Jamar Butler's 22 points and career high 12 assists led the Buckeyes. (photo: Jay LaPrete)
Since I don't have BTN, I ventured out to the Schott yesterday morning expecting to see an uneventful basketball game get overshadowed by the footballers halftime ceremony in which the team presented Gene Smith with the Big Ten Championship trophy.
Apparently, the Retrievers of Maryland - Baltimore County didn't get the memo. Mouthy marksman Ray Barbosa scored a game high 32 points, hitting 8 of UMBC's school record 17 triples bringing the Retrievers back from a 17 point deficit before finally falling 92-83 to Ohio State.
The lack of defensive intensity certainly contributed to UMBC's record setting day as OSU forced just 5 turnovers and got outscored 46-43 in the second half. Of course, the fact UMBC played 4 guards for large stretches in the 2nd half also contributed to the low TO count as Matta abandoned the full court zone trap after OSU built a 47-39 halftime lead.
There was plenty of good news, however, as the Buckeyes had their way with UMBC at the offensive end and on the glass.
Jamar Butler was simply unstoppable with 22 points and a career high 12 dimes while Kosta Koufos recorded 12 points and 12 boards and Othello Hunter added 13 points and 10 boards. The trio's double-double onslaught marked just the 15th time in school history that 3 players have had double-double's in the same game and was the first occurence since 30 years ago to the day that Herb Williams, Jim Ellinghausen and Ken Page all accomplished the feat against LaSalle.
Joining those three in double figures were Evan Turner and Jon Diebler while David Lighty finished with 9 points. Turner's 17 point game was good for a career high and even more impressive was that he got to the line 12 times, making 10, sparking OSU to a stellar 26/31 (84%) from the stripe.
Diebler kept his confidence on the rise heading into conference play making 5/9 threes to finish with 15 points. Diebler is now 14/23 from downtown in his last 4 games and since becoming a reserve his points per game average has grown from 6.6 to 10.6 per contest.
While the UMBC three point onslaught was not fun to watch, I'm content to give the Buckeye D a little slack considering they've held opponent FG shooting in check for much of the year and outrebounded UMBC 41-30.
More importantly, the offense was more aggressive driving the lane creating the season best 31 FTA's and the ball movement was the best its been all season allowing everyone some open looks. The shots won't come as easy next Thursday in Champaign but at least the confidence of the players is where it needs to be as conference play begins.
Cornerback Donald Washington has been ruled eligible for the BCS Championship game against LSU. After word leaked that Washington and fellow defensive back Eugene Clifford had been suspended for the game, the university later clarified that only Clifford had been suspended and that Washington was potentially appealing his suspension.
We still don't know why the two were suspended in the first place, nor do we know any more today, thanks to the noise-canceling walls the Vest has erected around the program -- that and because The Dispatch is essentially the Pravda of Columbus, but the Buckeyes will have the services of Washington for the big game.
It's great to have him available, but is this an instance of us fans putting aside our standards and ideals for the sake of a "W"? Do we even have any right to know what went down?
Opponent: After taking a well deserved week long Christmas break, the basketball Buckeyes return to the hardwood tomorrow against the Retrievers of University of Maryland-Baltimore County. UMBC won 6 of their first 7 games this year, but have lost 3 of their last 5, including whippings at West Virginia and Wichita State. Their 8-4 start is the best in school history and Ohio State is their last NC opponent before opening up America East conference play, where they are picked to finish fifth.
The Retrievers are only going to run 6-7 players at Ohio State, so their lack of depth should hurt them as the game goes on. UMBC is scoring 76.3 points a game, while shooting only 42.8 percent from the floor. Get this team to shoot from 3land and their percentage drops slightly to 39.5. They have shown an ability to get to the charity strip though, averaging over 22 attempts per game, making a decent 78 percent of them.
UMBC will not bring much size into the Schott on Saturday, but they should give OSU a run for their money on the glass. The Retrievers are fetching over 36 caroms a game and have outrebounded their opponents by a slight +1.5 margin. They also take care of the ball, turning it over only 11 times a game, while dishing out 15 assists per contest.
Key Players: UMBC has 4 scorers averaging double digits, lead by Brian Hodges (#25 6'3" Sr.), who is pouring in 17.1 points a game. Hodges was the nation's highest scoring 6th man last year, at 16.5 a game and will not only shoot the three (29-71), but will also get to the foul line, attempting over 6 per game. He is 8th in career scoring at UMBC and 4th all-time in career 3 pointers made.
The Doggies have benefited from a couple of transfers this year, in Ray Barbosa (#34 6'2" Sr.) and Cavell Johnson (#22 6'8" Sr.), both coming over from James Madison after the 2006 season. Barbosa comes in scoring 15.9 points a game and was a 1,000 point scorer in his 3 years at JMU, hitting 160 3pointers in that span. Ray-Ray will also contribute close to 5 boards and 2.5 assists per game.
Cavell Johnson looks like a player, scoring 14.3 points, grabbing 8.7 rebounds and blocking 21 shots thus far. He has been named the conference player of the week twice so far and was named team captain before he played a minute for the Poodles. Cavell had 19 points and a career high 15 boards his last game against Hampton. He will not be a threat from downtown, but his ability to get offensive rebounds might give OSU fits.
Darryl Proctor (#32 6'4" Jr.) is the other double digit scorer at 14.1 points a game. Despite his size, Proctor is second on the team in rebounding at 7.3 per tilt, he also leads the team in FG's made (67-135) and shooting at 49.6 percent. My other brother Darryl is a transfer from Coppin St., arriving at UMBC after the 2006 season.
Jay Green (#2 5'8" Jr.) is the last starter and sets the table for this team, coming in with an impressive 7.1 assists per game. He scores 8.8 a game and led the conference in assists last year. Ohio State's zone will have to stop any possible penetration from Green, causing disruptions in their offense and another low shooting percentage.
Matt Spadafora (#21 6'5" So.) and Justin Fry (#20 6'9" So.) will see the most significant time off the bench, averaging just over 8 points and 5.5 rebounds between the two of them.
Notes: UMBC campus is located 15 minutes from Baltimore's inner harbor and 30 minutes from Washington D.C.... There are just over 12,000 students enrolled at UMBC, with a cost of $17,000+ per year... Randy Monroe is 41-61 in his fourth year as head coach.
Buckeye Breakdown: I officially give up on calling for Thad's man to man defense, as this zone he has adopted smothers the opposition and simply holds them to shitty shooting. Ohio State has allowed only two teams to shoot above 40 percent, Texas A&M (54.7) and Butler (41.1) and each of their last four foes have shot less than 37 percent. On the season Ohio State has held the other team to 37 percent shooting from the field and an incredible 27.1 percent from 3land.
Conversely, Ohio State has shot 52.6 percent and won by an average of 20.5 points their last four games. I mentioned before this stretch of games that Thad knew exactly what he was doing when he made this schedule, it is the same path Tom Izzo took when he was rebuilding the Michigan State program. The Buckeyes previous competition was a huge factor in the demolishing of Florida and that same experience is going to help them as they enter conference play next week.
Ohio State is holding steady at 46 percent shooting and come in averaging 68.4 points per contest. They are slowing increasing their rebounding margin, but +1.1 is not going to cut it within the conference. This young Buckeye team must also continue to work on reducing their turnovers, as they only hold a 1.2 assists to turnover ratio.
This Buckeye team has hit over 50 percent of their threes the last 3 games and have raised their overall season total to 37.8 percent (84-222). They have done a better job of moving themselves and the ball around on offense recently, but OSU's bigs have to learn the technique of holding an opponent off while receiving a post entry pass. I still think Ohio State has to lean more on inside scoring if they are going to make another run at a conference title.
Key Players: Before Christmas, I asked for a few presents from this current edition of Buckeye hoops and while they won all four games, none of my wishes came through, but the kids came close.
There is no doubt David Lighty has stepped up and is helping lead this team the last four games, bumping his season averages up to 10.1 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.2 assists per ball game. D-Light has shown better control when driving the lane and his jumper has looked smooth and confident, allowing him average 9.5 points a game over the last four.
Diebler has found his stroke and I have a feeling it is going to be around for a while. He has hit 9 out of his last 14 three pointers and has scored 29 points his last three games. He has raised his 3ball shooting to 27 percent, deciding not to fade away as much on his jumpers.
Jamar Butler continues to be steady eddy, hitting 12 of his last 24 threes, dishing out 25 assists and scoring 12 a game over the last four. Ohio State has not seen a three point threat like Jamar in my lifetime, but I still think he needs to drive to the hoop a bit more, similar to how he started the season.
I think Kosta Koufos has really stepped up over the last three, averaging 18 points and almost 7 boards. I know I have called for him to be stronger down low, but he has displayed his outside touch the last couple of games and he seems to be more comfortable playing college ball.
Othello Hunter and Matt Terwilliger seem to be nothing more than role players and any game they score a combined 15 points and snag 10 rebounds, Ohio State should win. I have seen improvement recently, but Thad needs these two to post those types of numbers consistently.
Now that there is one game before conference play, what are some aspects Ohio State needs to work on from your view point? What player(s) have impressed you thus far? Let me know what you think, I know you are not doing any work today.
Notes: Jamar Butler has become the school's all time leader in 3point attempts... Ohio State is 80-4 when leading with 5 minutes left under Thad... The game will be televised on the Big Ten Network... Jim Tressel and the boys will be recognized at half time.
When the players went home for a week off on Dec. 19, every one of them was given a DVD containing multiple clips of announcers from ESPN or Fox or wherever, blasting OSU and giving the Buckeyes no chance of beating LSU. Mark May of ESPN was featured prominently.
Supposedly (I have not seen the DVD), it's very compelling stuff....clip after clip after clip of people just destroying OSU. It's the kind of tape that is designed to get your blood boiling, and Tressel reportedly told his players to watch it every single day until the game.
The chip is alive and well. And it craves reinforcement.
Gators, we'll have a helping of what you had last December.
Well, it's the end of the year and we'd lose our publishing street cred if we didn't at least attempt to put together a list of top moments from 2007. We've given this a lot of thought, but no doubt you'll disagree with some points. That's what the comments are for, yo.
On to the goods.. but take a minute to appreciate all of the great moments of 2007.
11. Oden Taken #1 in the NBA Draft On June 28th, the Portland Trailblazers took the Buckeye center with the first overall pick in the NBA draft and the start of the Rip City Crush began.
Oden goes #1
Although Buckeye fans would have loved for him to have stuck around for another year, Oden became the first Buckeye ever taken at #1 and was part of the group to put Ohio State basketball back on the map for the first time in four decades.
Joining Oden as first round selections were Mike Conley Jr (#4) and Daequan Cook (#21) -- easily the highest number of Buckeyes taken in the first round of a draft that didn't involve a pigskin.
Granted, Oden's rookie season hasn't exactly gone as planned, but look for the old fart to drop some of those pounds he has recently put on and get back to doing what he does best next season -- dominate the glass.
10. The Return of Gordon Gee This may seem like an odd choice, but when news broke in early July that E. Gordon Gee was returning you just had to break out into a little dance.
White and nerdy
The school was having makeup sex with the guy that let Andy Geiger go off like a kid with a brand new set of Legos in his previous stint -- the guy understands the value of big-time athletics.
At the same time, he's a renowned academic with stops at Brown and Vanderbilt and will waste little time funneling scratch from the athletic department into the class and research sectors. This will continue the improvements the school has gained on the, well, school front (87% of freshman in 2006 had 24+ composite on the ACT or 1090+ on the SAT).
Best of all, Gee ended the disastrous reign of Karen Holbrook -- last seen discussing drunken orgies at an interview for a job she couldn't get. That's what happens when you let a Badger run the show.
9. Buckeye Soccer Makes a Run We're not the biggest footy fans in the world. In fact, we've never even published a soccer-related post. Yet we have to tip our caps to the run the men's soccer team busted out this winter.
After starting the season unranked, Coach John Bluem's squad reeled off a 15 game unbeaten streak before finally losing to Wake Forest in the NCAA championship game. The Demon Deacons, a 2 seed after having spent some of the season ranked #1 in the nation, scored two second half goals to come from behind for the 2-1 victory.
Yes, if you're counting, that's 3 championship game losses in '07 for the Buckeyes, but the soccer run certainly had what the other two did -- excitement and pride in spades.
Goalkeeper Casey Latchem, who set a school record with 14 shutouts, is on target:
â€œWe want to be able to prove ourselves. Yes, football in Ohio at Ohio State is the biggest thing. We just want to be on the same map as a great team and one that contributes to the stature of Ohio State University.â€
8. Robo's Catch A young Buckeye football team headed West to Seattle for their first test of the season. Amongst the chattering classes on ESPN, it was downright fashionable to predict a Husky upset. After all, Ohio State had looked awfully darn sluggish against Akron while Washington was coming off a good victory over Boise State, snapping the nation's longest winning streak.
Robo breaks it open
After giving up a late touchdown pass to head into halftime trailing 7-3, the Buckeyes were courting more trouble when Washington took the opening kickoff of the 2nd half and promptly drove down the field to set up a field goal. Chris put it best in his recap:
Locker led his offense to the Buckeye 19 yard line but the defense stiffened forcing three straight negative yardage plays and a blocked FG attempt giving OSU the ball at its own 29. After a first down run, Todd Boeckman hit Brian Robiskie in stride for a 68 yard TD pass to start the onslaught.
The Buckeyes would go on to score 30 straight 2nd half points on their way to a convincing 33-14 victory and the youngsters suddenly believed that they could be a very good team.
7. War in Chicago
After dispatching Michigan and Purdue in the opening rounds of the Big Ten Conference Tournament, the Buckeyes got their rubber-match with Wisky. To the winner went the tournament championship, with the Buckeyes looking to add to their regular season crown.
In a hard fought battle, one in which Greg Oden was held to 0 first half points, the Badgers found themselves down only 5 with a little over eight minutes to go.
From their, the Buckeyes used a 23-11 run, powered by some of Mike Conley Jr's 18 points, 8 assists and 6 rebounds, to put the Badgers away 66-49.
The Buckeyes would go on to win their first five games of the NCAA tournament, bringing their overall winning streak to a sick 22-straight games before falling to, who else, the Gators in the NCAA finals.
6. The Darkest Day in Wolverine History No, not technically a Buckeye moment, but damn if it didn't feel great. You have to understand that this team destroyed our formative years. John Harold Fucking Cooper. At least 10 of the most depressing Saturdays of our lives.
5. The Miracle in the Alamodome In a game for the ages, the Buckeyes overcame a 49-32 halftime deficit to nip Bruce Pearl's Volunteers by a whisker in the Sweet Sixteen.
The game was in doubt until the very end. After Conley hit the first of two free throws to give Ohio State a 1 point lead, Tennessee's Ramar Smith drove the length of the court only to be swatted away by Oden as time expired.
With Oden seeing limited action once again due to fouls, the team again proved that they were able to defeat top-notch competition without him. Senior Ron Lewis was huge with 25, Conley Jr had 17 points and 7 rebounds and the Buckeyes got strong bench help.
The win gave Matta his 2nd over Pearl on the year and propelled the Buckeyes into an Elite Eight matchup with Memphis.
4. The Dismantling of Penn State With bad weather looming, the Buckeyes were heading into Happy Valley. At the time, also known as the last place the Buckeyes had lost a regular season game. The Penn State students were fired up, piss balloons stocked and a 110,000-strong whiteout was ready for a monumental clash of great defenses.
A perfect night
Only thing is.. it didn't go down quite like that. Behind the flawless passing of Todd Boeckman and the bruising running of Beanie Wells, the Buckeye offense put up 200+ yards on each front on the way to a 37-17 blowout. For one night it all came together.
Pretorius hit a 50-yarder to start things off and Boeckman answered Penn State's opening scoring drive by tossing a touchdown to each of the Brians on the way to a 17-7 halftime lead. Things got as bad as 37-10 before a late kickoff return by the Nittany Lions made it look somewhat respectable. You may have also remembered this game for leading to the 72 hours of "Boeckman for Heisman" nonsense.
Perhaps what's most impressive is the fact that Penn State actually played pretty good themselves on the offensive side of the ball. The Buckeyes just played perfect.
3. Final Four Win over Georgetown Forty-five years is a long time.
Despite Greg Oden once again being limited due to fouls (three first half minutes), Mike Conley Jr continued to pad his draft stock by chipping in 15 points, 6 assists and 5 rebounds in the Buckeyes 67-60 win over a talented Georgetown squad to advance to the NCAA title.
The victory marked the first time since 1962 that the team had advanced to the final game and came against a pretty confident Hoya squad that had beaten down North Carolina to get to the Final Four.
Oden finished with 13, Butler with 10 and Harris with 9 points and 7 rebounds as the Buckeyes received consistent play thoughout the game to put away Georgetown.
All-everything Georgetown guard Jeff Green was held to 9 points on only 5 shots, which meant that despite a stone-cold 29% from behind the arc, Ohio State advanced to play Florida for the NCAA Championship.
1. The New King of Ann Arbor The elements were in place for the let-down.
The Buckeyes had just lost at home to Illinois, squashing any hope they might have had to avenge the embarrassment of Glendale, only 10 months earlier.
The Wolverines were losing their coach and their players rested, hoping to win one more home game for the man the all held in such high regard -- against the team that had been nemesis for the better part of the past 5 years.
Everything was in place, but someone forgot to clue Beanie in on the script.
On a cold and rainy day in which Boeckman looked as if he couldn't hit the broad side of Mark Mangino, Tressel turned the offense over to his stud tailback. The sophomore responded by rushing 39 times for 222 yards and 2 touchdowns to power the Buckeyes to a 14-3 victory and one final goodbye kiss for Lloyd. No Buckeye back had ever gone for as much against the Wolverines.
During a three hour span, Wells put his team back into the running for the national title, etched his name into school lore and into the hearts of Buckeye fans everywhere.
Week 16's Buckeye NFLer goes out to Mike Vrabel of the New England Patriots. Vrabel helped the Patriots take out the Miami Dolphins 28-7 in Foxboro this past weekend. This is Mike's 2nd Buckeye NFLer award this year.
Vrabel finished the day with 5 tackles (4 solo) and 2 sacks against Miami. So far in 2007, Vrabel has 74 tackles and has 12.5 sacks. Vrab's sack total ties him for 6th place in the NFL and is also a career high. These totals have helped Mike earn his first trip to Honolulu to play in this season's Pro Bowl. Congrats, Mike!
The Patriots are now 15-0. Only the N.Y. Giants stand in their way to a perfect regular season. After the Giants, there are a handful of other playoff-bound teams in the NFL who could possibly end the Pats' quest for a perfect 2007. But so far, the Pats are keeping the Korbel on ice for Nick Buoniconti, Bob Griese, and pals.
Being a passionate fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers (who could possibly face the Pats in the playoffs), I want to be a hater of the Pats. But because of Vrabel, I can't possibly hate on the Pats...at least totally hate on the Pats(cough...jealous...cough). Buckeye Nation should be proud of Mike's accomplishments.
Pryor Earns Top State Honors
In a not so shocking announcement, All-World QB Terrelle Pryor was named Pennsylvania's Class AA Player of the Year after leading his Jeannette squad to 16-0 record and a state title. The 3 time all-state selection accounted for 58 TD's this season bringing his career total to 125 touchdowns. Sick.
Still no word on where he plans to play next season, but at least Buckeye recruit (and early arrival) OL Michael Brewster will get one last crack at persuading Pryor to commit to Columbus. Brewster has long been lobbying undecided blue chippers to join the Buckeyes impressive 2008 incoming class and DeathRattleSports claims Brewster is rooming with Pryor at the upcoming US Army All-American Game. Godspeed, Brewster. Godspeed.
Crater Preparing To Lead Matta's Offense In 2008
Mlive.com caught up with Buckeye signee Noopy Crater producing an excellent piece on Matta's next true point guard. At Matta's (and others) behest, Crater left his hometown of Flint and Southwestern Academy after his junior season in search of a more challenging scene, both academically and on the court, in addition to providing him an environment with no drugs and gun play.
Enter Brewster Academy, a basketball factory in the middle of New Hampshire. Crater is now reaping the benefits of a structured schedule, college prep classes, and the opportunity of playing with and against fellow D-1 recruits in a league that offers a 36 game schedule, before playoffs.
Crater has responded favorably to the increased competition leading Brewster to an 11-1 record averaging 8.5 assists and 9.0 points. He's turning heads with his basketball IQ and ability to find the open man. For icing on the cake, he's also growing tired of his lame nickname "Noopy". Thank God. (HT: Bob Baptist)
Sick Of The Buckeyes?
That's what Matt Tullis of the Columbus Dispatch wants to know. He's looking to interview folks who just can't stand what's been going on in Buckeye land the last six years. I would like to give him benefit of the doubt by assuming he was assigned this piece by his editor, but I can't because if my editor assigned me a story like that, I'd take a dump on his desk on my way to the unemployment line. So, who wants to call this guy and pretend they hate OSU? Wil? Hal3?
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