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Ohio State has experienced few, if any, challenges in getting off to one of its best starts in 20 seasons. That might change with a visit from Oakland.
The Golden Grizzlies have knocked off one ranked team this season and nearly beat another, and they'll try to deny the No. 2 Buckeyes their best start since 1990-91 on Thursday night.
Ohio State has won its first 11 games by an average of 26.0 points and recorded its most lopsided win this season Tuesday night, 96-49 against visiting UNC-Asheville.
David Lighty finished one point shy of tying his best scoring performance with 29, but set career highs with 11 field goals and seven 3-pointers. The Buckeyes (11-0), who won their first 17 games in 1990-91, have had one player score at least 29 points in four of their five games this month.
Leading scorer Jared Sullinger (17.6 ppg) set an Ohio State freshman record with 40 points against IUPUI on Dec. 9, and he had 30 points and a career-high 19 rebounds in Saturday's 79-57 victory over South Carolina. Jon Diebler tied the school record with nine 3-pointers while scoring 29 points against Florida Gulf Coast on Dec. 15.
"That's how our season's been going so far," Lighty said. "There's not one person you can key on."
The Buckeyes' next opponent, though, has already played tough against one talent-laden Big Ten title contender this season. The Golden Grizzlies (7-7) fell 77-76 to then-No. 7 Michigan State on Dec. 11 but rebounded for an 89-82 win at then-No. 7 Tennessee three days later.
Oakland, however, has dropped two of three since that victory and its furious rally fell short in Tuesday night's 103-102 home loss to Valparaiso. The Golden Grizzlies got within a point with four seconds on consecutive 3-pointers from senior guard Larry Wright after trailing by 10 with 52 seconds remaining.
Wright (24 points) and junior guard Reggie Hamilton (26) set career scoring marks in the loss, while foul trouble helped limit leading scorer Keith Benson (17.4) to a season-low five points.
Benson, who's also averaging a team-best 10.4 rebounds, has nine double-doubles this season and three in Oakland's four matchups against ranked opponents. The Golden Grizzlies lost at then-No. 14 Purdue on Nov. 21 and at then-No. 16 Illinois on Dec. 8.
Benson, who had a season-high 26 points in the win over Tennessee, has helped his team average 81.6 points - 1.4 better than Ohio State. The Buckeyes, though, are giving up 54.2 points per game, while Oakland is allowing 75.6 per contest.
"We get a chance to bounce back against another ranked team," Hamilton said. "We need to come back up and pull another surprise."
Ohio State has won both meetings, and is seeking its 20th consecutive home victory over a non-conference opponent.
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