By Emmett Golden
The Ohio State Buckeyes invaded Paul Brown Stadium for their annual spring game on Saturday. There was an excellent turnout as the Buckeye faithful watched the Scarlet team tangle with the Grey squad. Neither team’s quarterback was allowed to run so if you like the air-it-out brand of football, this was your type of game. When it was all said and done Scarlet defeated Gray 31-14. Here are a few things that stood out during the OSU spring game.
Circle Drill Rematch - At last year’s spring game quarterbacks Kenny Guiton and Braxton Miller went head-to-head in the famous OSU circle drill. Guiton blew up Miller and was clearly the victor. This year was a different story. The two QB’s battled to a stalemate.
The most entertaining part of the drill was watching coaches Luke Fickell and Mike Vrabel getting the players fired up. The two assistant coaches were jumping around more than the players from the start.
The Deep Ball - Miller began the game with a beautiful 49-yard pass to Evan Spencer. The deep pass seemed to be a point of emphasis. “This was a pass-heavy game and that’s something that we were not very good at last year,” said OSU head coach Urban Meyer. Multiple times this afternoon Miller threw passes down the field. “Braxton has gotten a lot better fundamentally. We just need to improve around him,” said Meyer.
Miller stayed in the pocket many times when he could have taken off for big gains. He wore a black jersey so it was hands off for the defense, giving Miller the opportunity to go though his progressions.
D-ominate - Sophomore defensive end Noah Spence played like a man on a mission. He abused Taylor Decker who was playing left tackle, and was around Braxton Miller all afternoon. If Miller could have been tackled there is no telling how many sacks Spence would have finished with. I should point out that Decker normally plays right tackle.
The Buckeyes are expecting big things from Spence this year as well as Adolphus Washington. Washington, who is from Cincinnati, put a lot of pressure on the Scarlet QB too. “He has raised his level of play. He could be a very good player,” said Meyer. The duo of Spence and Washington could grow into a dominant force over the next few years. Both players are sophomores and look like they will only get better with experience.
Tiger Woods Ya’ll - When Urban Meyer walked into the postgame press conference he overheard some of us talking about the Masters and asked if we could talk about that before we started. “That’s a lot more interesting then anything I have to say,” Meyer said upon hearing Tiger Woods had been penalized earlier in the day.
M.I.A. - We were told that we would be able to speak to a handful of players after the game. Kenny Guiton, Christian Bryant, C.J. Barnett, Curtis Grant, Noah Spence, Adolhus Washington, and Philly Brown just to name a few. When the media entered the hallway to talk to the players we were told that everyone had gotten on the bus and left already. The team was ready to continue their tour of the Queen City.
Emmett Golden covers Ohio State football and joins Jerod Cherry and Will Burge on Three Deep from 7-9 p.m. Monday-Friday on ESPN 850 WKNR.
Follow Emmett on Twitter @EGoldie80
By Kenny Roda
How should I feel about the 2012-13 Ohio State Buckeyes basketball team? That was question I kept asking myself after OSU’s season ended in Los Angeles. I needed to sleep on it because I had mixed feelings after Ohio State lost to Wichita State 70-66 in the Elite Eight.
On one hand, I was pissed that OSU didn’t come out with the fire and intensity you need to win an Elite Eight game. I mean come on, it’s for a trip to the Final Four! Regardless of what conference the team you’re competing against comes from, they must be pretty damn good to make it that far, and trips to the Final Four don’t grow on trees.
On the other hand, if you would have told me back in February, following a 22-point loss at Wisconsin that the Buckeyes would make it to the Elite Eight, I would’ve have taken it. So that was the debate I was having with myself as I went to bed. How should I feel about this team and this season?
As I woke up this morning, this is how I feel about OSU’s departure from March Madness: It’s my belief that they took Wichita State lightly. The Buckeyes didn’t give the Shockers the respect they deserved until they were down 20 points in the second half with 11 minutes to go. After reading what Aaron Craft and LaQuinton Ross had to say in their post-game interviews, my beliefs were confirmed. “We didn’t come out with the same intensity and the same fire today and they did,” Craft said. Ross agreed, “Don’t come out sluggish man.” The Buckeyes disrespected the Shockers and thought they were going to waltz into the Final Four in Atlanta. Instead, it’s the Shockers who are still dancing, while the Buckeyes will be watching from home.
Thad Matta should have driven home this point to make sure he had his team’s attention: four mid-major teams had made it to the Final Four in the last seven years. It started with George Mason in 2006. Then Butler did it in back-to-back years in 2010 and 2011 and actually made it to the championship game both years. VCU also made it to the Final four in 2010. Now you can add the Shockers to that list in 2013! I don’t know if Matta and his staff used this info when preparing for the game with the Shockers, but they should have.
So while in my heart I know that the Buckeyes probably overachieved this year and gained valuable experience for next season, I will still look back at this season and feel that they came up one game short of where they should’ve been for the second straight year. Last year they should’ve played in the title game against Kentucky, but blew a big second half lead and lost to Kansas in the Final Four. This year they should’ve beat Wichita State, but didn’t come ready to play in the first half and it cost them the game. As good a coach as Thad Matta is, it always seems his teams at Ohio State come up one win short and that’s why it hurts so much, and that’s unfortunately what I’ll remember most about this season.
By Kenny Roda
I know its basketball and not football, but the way the Buckeyes have been playing lately, they’re reminding us a lot of last year’s gridiron squad. Playing hard-nosed defense, making big plays and winning late. So I thought it’s only right to hand out a Buckeye Leaf or two, to those who earned it for their contributions in yesterday’s 73-70 win over Arizona, propelling Ohio State into the Elite Eight for the second year in a row.
You have to start with LaQuinton Ross not only for hitting the game winning 3-pointer, but for his great second half, where he scored 14 of his 17 points and did so in a variety of ways. He hit 3’s, he drove to the basket and finished with swooping finger rolls off the glass that made George Gervin proud and he was perfect from the free throw line. He also gave great effort on defense, an area of great improvement this year.
Aaron Craft for filling out the stat sheet with 13 points – 5 rebounds – 5 assists. Add in his defense and his leadership on the floor and Craft was HUGE in yesterday’s win. According to the stats that I could find from yesterday’s game, Ohio State was outscored 20 to 7 when Craft was not on the floor against the Wildcats.
Ohio State doesn’t win this game without Deshaun Thomas going off for 16 first half points. The game could’ve gotten away from the Buckeyes in the first 20 minutes when they fell down by 11 points, but OSU’s leading scorer made sure he kept the Buckeyes within striking distance for the second half, as they only trailed by 4 at halftime.
Speaking of halftime, Thad Matta and his entire staff earned some Buckeye Leaves for their halftime speech and adjustments. Whatever Matta said, worked, as Ohio State came out and scored the first 10 points of the second half and took control off the game.
Lenzelle Smith Jr. must have taken Matta’s words to heart more than any other Buckeye, because after being M.I.A. in the first half, he scored all 6 of his points early in the second half on aggressive drives to the basket or free throws because of those drives.
Amir Williams played his best 6 minutes of the season right after halftime as well. He set a great screen that allowed Sam Thompson to drive in for a lay-up, followed that up with a big block on the defensive end and then scored his only bucket of the game on an offensive rebound.
Sam Thompson continued to impress as of late with 11 more points and 8 rebounds in the win. Thompson is showing that he’s becoming an all-around player with a very bright future. His outside shot gets better every game as he nailed 3-of-4 from long range versus Arizona, his ridiculous vertical jump allows him to soar over others for rebounds and his overall athleticism which has been witnessed on those high flying alley-oop dunks or his dogged man-to-man defense is off the charts good!
This was a total team effort for Ohio State, as everybody did their part to increase the team’s current winning streak to 11 games and keep their season alive. They need to win one more game to get to the Final Four for the second year in a row and three more wins to bring home something that hasn’t happened on the hardwood in Columbus since 1960, a National Championship.
Kenny Roda covers the Buckeyes for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 WKNR and ESPNCleveland.com
Follow Kenny on Twitter @RoadmanWKNR
By Kenny Roda
If Ohio State is going to move on to the Elite Eight for the second straight year, they’ll need to take advantage of Arizona’s weaknesses and try and control or limit their strengths. Here’s what I see as the “Keys to the Game” for Ohio State against the Wildcats:
Pressure “D”: Ohio State is 21st in the country in opponent’s points per game, yielding only 58.8 points per contest. That is what Buckeyes hang their hat on and will have to continue to do so as Arizona scores it at over 73 points per game. However, while the Cats score a lot, they also turn it over quite a bit. While leading scorer and Xavier transfer Mark Lyons is their best player, he’s playing out of position. He’s really a shooting guard and because Arizona has no true point guard, Lyons has had to assume those duties and he’s done so with mixed results. This has led to 'Zona ranking 165th in the country in turnovers committed per game with over 13. Add to that Sean Miller’s squad is ranked 111th in assist to turnover ratio and this is an area the Buckeyes should be able to exploit. Thad Matta’s “D” should be able to dominate and gain a huge advantage with their pressure defense led by Aaron Craft, Shannon Scott and Lenzelle Smith Jr. This should lead to at least 13 turnovers and plenty of chances for easy transition baskets and fast break points for Ohio State.
In Your Face: Not only do I expect the Buckeyes' defense to pressure the ball handlers from Arizona to create turnovers that lead to offensive run outs, I expect Mark Lyons to get the Mo Mo Jones treatment. When Ohio State beat Iona in the tournament, Thad Matta rotated Smith Jr., Craft and Scott to defend the Gaels leading scorer and that trio forced Jones into a 3-15 shooting night and held him to 9 points. That's 14 points under his season’s average of 23 ppg. Lyons can expect more of the same because Ohio State’s coaches know what I know. Thad Mata’s staff has crunched the numbers and realizes if you can shut down or even just control Lyons, you’ll win the game. In Arizona’s 7 losses this year, Lyons shot just 37% from the field. As he goes, so go the Wildcats. In Arizona’s two tournament wins so far Lyons has scored 23 and 27 points.
'Cats Allergic to Defense: A big area of weakness for Sean Miller’s unit is defending the 3-point shot. The 'Cats are ranked 258th out of 345 college basketball teams in opponent’s 3-point percentage. That means the Buckeyes should get plenty of wide open 3-point shots as opposed to the heavily contested 3-points shots like they saw in the Big Ten this year. This is good and bad. The good is that Deshaun Thomas should feast off of this, and it should improve the chances of guys like Aaron Craft, Lenzelle Smith Jr., LaQuinton Ross and Sam Thompson making 3-pointers. The bad is that the Buckeyes could be so open that they start jacking up too many 3’s that it takes them out of their normal game plan and leads to disastrous results if they’re ice cold. There’s a fine line here and Thad Matta has to make sure his team doesn’t cross it.
Windex on the Windows: Rebounding will also be a big key for Ohio State. The Buckeyes were dominated on the boards by Iowa State and still survived and advanced. Don’t wipe the glass clean like that again versus the Wildcats, and OSU’s season could come to a crashing halt. While Arizona doesn’t have one outstanding rebounder, they do a good job of team rebounding, where everybody pitches in. 7’0 255 pound freshman center Kaleb Tarczewski will be a handful for the terrible bigs that Ohio State puts out on the floor in Amir Williams and Evan Ravenel. Also forwards Kevin Parrom - 6’6, Solomon Hill – 6’7, Grant Jerrett – 6’10 and super sub Brandon Ashley – 6’8 do a solid job of hitting the glass. OSU must commit everyone to the boards at both ends of the floor to limit the second chance points for Arizona and maybe get some extra possessions on the offensive end for Ohio State.
Second Scorer: In the first NCAA tournament game it was Sam Thompson who backed Deshaun Thomas on offense with 20 points. Aaron Craft with 18 and LaQuinton Ross with 17 points off the bench supported Thomas in game two of the NCAA tournament. Who will it be versus Arizona? Someone will have to score between 15 and 20 points again to help “DST” at the offensive end. Earlier in the season the Buckeyes were a one trick pony named Deshaun and struggled. During this current 10 game winning streak others have improved their offensive game and risen to the occasion and they’ll need to do more of the same for the Ohio State to get back to the Elite Eight.
By Bruce Hooley
Big Ten Network analyst Jim Jackson joined The Hooligans on Tuesday to preview the West Regional matchup between Arizona and Ohio State in the Sweet 16 (7 p.m. Thursday on ESPN 850, WKNR).
JJ also did the one thing Hooley can’t abide, saying something nice about the Indiana Hoosiers.
Hooley: Give me your top four teams to win the NCAA Tournament, in order of likelihood.
Jackson: “I really like IU, Louisville, MSU and Kansas.”
Hooley: You and I have been friends a long time, but right now, our friendship is serious jeopardy. It’s in serious peril.
Jackson: (Laughing) “I’m calling it like it is. You’ve got to give it up to IU, Bruce. You’ve got to let it go.”
Hooley: “We’re in a danger zone.”
Jackson: “You’ve got to let it go.”
Hooley. How long have you known me?
Jackson: “Hey, listen, listen. I lost to Michigan in the Elite 8. I don’t’ have a problem picking them when they are good, or rooting for them when they are good. If I can do that, you can cheer for the Big Ten. IU is part of it. So Bruce, let it go.”
Hooley: Here’s my thing. You can’t win a national championship with Yogi Ferrell and Jordan Hulls in the backcourt.
Jackson: “Why not?”
Hooley: They’re not good enough.
Jackson: “It doesn’t matter. You have to be good; you don’t have to be great. Your point guard play has to do a couple of things One, don’t turn the ball over. Second, be able to knock down shots. Third, play pretty good defense and set your teammates up….When Yogi is penetrating, that breaks down the defense and opens it up for (Victor) Oladipo. It opens it up for (Will) Sheehey, and it opens it up for Hulls on the wing, shooting three-point shots. For me, if you’re able to do that, you’ll have a viable chance to win games.”
Hooley: I’m going to need some time to process that while I turn you over to my partner, Greg Brinda.
Jackson: “I know that’s not what you wanted to hear, bro, but I’m telling you.”
Brinda: Jimmy, when you see a team lose in the NCAA Tournament, is it more on the matchup or the coach not getting his team ready?
Jackson: “The tournament is all about matchups. Forget about records and who’s supposed to win. It’s all about matchups. A few years ago (in 2010), Ohio State was placed in a region and matched up against Tennessee. Ohio State had a better record and was supposed to win the game. But Tennessee...was a bad matchup for Ohio State. That’s what it’s all about.”
Brinda: Since that loss to Wisconsin, Ohio State is on a great run (winning 10 in a row) and has really turned things around. What happened since that game?
Jackson: “Defensively, they’ve gotten much better. They guard on the perimeter. They’ve turned those turnovers that they’ve created into points, into transition points, because where this team has struggled at times is in their half-court sets. When they are not hitting long jump shots, it’s tough at times. But When they are able to get 10-to-15 points in transition, that takes a lot of burden and pressure off them in executing their half-court sets, because they don’t have to execute each and every time down court.
“Having Aaron Craft and Shannon Scott creating havoc in the backcourt with Lenzelle Smith and Sam Thompson, that helps. But also, the other players have stepped up. The role-players have stepped up. Sam Thompson, the Big Ten Tournament really helped him get the confidence that he needed. LaQuinton Ross the other night….yeah, Aaron Craft made the big shot, but LaQuinton Ross, those 17 points were huge. Minus that, it might have been a different game. The team has gotten better and, as a coach, that’s what you look for.”
Hooley: I picked Arizona over Ohio State because I think that’s a bad matchup for OSU. Do you agree?
Jackson: “There’s a lot of familiarity here. Sean Miller coached with Thad Matta at Butler (and Xavier), so he understands his philosophy, and vice-versa. Mark Lyons can be an X factor because he’s a scoring point guard who, if he gets hot, he puts a lot of pressure on your defense. That will be a critical matchup with Aaron Craft.
“What I think Aaron will be able to do is frustrate Mark enough that it takes him out of running the offense. He’ll be trying to score and beat Aaron. That bodes well and favors the Buckeyes. What they really have to hone in on is rebounding. You can’t let Arizona, with its size inside, get second and third shots and pick up fouls on our post players inside. If you do that, the advantage swings toward Arizona.”
Hooley: You probably saw a lot of the hatred directed toward Craft on Twitter late in the win over Iowa State. Why is Craft such a polarizing figure?
Jackson: “One of the reasons is because he gets a lot of notoriety because of his defense. If he’s on the opposing team, one of the reasons you don t like him is because he causes so much trouble and havoc for your team. You can’t dismiss the impact that Aaron has on the game defensively, and what he does, and what he brings to the table. I think a lot of people don’t really understand what it takes to be that good defensively, consistently, game in and game out. You hate it when he’s on the other team, but you love him if he’s on your team.”
Hooley: Does Thad Matta have to win a national championship for you to consider him a great coach or an elite coach?
Jackson: “No. Look at his record. Nationally, and even in Columbus at times, I think people don’t appreciate what Thad has been able to (accomplish). You’re talking about making it to the Sweet Sixteen four years in a row. You got to the Final Four twice, a national championship game appearance once. Not a lot of coaches can say that.
“Ultimately for Thad, yeah, winning a national championship solidifies him, like Tom Izzo, in that rare air, so to speak. But if he doesn’t win one, that won’t take anything away from my perspective on what he’s been able to so with his program.”
Hooley: When you played, what team did you enjoy beating the most?
Hooley: (Sigh of relief) Thank you.
Jackson: “Are we back as friends now, Bruce?”
Hooley: You’ve got me back.
Hooley: “Before I let you go, in all seriousness, I’d be remiss if I didn’t congratulate you on your son, Traevon, his year at Wisconsin and the interview you did with him at the Big Ten Tournament on Big Ten Network.
Jackson: “It was very emotional, because that was the .first time I was able to have the chance to sit down and interview my son. The tournament he was able to put together, and (for him) to make the plays down the stretch, was truly a pleasure to watch, not just from an analyst’s perspective, but more importantly, being a father. The one thing we always talk about is putting yourself in position to be successful. He works extremely hard. He’s dedicated to his craft. He does all the little things. He takes care of his business in school, which is more important than anything. So, I’m beaming with pride over the season he was able to put together. It was a very special moment.”
By Kenny Roda
Ohio State punched its dance card for the Sweet Sixteen in Los Angeles, California with a thrilling 78-75 win over Iowa State in Dayton, Ohio. The Buckeyes blew a 13-point second half lead only to be bailed out by Aaron Craft. The defensive specialist got offensive in the final 2:37 outscoring the Cyclones 7 to 2 himself and hit the biggest shot of his career, a 3-point jumper with less than one second left to lift OSU to the victory. Craft finished with 18 points and 6 assists and played all 40 minutes of the NCAA tournament game.
Deshaun Thomas known for his offense, came up with the defensive play off the game deflecting a pass that led to a steal with the game tied at 75 with :58 seconds left. The Buckeyes would eventually turn that defensive play into the game winning shot by Craft. Thomas also provided his normal offensive output, leading OSU with 22 points and 5 rebounds.
LaQuinton Ross was the unsung hero of the game, coming off the bench to give Thad Matta’s squad a huge offensive lift with 17 points, 9 of those coming from long range.
Next up for Ohio State, the #6 seeded Arizona Wildcats, Thursday night at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California.
Notes and Thoughts:
I was begging Thad Matta to go with the lineup of Craft, Scott, Thompson, Ross and Thomas and he did in the 2nd half at the 11:01 mark and they went on an 8-0 run. Those are his best basketball players and he needs to use that line up more often.
How about the irony of the Big Ten’s leading scorer Deshaun Thomas coming up with the defensive play of the game and then the best defender in the Big Ten, Aaron Craft, hitting the game winning shot for OSU!
According to Deshaun Thomas the last play of the game was to go to him. It was supposed to be the same play they ran against Michigan State when Thomas curled off a screen at the elbow and hit a jumper with :25 left to give OSU a 60-56 lead over the Spartans. Ohio State won that game in Columbus on March 16th by the final of 61-58. Thomas was covered by Iowa State, so Craft waived him off, got the switch they planned for on the screen and then shot it over the big man Georges Niang for the game winner.
In the last game against Iona it was Sam Thompson with 20 points, this game it was LaQuinton Ross with 17 points. Other players are finally helping Deshaun Thomas on offense and Thompson and Ross are the most improved players on this team.
The Buckeyes are now 2-6 when their opponent scores 71 or more points.
For the first time in school history, Ohio State is headed to the Sweet Sixteen for the 4th consecutive year.