during their run, outscoring their opponents by an average of 13 points.
The Tigers boast the best defense in the CAA, allowing just 62.2 points per game while their opponents shoot 38.4 from the field. On the glass, Towson has staked out a rebounding margin of +8.9 — best in the conference.
As Towson has shown prowess on the defensive end, it also has a trio of double-digit scorers pacing its above average offense.
Redshirt junior guard Nicholas Timberlake has led the Tigers during the three-game stretch, averaging 18.6 points per game. Timberlake led all scorers in Towson’s most recent game against the Golden Flashes, dropping 22 points on 8-for-14 shooting from the field.
Timberlake sits in the middle of a scoring trio for the Tigers, averaging 13.6 points per game on the season thus far. Alongside Timberlake, the guard pairing of senior Cam Holden and graduate Terry Nolan Jr. also find themselves in double figures.
Holden leads the Tigers in scoring and rebounding, averaging a double-double with 16 points and 10.4 rebounds per game. The Forsyth, Georgia, native is also efficient with his offensive opportunities — shooting 51.6 percent from the field and 41.7 percent from beyond the arc.
While Holden is a dominating presence on the offensive end, he contributes defensively as well — leading the Tigers in steals with 17.
Nolan missed Towson’s most recent game against Kent State, but he’s the third head of the Tigers’ offensive attack. Averaging 12.9 points and 3.4 assists per game, Nolan is an inefficient cog in the Towson scoring machine, connecting on just 38.7 percent from the field and 24.4 percent from 3-point range.
As Towson has proved itself as one of the better mid-major teams in the country, freshman guard Meechie Johnson Jr. said the Buckeyes need to approach this contest just like any other game.
“You just continue to prepare hard as a team, you stay connected, you pay very close attention to detail,” Johnson said. “We know as a team that you got a team like that coming in here, they’re going to give it their all. This is their championship. We have to be on our P’s and Q’s.”
As Ohio State looks ahead to the Towson game, it also comes at an inopportune time for the Buckeyes as it lands between Big Ten matchups — with No. 22 Wisconsin looming Saturday.
With the Buckeyes pushing through December, Diebler said the team’s growth remains imperative during the mid-season slog.
“We want to continue to grow throughout the course of the year and I think that will be important for us,” Diebler said. “There’s no question, you’re seeing it all across college basketball: the benefit of experience.”
The Buckeyes and Tigers tip off at 9 p.m. Wednesday at the Schottenstein Center. The game will be televised on ESPNU.