Towson at Ohio State: Three things to watch

Host Ohio State holds a slight 3-2 edge in this series, but Towson won the last meeting, 10-8, on March 20, 2007. The Tigers are the Colonial Athletic Association tournament champion, while the Buckeyes captured the Eastern College Athletic Conference tournament crown.

Towson (10-7) has won seven of its last nine games and avenged the two losses during that stretch by knocking off Drexel and Penn State in the CAA tournament. Senior attackman Matt Hughes has scored three goals in his last two contests after scoring five in his first 14.

Ohio State (12-3) rode a six-game winning streak to the third seed in the NCAA tournament. Senior attackman Logan Schuss, a two-time conference Offensive Player of the Year, leads the team in goals (40) and assists (23).

Here are a few factors that could influence the outcome at Ohio Stadium in Columbus Sunday.

1) Ohio State’s man-up offense. Towson’s defense has climbed up the Division I rankings, moving to 16th by allowing just 8.9 goals per game. But the man-down defense has been middle-of-the-road, permitting opponents to convert 38.3 percent (23-of-60) of their extra-man opportunities. That’s not a good sign against a Buckeyes man-up offense that ranks second in the country after converting 50 percent (21-of-42) of its chances. “We try not to put ourselves in man-down situations, but sometimes it’s going to happen,” Tigers coach Shawn Nadelen said. “They’re a very, very talented offense with great personnel, and that may be why they’re so efficient on the offensive end on man-up situations. If we allow them those opportunities, that will really put us in a bind. We’re really going to have to focus in and try to take away some of their firepower if we do go man down. But not getting into those disadvantageous positions would be the best scenario.”

2) Towson’s Andrew Wascavage. Ohio State boasts one of the nation’s more prolific offenses, which averages 11.2 goals (18th in Division I) and shoots 32.7 percent (eighth). But that unit will have to solve Tigers senior goalkeeper Andrew Wascavage, who ranks fourth in the country in save percentage (.608) and sixth in saves per game (13.7). Wascavage, who has posted double-digit saves in every contest this season, is playing his best lacrosse of his career at the most opportune moment for his team, and that concerns Buckeyes coach Nick Myers. “Their goalie is outstanding,” he said of Wascavage. “Their goalie is red hot. I think he was probably the difference maker for them in the conference tournament.”

3) Turnovers. Both sides are adept at protecting the ball. Ohio State ranks third in the country, committing just 12.2 turnovers per game. Towson ranks 17th with 13.9 giveaways. Turnovers are important in deciding time of possession, according to Nadelen. “Possessions are important, especially when it’s a team that is as high-powered offensively as they are,” he said. “They put up 18 goals against Loyola. So if you give them more chances and more possessions, that just increases their opportunities. So we’ve got to be smart. We obviously want to work for good opportunities in our offensive end, and we’re going to make mistakes. But limiting those and not letting the wheels fall off is what we want to have happen.”