Young Guns

While freshmen from other schools have received plenty of early attention in the college basketball season, Texas A&M and Ohio State both have their own first-year stars.

DeAndre Jordan and the 16th-ranked Aggies face Kosta Koufos and the Buckeyes as two of the nation's top young big men square off Friday night in the championship of the NIT Season Tip-Off at Madison Square Garden.

Oddsmakers from Bodog have made Ohio State PK point spread favorites (View College Basketball odds) for today’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 55% of bets for this game have been placed on Ohio State PK (View College Basketball bet percentages).

Freshmen such as forward Mike Beasley of No. 18 Kansas State, and guards Eric Gordon of No. 8 Indiana, Derrick Rose of No. 3 Memphis and O.J. Mayo of Southern California have garnered a lot of national attention to this point. Jordan and Koufos have shown they also deserve mention.

The 6-foot-11 Jordan made 17 straight shots before his streak ended in a 77-63 win over Washington on Wednesday in the semifinals. He is shooting nearly 86 percent (24-of-28) for the season while averaging 10.2 points and 8.4 rebounds despite a limited offensive role.

Koufos, a 7-footer known more as a scorer, has increased his point total in all three games for Ohio State (3-0). He made 10-of-17 shots for 24 points and grabbed nine rebounds in a 79-65 win over No. 21 Syracuse on Wednesday.

Ohio State coach Thad Matta, who has compared Koufos favorably to the departed Greg Oden, wanted to slow down the hype surrounding the freshman after his latest performance.

"Time's going to tell," Matta said. "You spend 15 minutes with him and you know he's 18 years old. I really believe we do kids an injustice by ... he plays a good game and we blow him up."

Koufos is averaging a team-high 20.3 points on 60.5 percent shooting, but the matchup against Jordan and bruising 6-9 Aggies power forward Joseph Jones should be his biggest challenge.

"I've seen a little bit of them," said Matta of the Aggies. "I know they are big. They're huge."

Ohio State lost Oden, Mike Conley Jr. and Daequan Cook to the first round of the NBA draft after last season's run to the NCAA title game, but Wednesday's win proved the departures have not totally devastated the program. Othello Hunter scored 15 points and Jamar Butler added 14 for the Buckeyes, who limited the Orange to 36.2 percent from the field.

"This win is very satisfying," Butler said. "To have an opportunity to come here and advance to the championship, I'm very happy."

The Aggies (5-0) limited Washington to 38.2 percent shooting on Wednesday, including 26 percent in the second half. Four of Texas A&M's first five opponents have been held under 40 percent.

"Our identity is defense," first-year Aggies coach Mark Turgeon said. "The previous staff built this team around defense and we did that in the second half."

Donald Sloan scored 18 points and Jones added 17 for the Aggies, who have started at least 7-0 in each of the three previous seasons.

Ohio State and Texas A&M have split two previous matchups, with the Buckeyes winning in 1947 and the Aggies prevailing 11 years later.

by Staff Writers - Email Us

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