Thursday, March 19

Buckeyes make Big Ten run, look ahead to NCAA's

Going into last week's Big Ten tournament, Ohio St found themselves squarely on the bubble. A first-round loss would give them a coin flip's chance to make the big dance, one win would most likely put them in, and a trip to the finals would guarantee them a spot.

So the Bucks had a lot of pressure on them going into their first-round matchup with fellow bubbler Wisconsin. Both teams play a slow-tempo, slug-it-out style of play, and this game was just that. I thought for sure I was going to look over at the sidelines and see Jim Tressel and Bret Bielema standing there. I came home from teaching at halftime, with OSU ahead 29-28. Wisconsin controlled most of the second half, but the Buckeyes stayed within 4-7 points. Every time it looked like the Badgers were going to pull away, Evan Turner would come up with a big play or Jon Diebler would hit a big three. Wisconsin led 54-47 with six minutes remaining in the game, when Ohio St decided to really clamp down. The Badgers could only manage three free throws the rest of the game, as OSU finished on a 14-3 run led by (who else?) Evan Turner. ET finished with a team-high 19 points, helping the Bucks to a 61-57 victory and putting them one step closer to an NCAA bid.

Round two saw Ohio St go up against top-seeded Michigan St. Turner struggled mightily in the first half, being held scoreless. But thanks to some nifty three point shooting by OSU and some serious brick laying by the Spartans, the Buckeyes were up at halftime, 34-29. OSU exploded in the second half, scoring 48 points, including 18 by Turner. MSU continued to have trouble getting the ball to go through that metal thing attached to the backboard, and Ohio St made their way to the conference finals, winning 82-70. It was the second-highest total Michigan St had given up all year, and no team can keep up with that when you shoot 38% like Sparty did. ET clearly showed he deserved Big Ten Player of the Year over MSU's Kalin Lucas, as he outscored Lucas 18-17. Ohio St saw contributions from almost everyone on the roster, as Diebler poured in 17, Big Ten Freshman of the Year William Buford had 14, and Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year B.J. Mullens added 12.
(Random Rant: I was in Pittsburgh for St Pattys Day during this game, so I went to a bar to watch it. They had several TV's there, so I had them put this game on a small screen in the corner for my friend and I. Everything went well until with five minutes left they switched it to the Pittsburgh Penguins game. I realize the Pens get priority, but I was literally the only one watching this TV. Stupid Pittsburgh.)

It was on to the finals for Ohio St to take on Purdue. The Buckeyes led pretty much the whole way through a boring first half, taking a 30-25 lead into the break. The second half went back and forth, but the Bucks couldn't withstand Purdue's late rally. Led by E'Twaun Moore's 17 points (14 in the second half), the Boilermakers won their first-ever Big Ten Tournament, 65-61. As usual, Turner led all scorers with 22 (along with 10 boards), but the Buckeyes got no help from the bench. Five points was all they could come up with, as the usual contributions from key reserves Jeremie Simmons and Mullens (2 and 3 points, respectively) were not there. Although the loss was disappointing, you had to love how OSU played in this tourney, not only guaranteeing them a spot in the Field of 65, but also rapidly improving their seeding.

Next up for the Buckeyes is the real deal in the NCAA Tournament. The 8th seeded Bucks drew #9 Siena in the first round in Dayton, OH (Friday at 9:40, CBS). When I first saw this, my initial reaction was, "Who?" All I know about Siena is that they're from the MAAC and I vaguely remember them upsetting someone in last year's first round. Upon doing some simple Googling, they did in fact beat 4th seeded Vanderbilt in '08 as a 13 seed. Playing about an hour's drive from Columbus certainly won't hurt Ohio St, and I think as long as they don't take this game for granted they should be in good shape. A victory will (barring history being made) match the Buckeyes up with overall #1 seed Louisville in round 2.


1 comment:

Andy said...


I used to live near Siena in upstate New York - in fact, I'm going there this weekend. I hope the home fans are disappointed.