Unbeatens will collide in Hawaii when Ohio State plays No. 17 San Diego State in the Maui Invitational on Monday.
For San Diego State (3-0) it will be a chance to build off a 74-62 win at Stanford on Tuesday, the Aztecs’ first-ever win over the Cardinal in five tries.
“We’re not in a Power 5 conference but we’re a Power 5 school,” Aztecs coach Brian Dutcher said. “We play pretty hard against anybody we play.”
San Diego State of the Mountain West Conference also has defeated Cal State Fullerton and BYU.
The Buckeyes (3-0) have beaten Robert Morris, Charleston Southern and Eastern Illinois by an average of 28.7 points, with the closest margin being 22 (65-43) against Eastern Illinois on Wednesday.
Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann knows San Diego State is a big upgrade in opposition.
“They can clearly get to the Final Four,” he said.
A concern for him is the ball-hawking abilities of the Aztecs, who average more than 12 steals a game. The Buckeyes have been careless, turning the ball over 15 times a game this season.
“Well, we’ve certainly put a lot of thought into that,” Holtmann said. “I think we need to simplify the way we’re playing offensively. Listen, I think we’re going to turn the ball over more than we have in the past when you have this number of new guys and freshmen, and a number of our freshmen are handling the ball.”
One of the biggest culprits vs. Eastern Illinois was sixth-year forward Justice Sueing, who missed all but the first two games of the 2021-22 season because of an abdominal injury. Some of his rustiness is on display.
“He has got to take care of the ball better. He’s got to be better in that area,” Holtmann said. “I think that’s an area where we will improve as the year goes on.”
Sueing, a native of Honolulu, hopes the turnaround starts in his home state where some family members will see him play for Ohio State live for the first time.
“I think it’s just exciting just because not a lot of people get to play in this invitational,” Sueing told Eleven Warriors. “So, it’s a blessing just with that alone, and then also the fact that I’m from there, I’m from that state. The culture there, I can’t wait to experience it with my teammates and kind of show them how I was raised growing up with how the people are there, the foods and just kind of the nature of it.”
For San Diego State’s Jaedon Ledee, it will be his first opportunity to play against the Buckeyes since he transferred from Ohio State following his freshman season of 2018-19. He played two seasons for TCU, then transferred again to San Diego State.
Although the NCAA has instituted a one-time free transfer without having to sit a season, since this was his second move, LeDee did not play in 2021-22. He is averaging 16.0 points and 4.7 rebounds per game this season.
–Field Level Media