Neitzel's 28 Put Buckeyes Back On Bubble

By Chris Lauderback on March 14, 2008 at 5:56 pm
swizzat.jpgKoufos played large while Butler shriveled
(AP photo: Michael Conroy)

Needing a victory to secure an at-large bid, the Buckeyes couldn't stop Drew Neitzel from scoring a season high 28 points in a hotly contested 67-60 loss in Indianapolis. The longtime Buckeye killer who was held to 6 points last Sunday scored 14 points in each half behind 6/12 shooting from distance. His final triple was an absolute dagger putting Sparty up 61-55 with 1:20 to play.

The ensuing possession saw David Lighty make just 1 of 2 free throws forcing OSU to foul and the Spartans hit 6 of 7 from the stripe in the final minute dropping Ohio State to 19-13 on the season.

Besides Neitzel's heroics, the Buckeye cause was hurt by untimely turnovers and some curious officiating during a crucial stretch in the second half. With the game tied at 34, Kosta Koufos was whistled for 2 fouls in 10 seconds. The first was a phantom charging call 18 feet from the bucket serving as the worst call I've witnessed this season while the second was a clean block on Raymar Morgan leading to a free throw and a 35-34 Spartan advantage.

Two possesions later, Othello Hunter was whistled for another questionable foul, his fourth, going for a block on Goran Suton. Hunter yelled "No" and started clapping his hands prompting the quick whistled ref to slap Hunter with a Technical Foul. In a game of such intensity and importance, even Musburger and Lavin discussed the overreaction of the official, citing his rabbit ears.

Neitzel hit both technical free throws and Suton hit both foul shots to give MSU a 39-34 lead with 12:39 remaining. The game changing sequence occurred during a 7 minute stretch in which the Buckeyes held MSU to 0 field goals and 2 free throws aside from the 4 free throws the striped shirts handed over.

In the end, the unfortunate sequence was costly but Matta's troops didn't do themselves any favors allowing 15 offensive rebounds and missing 5 of 14 free throws while losing sight of Neitzel all day long. Besides the game winning three, he also got loose for an easy layup off a midcourt inbounds play with 2:05 left giving MSU a 58-53 lead. Painfully, it was the exact same play the Spartans ran last Sunday where David Lighty recovered to get the block. Weak.

Koufos led four Buckeyes in double figures with 19 points on 8/13 from the floor while fellow big Hunter recorded 10 points, 7 boards and 5 blocks.

David Lighty continued his improved play with 12 points and 4 rebounds against zero turnovers but it's worth noting he had to jack up a season high 14 shots (5/14) due to Evan Turner stinking up the court (not sure how he only got credit for 2 TO's) and the lack of agression shown by Butler.

The Buckeye captain let the defense take him out of the offense leading to seven of his 8 field goal attempts coming from distance leading to 11 points coupled with 4 assists and 2 turnovers. Out of desperation, Matta was forced to insert PJ Hill to try and get Butler some looks off the ball but they never materialized.

For the game, OSU held Michigan State to 36% shooting while connecting on 41% of their attempts but the most important shooting statistic has to be OSU hitting just 9/14 FT's compared to 16/22 for the Spartans.

Considering the number of other bubble teams that have gone down so far, I now think the Buckeyes have done enough to earn an NCAA bid. The strength of schedule, meaningful late season wins and the fact they've been very competitive in the losses to ranked teams should stack up well against the other squads as the selection committee starts splitting hairs.

So now we wait...