Courtside with Marty Bannister
Returning for the third year in a row is Courtside with Marty Bannister! The play-by-play voice of the Ohio State women's basketball team for the past 10 years will be keeping a blog once again throughout the season to provide fans with insight on the team and give his take on the Buckeyes, the Big Ten and the rest of the college basketball landscape. In addition to his duties with the women's cagers, Marty also has served as the football sideline reporter for The Ohio State Buckeyes Radio Network since 2006 and shares play-by-play duties with the baseball team in the spring.
March 12, 2013
A season that featured more than its share of ups and downs ended last Friday night for the Buckeyes. The 76-66 loss in the B1G tournament quarterfinals to top seed Penn State ended Ohio State's season at 18-13. Now, a most uncomfortable period of waiting is underway, as the attention now turns to the ESPN selection show on Monday night.
In Hoffman Estates, Ohio State made a solid appearance. The 9th seed ousted the 8th seed Minnesota in its tourney opener Thursday 58-47. Then, despite the 10-point deficit in the Penn State loss, made the Lady Lions work for the win.
The Buckeyes closed out the campaign with a rush, winning seven of their last 10 games. They also finished, as mentioned, with 18 wins. Among those were wins over B1G runner-up Michigan State, a victory over a 20-win (and NCAA bound) Michigan team, and a win AT West Coast Conference regular season and tournament winner Gonzaga. Ohio State also has a strength of schedule (SOS) rating of 34. Those victories, along with the B1G overall "SOS" of #2, and a RPI of #2, raise the hopes that Ohio State is an NCAA-caliber team (Illinois losing to Wisconsin in the tournament also may have been a plus). The negatives to that equation? No wins over a Top 25 team and an overall team RPI that has fluctuated in the 60's and 70's of late (as of this writing, #74). Finishing as the #9 seed did not help the situation, and at 8-10 (tournament included) in the B1G is not much help either.
The wild-card in this has to be Ohio State hosting first and second round games at St. John Arena. While I firmly believe this Buckeye team is one of the best 64 in the country, knowing that more tickets are likely to be sold with Ohio State in rather than out does (in my opinion) carry added weight to the Buckeye cause. I also get that same reaction from people around the women's game that I have talked with in recent days.
Make no mistake, watching the selection show this Monday night will be vastly different than in past years. While it has been "appointment" television in the last 10 years for Ohio State, here's hoping it's not "disappointment" TV this time around.
March 6, 2013
After three straight wins to close out the regular season, Ohio State heads to Hoffman Estates, Illinois, to begin their B1G tournament run on Thursday. Among the items the Buckeyes will pack in their collective travel bags will be a great deal of momentum, maybe more than they have had at any one point this season.
Finishing with a flourish as they did, three wins over likely NCAA tournament-bound teams, has many asking the question, is this just an aberration, or has this team really jelled? The move to a smaller line-up has seemingly been the igniter, with Raven Ferguson's return to the first five making the Buckeyes a match-up problem for most teams, and has resulted in better ball movement on offense. Overlooked in this has been the defense, only twice in the last 7 games did an opponent score 60 or more points against Ohio State. The group that gets the minutes now, the starters joined by Darryce Moore, Amy Scullion, and Maleeka Kynard off the bench, give Jim Fosterexactly what he wants. They play hard, with a purpose, and with energy.
As the #9 seed entering the tournament, Ohio State gets another crack at Minnesota in Thursday's opener. The Gophers won both regular season meetings, and in completely different ways. In January, Minnesota routed Ohio State, winning by a not-as-close-as-it sounds 83-74. Fifty of those points came in the first half. The second game, just two weeks ago, was won on Rachel Banham's shot with 0.4 second remaining. That after Raven Fergusonhad seemingly salvaged Ohio State's season by making two three-point shots in nine seconds to give the Buckeyes the lead. The Ohio State team Minnesota will see Thursday is vastly different than the one they met in those prior meetings. While Banham was tough on the Buckeyes in both games, Mikaela Riche gave Ohio State fits with her rebounding and work around the basket. Add it all up, and this is your typical 8-9 matchup, and I expect it to be played as such. No. 1 seed Penn State awaits the winner 24 hours later.
Sunday's senior day was special. Beating Michigan (always a good thing, regardless of the sport) 66-55 was the precursor to a great senior ceremony afterwards. I'm sure all who stayed will remember the speeches by Tayler Hill, Amber Stokes, Emilee Harmon, and Brianna Sanders. A senior class who showed a great deal of class and will be sorely missed.
Ohio State is 17-12 after a 7-9 B1G conference finish. Most who follow such things think at least two wins are mandatory in the tournament for the Buckeyes to seriously enter the NCAA tournament conversation. I don't think more than seven teams from the B1G will make the field of 64, so the road is one that is going to be tough to navigate. Winning 4 games in 4 days is a lot to ask of any team, but as Jim Fostersaid in his post-game summation Sunday, "there are a number of teams that don't want to play us right now".
We join you from Chicago Thursday night at 6:45, followed by the tip at 7:00, on 1460 ESPN, and online at www.OhioStateBuckeyes.com.
Feb. 27, 2013
A move to a small line-up provided a big result for Ohio State on Monday night and helped the Buckeyes to a much needed win. The 67-60 victory over Michigan State came on the heels of what could have been a demoralizing loss to Minnesota the Thursday prior.
Entering the Gopher game with 14 wins and the chance to finish .500 in the B1G by winning out, Ohio State lost a heartbreaker to Minnesota 57-56. A back and forth second half saw Ohio State take the lead with under 10 seconds left as Raven Ferguson knocked down back-to-back three point shots. After the second make, Rachel Banum of Minnesota sprints down the floor, sticks an off-balance jumper on the right side of the lane with 0.4 seconds left and what looked like a huge win turned into a crushing loss. After watching his "4" spot on the floor continue to struggle, Coach Jim Fosterinserted Ferguson into that spot and she responded in the second half. So much so that Coach Foster decided to put Ferguson back into the starting line-up for the visit from Sparty Monday. Better ball movement being one of the big reasons for the line-up change, and it paid dividends. After totaling just 8 assists in the prior two games, the Buckeyes doubled that number against the Spartans. Ohio State also played the game with an obvious sense of urgency, something that surprised MSU Coach Suzy Merchant. She said after the game "we did not expect them to play that hard". I think that's both a compliment and a fair assessment of what's been happening of late for the Buckeyes.
Back to the assist number, when Ohio State totals more assists in a game than turnovers, the Buckeyes are 11-and-1 this year. Any wonder Coach Foster sometimes looks exasperated when the ball is not moved on offense? One other key number, when center Ashley Adams attempts 10 or more shots in a game, Ohio State is 8-3. And that means? Well, opponents have to respect her and can't spend the extra effort defending 21.0 ppg scorer, Tayler Hill.
Thursday a trip to Illinois awaits, then the home (and regular season) closer with Michigan. The Illini beat the Buckeyes in January 79-73. Karisma Penn had her way with the Buckeyes that night, scoring 34 points, hauling down a dozen rebounds and hitting 16-of-17 free throws. The majority of her damage was done that night in the second half. The visit from Michigan is the only regular season meeting between the two. Kim Barnes-Arico is in her first year coaching in Ann Arbor and has the Wolverines headed to the NCAA tournament. The Maize and Blue have provided match-up problems for the Buckeyes in the past; 6-1 Rachel Sheffer and 6-4 Kate Thompson come to mind right away. They are Michigan's two leading scorers, Thompson at 15-points-per and Sheffer at 12 points per outing.
We join you at 7:45 Thursday night from Champaign, with the tip at 8 p.m. Sunday's game has an 11:45 pre-game show with a 12:00 start. Both games on 1460 ESPN and available on-line at www.OhioStateBuckeyes.com.
Feb. 20, 2013
Ohio State has four games left to play in the regular season and as hard as it may be to believe, the Buckeyes control their own destiny. That description of a team at this point of a schedule is usually reserved for teams battling for a conference lead and not one that is desperately trying to win to keep its slim postseason hopes alive. That, though, is where this Buckeye team finds itself entering its regular season version of a "final four".
The Buckeyes were 58-39 losers last time out at Nebraska a week ago. From an offensive standpoint, well, there is not much to talk about. The lowest point total for a Jim Foster-coached team while he's been at Ohio State was the result. The performance was made even more difficult to stomach when you look deeper into the numbers and find the Buckeyes recorded just three assists on the night. I asked Coach Foster on our network radio postgame show about the lack of the extra pass on offense. When that happens, at times, Ohio State's offense can be hard for opponents to deal with. He simply shook his head and said "it's cause for many a sleepless night". Ohio State showed some fight in the first 20 minutes in Lincoln and went to the locker room only down 29-25. But the woeful night on offense quickly caught up with the Buckeyes and downhill things went from there in the remaining twenty.
So now, four games - three at home - are what remains for the 14-11 Buckeyes. The first of those is with Minnesota Thursday. The Gophers romped past Ohio State last month in Minneapolis and the 83-74 loss was not anywhere near as close as the final score indicated. Minnesota scored 50 first half points and for the night put three players in double figures. Rachel Banham led the way with 24. Monday, the only regular season get together with Sparty awaits, as Michigan State comes calling. Recent games with Suzy Merchant's crew have been hard-fought, defensive, nail-biters. I don't think the script will change Monday.
I am of the opinion that if Ohio State finds a way to win out, an 18-11 overall record, coupled with an 8-8 B1G regular season finish, should be enough to get the Buckeyes in the NCAA field of 64. Ohio State hosting first and second round games, I believe, is also something that would be in the Buckeyes corner with that strong of a finish. Now, that all being said, the big question remains, can this team navigate its way through Minnesota, Michigan State, at Illinois and then a home final with "That team up north" (Michigan)? We have said all year, winning at home is mandatory, and then trying to steal what you can on the road, is a formula needed to be successful. So, four games remain, and each one brings a postseason tournament-like atmosphere with it.
We join you Thursday at 5:45 p.m. with our Minnesota pregame, followed by a 6 p.m. tip. Monday, we are with you at 6:15 p.m. for our pregame, with the Michigan State start at 6:30. The games, as always, on 1460 ESPN, and online at www.OhioStateBuckeyes.com.
Feb. 17, 2013
After two wins last week that stretched its winning streak to three games, Ohio State will have just one game this week as the Buckeyes continue their attempt at resurrecting their postseason chances. We will talk about the Valentine's visit to Nebraska coming up, but let's look back first at last week's two wins.
Admit it, not many of you thought that Ohio State would win the game with Wisconsin last Thursday. Leading the Buckeyes 52-48 with 11 seconds left, the Badgers Morgan Paige inexplicably fouled Tayler Hill on a three-point attempt with 1.5 seconds remaining. Ohio State's only hope centered on Hill making two of her three free throws, then missing the last one, hoping one of her teammates could somehow get the rebound, then hoping whomever got the missed shot could put the ball back in the basket to tie the game ... happens all the time, right? Amazingly, that is exactly what happened. Amber Stokes tipped the ball to Ameryst Alston (Plan "A", perhaps?), who then flipped the ball over her head and into the basket, clearly before the horn sounded, to tie game. Yes, it did take two overtimes for the Buckeyes to eventually win the game, but win they did. I had a chance to ask Alston on the Northwestern trip if she was confident the shot was going in, and of course, she smiled and said "yes". So with that remarkable win in their hip pocket, it was off to Evanston for the one and only meeting with Northwestern for the Buckeyes. The big question, would the Thursday win provide the confidence this team was sorely looking for? The game did not start out as if that answer was a resounding "yes", as the Wildcats jumped out to an early 6-0 advantage. In fact, Ohio State did not score until roughly the 3-minute mark. But as the half wore on, the Buckeyes started to generate offense off their defense, the Wildcats got into foul trouble, and the Scarlet and Gray steadily built an advantage they would not lose. Northwestern is not contending for the B1G title, but they have won at Illinois and at Iowa (both of whom have defeated the Buckeyes), and the Wildcats owned wins in two of the last three games with Jim Foster'steam. Add to that, Ohio State had only two wins (both at Indiana) in its last 10 conference road games. Sunday was a key win for the Buckeyes.
Thursday another road challenge awaits against a very talented Nebraska team. Folks around the B1G I have talked with have the opinion that the Huskers may be an "up and down" team. If that's the case, they are certainly on the upswing right now. A 76-75 win at Iowa Monday was the 6th straight for Connie Yori's club. Jordan Hooper may be one of my most favorite players to watch in the league. She can be deadly from distance, and has the athletic ability to run the floor. She can also post up and do damage around the basket. Jim Fostersaid prior to the first match-up the Huskers presented numerous match-up issues for his team, and that showed in the 62-53 loss on January 31st.
Ohio State is 14-10. Postseason chances hinge a great deal on how well teams finish a regular season ... 17-18 wins, and a either a .500 B1G mark, or a game shy of that, I think, puts Ohio State in the NCAA discussion. A road win at Nebraska or at Illinois, along with a marquee win over a Michigan State or a Michigan, would not hurt. It appears the B1G tournament is shaping up as a "resume building" stay in Chicago for the Buckeyes. Getting to at least the semis would be most helpful. Is all of that a tall task? Sure, it's the B1G after all, and we all know how tough this league can be.
We join you Thursday from Lincoln at 8:45, followed by the tip at 9:00. The game on 1460 ESPN, and online at OhioStateBuckeyes.com.
Feb. 6, 2013
A quote from the great Nuke LaLoosh in the classic baseball movie Bull Durham would be a good way to start my look back at Ohio State's win Sunday at Indiana.
"Man I love winning! It's, like, better than losing."
Yes, you would probably agree with my wife, Amy, who wonders how I can remember such things, but I digress. Ohio State's 70-56 victory over the Hoosiers moves the Buckeyes out of a last place tie in the B1G standings and hopefully is the confidence builder this team so desperately needed. Coach Jim Foster said afterwards on our network radio postgame show the win was a "step", and he's right. While Indiana is far removed from being a conference title contender, the Buckeyes still did things that at least raise some hope for the remaining games. Ohio State withstood the runs IU made, the bench (Emilee Harmon and Darryce Moorein particular) provided quality minutes, and turnovers (which opponents were scoring often off of lately) were kept under double figures.
The Buckeyes are in the midst of a stretch, starting with the Indiana win, of games that are certainly winnable. Wisconsin comes in Thursday (yes, the Badgers did beat the Buckeyes earlier, and own a Penn State win, but both of those games were in Madison), and then a Sunday visit to Northwestern awaits. Hosting Wisconsin again gives Ohio State a chance to hold serve at home, and the Badgers have struggled in Columbus (having not won here since 2001). Northwestern won at Iowa last weekend, an impressive win for Joe McKeown's squad. Karly Roser has developed into one of the B1G's better point guards, Kendall Hackney is versatile, tough, player, and 6-5 Danielle Diamont can step back and score from the perimeter. The Wildcats have won two of the last three with the Buckeyes.
We join you at 6:45 Thursday night, with a 7:00 tip. Sunday from Evanston, it's a 3:45 pre-game show start, with a 4:00 beginning. As always, the games on 1460 ESPN and online at OhioStateBuckeyes.com.
From our last visit, I listed some performances that stood out for me during my 10 years broadcasting Buckeyes games, here are some of the bigger games that stand out for me ... again in no particular order:
2/27/05: 69-58 home win over Penn State
1/09/06: 75-71 home win over Oklahoma
2/20/11: 76-74 win at Purdue
11/17/11: 59-55 win at LSU
11/11/12: 57-51 loss to Notre Dame
Jan. 29, 2013
As I am in my 10th year broadcasting Ohio State women's basketball games, (probably to the dismay of many), I thought at times during this year I would look back over those years and recall some memorable moments and games. These are listed in no particular order, (although the first one listed in this edition is MY #1, and for the obvious reason). There are more to come in the remaining weeks we visit, so don't consider these all I will enter, but look at these as a good place to start.
No. 1: Caity Matter at Michigan State in 2004
No. 2: Samantha Prahalis vs. Minnesota 2012
No. 3: Ashley Adams at Illinois 2011
No. 4: Jessica Davenport vs. West Virginia, 2004
No. 5: 2010-11 Buckeyes vs. Purdue at Nationwide Arena
The Buckeyes saw another solid first 20 minutes of play dissolve in the second half Sunday in the 71-56 loss to No. 8 Penn State. The good news came in the form of Amber Stokes' return from her left knee sprain. Nebraska comes in on Thursday night. The Huskers in their last outing posted an impressive win over Michigan State, dropping Sparty 59-54 in Lincoln last Thursday. Jordan Hooper scored 25 points and hauled in seven rebounds in the win. Cornhuskers limited MSU to a 32% field goal percentage for the game, including 8-for-31 in the first half.
Our coverage Thursday night starts at 8:15, with the tip at 8:35. The game on 1460 ESPN, and on www.OhioStateBuckeyes.com.
Jan. 25, 2013
This week's blog comes to you direct from the "I'm completely baffled" department. Last Sunday's loss at Wisconsin remains one of the most surprising games I have ever been a part of in my now 31 years of broadcasting. With that being said, looking back at that stunning Sunday would only further ruin my week in Orlando (where I write this from). Sorry to be the guy that reminds those of you dealing with wind chills and snow that it's been sunny and in the 70's here, but, well, I guess I will take on that title (for now).
Life does not get much easier for the Buckeyes with back-to-back games against preseason favorite Penn State and preseason title contender Nebraska on the horizon. How they reached this point remains a big mystery to me. I thought that not only the triple-overtime loss at Purdue followed up by the win over Indiana were good ways to jump start a turnaround. Wisconsin changed all that. You can say the losing record is due to this reason or that reason, but I tend to follow what those closest to the team, the coaches, tell me. It's simply up to the players to decide whether or not they want to turn this around. I stand by things I have written in past blogs: there is talent here. No, this is not the most talented team Jim Fosterhas had in Columbus, but the parts that make up this team do not equal a 1-5 record. The mindset, though, does seem to add up to that record.
Penn State enters Sunday's game riding high. The Lady Lions have won two key games this past week, over Michigan and Minnesota. They seemingly are on the verge of running away and hiding from the rest of the B1G. Alex Bentley, who shared conference preseason player of the year honors with Tayler Hill, leads a talented, veteran, group. Maggie Dixon and her "from distance" accuracy make it hard to sag inside on the Lady Lions defensively. They are strong on the defensive end with Nikki Green, who is a good rebounder and defender. Nebraska follows the Lions in on Thursday. The Huskers have been a bit up and down this year, but in Jordan Hooper have the type of player that has given Ohio State match-up issues in the past. She can step back and knock down the mid-range jumper and is equally (at 6'1) adept at putting the ball on the floor and getting to the basket. With Ohio State in its current position, the rest of the league may have that "blood in the water" mentality when facing the Buckeyes. Both upcoming games give Ohio State a chance to remind everyone they are not what the record currently may show.
Sunday we join you at 12:45 for our pregame show, with the Penn State tip at 1 p.m. Thursday the Nebraska game coverage begins at 8:15 p.m., followed up by an 8:30 start. Broadcast coverage as always is on 1460 ESPN and available anywhere at www.OhioStateBuckeyes.com.
Jan. 16, 2013
It's unchartered waters that Ohio State finds itself in right now, as the Buckeyes have opened B1G play with four straight losses following the 3-overtime defeat, 82-75, at Purdue Monday night. Prior to that loss, the team lost at Minnesota last Thursday night 84-75. The two games could not have been more different in terms of effort and energy.
The one noticeable difference at Purdue Monday came on the defensive end of the floor. I thought the match-up zone Ohio State used against the Boilermakers really caught them off guard. Although Courtney Moses was able to find openings and knock down five three point shots, the zone altered the pace of the game, and allowed to Ohio State to keep things close. That was key due to the Buckeyes having to play without the B1G leading scorer, guard Tayler Hill. Hill, along with back-up guard Maleka Kynard, both were ill and were not available. Add in the continued absence of guard Amber Stokesand the Buckeyes were certainly short on numbers, both figuratively and literally.
Among the positives from West Lafayette was the continued play of Darryce Moore along the front line. She has developed into a presence for Ohio State in the post, giving the Buckeyes a scoring threat down low. I also liked what Jim Foster got from Cait Craft. The freshman guard made her first career start, hit a huge three-pointer late in regulation, and showed grit and tenacity on defense. The real story, if you will, was Ameryst Alston. Not only did she score a career high 24 points, she played the ENTIRE 55 minutes, controlled the ball against a good and athletic Purdue backcourt, and was a key factor defensively. It was also good to see Emilee Harmonreturn and provide quality minutes. She last played December 9th and had been nursing a leg injury.
So at 0-4 in the league, the Buckeyes are next at home Thursday with Indiana. A Sunday visit to Wisconsin follows.a Many have said the game with IU falls into the "must win" category, but, with no league wins in four outings, they all are "must wins", are they not? Jim Fostersummed things up in our pre-game show conversation prior to Purdue, saying "we have to understand where we are, and know we can't win four or five games on one night". At halftime in Mackey Arena, longtime B1G women's beat writer Mike Carmin joined me. He said while many around the league may be quietly rejoicing in the Buckeyes plight, he also feels Ohio State has a "run" left in it. Meaning the Buckeyes may be a bit down, but are far from out in terms of the conference race. I agree.
Indiana and new coach Curt Miller come in on Thursday. Miller had a great run of success at Bowling Green, turning the Falcons into a MAC power, and made a few NCAA visits as well. IU enters at 1-2 in the league, but 10-6 overall. Aulani Sinclair is among the B1G top scorers, averaging 19 points a game. Ohio State will then attempt to snap an 8-game conference road losing skid when they go to Wisconsin Sunday. The Badgers are playing the remainder of the season without Taylor Wurtz, out with a back injury. Morgan Paige has emerged as UW's top scorer, at 15 points per outing.
6:45 p.m. is our pre-game show coverage start Thursday, with the tip at 7 p.m. Sunday we join you at 2:45, followed by a 3 p.m. ET start. As always, 1460 ESPN is your radio home for Buckeye women's basketball, and follow the games anywhere on www.OhioStateBuckeyes.com.
Jan. 9, 2013
Suddenly, Ohio State finds itself in a very tough situation. Two games into the B1G schedule and the Buckeyes find themselves without a win, having lost their best defensive player and senior co-captain in Amber Stokes for at least a month and now have to play three road games among its next four outings. Yes, it's not where anyone thought this team would be right now, but, it is what it is for Coach Jim Foster. As always, he, more than anyone understands what this means for his team: it's time for players who will be given a chance to step up to do just that.
The Buckeyes have dropped two tough games to start conference play. The Thursday loss in overtime at Iowa City was followed by a hard-fought home loss to Illinois last Sunday. Both games could have gone either way. When you look back at the Buckeyes five losses this year, they all fall into that category. Each defeat has come by a total of seven points or less and all have seen moments where the game was up for grabs. Does that ease the fact that the Buckeyes have lost all of them? Of course not. But, in my opinion, it does show this team has the capability to win tight games ... it just has to get over that hump somehow.
With Amber Stokes out with her left knee injury, (it's expected she will miss 4-to-6 weeks), the Buckeyes lose a key player defensively. Her ability to create backcourt havoc and to double down on opposing post players will be sorely missed. The second half by Illinois' Karisma Penn proved that (26 of her 34 points came in that stanza). Freshman Cait Craft saw quality minutes in the second half and Coach Foster said afterwards on our network post-game radio show she will continue to get those chances. Again, Darryce Moore and Raven Ferguson provided solid minutes off the bench at both Iowa City and at home. Ferguson of late has, I think, showed some of the early season form that had made her a starter. When Stokes went down late in the first half Sunday vs. the Illini, I'm sure I was not the only one in the arena who held their breath. The way she went down, and the agony she was in, made you think of only one thing: "ACL, career over". Fortunately for her, the injury is not of that severity, and, as mentioned, she should return. My thoughts turned to a few seasons ago, when Sarah Schulzewent down with a similar type injury. Her return late in the season proved to be a huge boost for Ohio State. Let's hope the same is true when Stokes returns.
Thursday the Buckeyes head to Minnesota to face the Golden Gophers. Guard Rachel Banham is one of the league's bright young stars, and "The Barn", Williams Arena, is never an easy place to try and gain a win. Then on Monday, it's off to Mackey Arena and a meeting with Purdue. The Boilermakers, along with Penn State and Nebraska, were one of the preseason conference favorites and playing that way right now.
We join you at 7:45 p.m. ET Thursday from the Twin Cities and then at 7:15 p.m. Monday night from West Lafayette. The games, as always, on 1460 ESPN, and available worldwide at OhioStateBuckeyes.com.
Jan. 2, 2013
Well, ready or not, B1G play starts Thursday for 10-3 Ohio State as the Buckeyes travel to Iowa. The Scarlet and Gray will enter the 16-game slate off of a very "conference game-type" win, the 67-50 Sunday victory over Howard. The win was one of those "grind it out, not many style points" type victory that so often occur in Big Ten action. Howard gave the Buckeyes fits with their aggressive play, battling for every rebound, took any up-tempo flow from the game away with their zone, and made the home team simply fight for the victory. Some may say that's not what you want from a team with conference play coming up, but, as he always seems to do, Coach Jim Fosterhad the right focus on the game. He told Toni Roesch and I afterwards on our post-game radio interview that with conference play awaiting, it was a positive for his team to get a reminder of what those games are like.
So now on to the Big Ten. You look back at the non-conference slate and as Columbus Dispatch writer Jim Massie told me on our halftime segment Sunday, that's a fair way to measure a league's strength, it looks like another 16-game slugfest awaits. Most figured Purdue, Penn State and Nebraska would be among the favorites. But you look top to bottom and it shapes up as a "on any given night" type season is in the offing. Iowa beat Texas. Illinois beat then 6th-ranked Georgia. Michigan knocked off Florida. Michigan State owns a win over Temple. Indiana beat a usually good Xavier squad. Minnesota beat Creighton (which had previously beaten Nebraska) and Penn State won at Texas A&M.
Ohio State starts its run with perhaps the toughest first six games of anyone in the league. Four of those, beginning at Iowa Thursday, are away games. Included in that stretch are visits to Minnesota, Purdue and Wisconsin.
Games with Iowa have always been of the up-tempo variety, and I don't really expect anything different at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Interesting will be how the Buckeye interior players handle Iowa's Morgan Johnson. She is one of the league's most improved players since her freshman year and currently leads the Hawks with 18 points and 7 rebounds per outing. Sunday's conference home opener with Illinois will bring one of the league's new coaches to town. Matt Bollant inherited one of the top post players in the league in Karisma Penn. The Illini, even in losing 7 of the last 8 to the Buckeyes, have played Ohio State tough in the majority of those outings.
We join you Thursday from Iowa City at 6:15 for our pre-game show, with the tip at 6:30.....then Sunday our coverage opens at 1:45, followed by the tip at 2:05 with the Illini. Both games on 1460 ESPN, and for a small fee right here at www.OhioStateBuckeyes.com.
Dec. 26, 2012
Games after a holiday break are always somewhat interesting and two await Ohio State before B1G play starts on January 3rd.
Ohio State returned home from a split of its two-game, five-day stay in the Pacific Northwest with a rather pedestrian win over Southern University on December 21st. Any win is a good one, so don't misunderstand. The victory came with the Christmas break awaiting and Coach Jim Fosterhit on that during our pre-game show conversation. Coach Foster saying he hoped the team had not started its break "that day during the pre-game shoot-around". Ohio State was, in my opinion, somewhat sluggish in the first half, but pulled away in the second 20 minutes to gain the win. A real positive was the assist-to-turnover ratio for the Buckeyes. When that's a substantial plus category for Ohio State, such as the 17 assist-to-11 turnover number vs. Southern, it shows the Buckeyes are making the extra pass that makes Ohio State a dangerous team on offense.
A quick look back at the games at Washington State and at Gonzaga. It's amazing how fast the tone of a road trip can change in 48 hours. After the very difficult 62-55 Saturday loss in Pullman to Washington State, a team dinner at an actual floating restaurant in nearby Idaho lost a lot of its luster (although the steak was very, very good.....priorities, right?). A day off between games made things no easier, especially with a very good Gonzaga team awaiting the following Monday. It's said some seasons can hinge on a single shot, and whatever success this Ohio State team eventually has could very well result from a three-point shot made by senior Amber Stokeslate in the Gonzaga game. After rallying back from down nine points early in the game before a loud, raucous crowd, Ohio State had built a seven point second-half lead. Gonzaga, which had lost just 13 home games dating back to 2004, surged back and had tied the game at 54 with a little over 3 minutes to play. With the shot clock at 3, Stokes stepped up and buried a huge triple to give Ohio State a lead it would never lose. You could almost sense the surge in confidence that shot brought, and you could almost actually feel the air leave the building. Still lots to play....but you may look in February back to that three by Stokes as a shot that may have salvaged Ohio State's season.
So up next, two home games, Thursday with VCU and then Sunday with Howard. Again, both teams bring different looks and will throw challenges at the Buckeyes, from both the physical and mental aspects, which the team needs.
I'll look ahead to the B1G season in our next visit, but keep in mind, the Buckeye portion of that schedule features three road games among the first four.
Our coverage of the VCU game starts at 6:45 Thursday, with the tip at 7:00 and our Howard pre-game show Sunday starting at 1:45, and the tip at 2:00. Both games, as always, on 1460 ESPN and at www.OhioStateBuckeyes.com.
Dec. 12, 2012
An interesting two-game road trip now awaits Ohio State, that after the Buckeyes polished off Lafayette 81-41 Sunday afternoon at the Schottenstein Center. The win over the Leopards was the second straight game in which the Buckeyes never trailed and the second game in a row where the team recorded at least 20 assists. Now, neither Lafayette nor the prior weeks victim, Evansville, will be confused with any of the Big Ten's elite teams, but both wins were good, solid, efforts by Jim Foster'ssquad.
One of the things I've liked most about this team to this juncture is its ability beat teams they should beat by 35 or 40 points, by 35 or 40 points. That may not seem like much to most, but it's encouraging to see this team not take its collective foot off the throttle, and not let those blowouts become garbage time in the latter minutes of the route. There's a purpose to what's happening on the floor late in those games, and that has not always seemed like what was happening. Those that want more minutes are showing that effort when given the chance and that makes everyone better.
Heading out to Spokane for games Saturday and Monday comes at a good time. The Buckeyes are done with exams, so the focus can be solely on basketball. The trip resembles a Sweet 16 NCAA Tournament-type experience. Travel far from home, play a game, then a day off, then play another game. Add to that, Spokane is a host city for one of the four tournament regionals in March, so there is a chance the Buckeyes could play there again.
Washington State is up first on Saturday. The game will be the Cougars first since November 30th. Former Ohio State star June Daugherty coaches the Cougars. They have size, as well as some talented (albeit young) guards. WSU will carry a 2-5 record in against the Buckeyes. After that game, Monday evening the Buckeyes will play at Gonzaga. Again a team with good size, and Coach Kelly Graves team has recent NCAA tournament experience. In 2011 they were one win away from a Final Four trip. The Ohio State game will be Gonzaga's first since December 7, and they own a 9-2 mark. Their losses have come to No. 1 Stanford and No. 6 Louisville.
We will join you at 2:45 p.m. ET from Washington State Saturday afternoon and then at 8:45 p.m. ET Monday night from Gonzaga. All games are on 1460 ESPN, and anywhere at OhioStateBuckeyes.com.
Dec. 6, 2012
After a visit to North Carolina and then a return home win over Evansville, Ohio State finds itself in a stretch where Jim Foster's team will play two games in a two week span.
Let's start first of all with the game at Chapel Hill with North Carolina in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. I thought the Buckeyes competed very well in a tough environment at Carmichael Arena. Up against a team that provided the size and athletic ability Ohio State may not see again until potentially some point in March, the Buckeyes more than held their own. One of the big positives was the continued emergence of freshman point guard Ameryst Alston. Showing uncommon poise for a first-year player having to do what she did, handling the ball and playing solid defense, Alston is rapidly becoming a big part of this Buckeye team's development. Yes, turnovers late with Ohio State holding a 55-54 lead with under a minute left cost the Buckeyes a game they could have won, battling back from 16 points down on the road showed people something about this team's make up.
The game at North Carolina came a few days after the announcement of Maryland (and Rutgers) joining the Big Ten. I asked a number of Carolina fans and athletic department personnel their thoughts on losing the Terrapins to the B1G. Most acted like it was no big deal. In fact, they almost treated it as a plus ... a number of them saying: "good riddance, that means we don't have to go there anymore." I don't remember College Park being that bad of a stop.
Back home against Evansville on Sunday, Jim Foster changed his starting lineup. Along with Alston's continued strong play, another player who earned a start with her play is 6-4 Alexandra Dobranic. "Sasha" has shown improved confidence to go along with her improved overall play. She brings added size to the front line, and against the Purple Aces, the ability to step back and take (and make) the mid-range jump shot. Some fans may roll their eyes when they see teams like Evansville try and make a game of it with the Buckeyes, but remember, games are scheduled for a reason. Teams like Evansville, Wright State, St. Francis, and the game coming up Sunday with Lafayette, are with opponents that a higher seeded team like Ohio State could face in March in an NCAA first round game.
After the Lafayette game, it's on to the Pacific Northwest for a pair of games. The Buckeyes will play at Washington State, then two days later at Gonzaga.
Nov. 21, 2012
Well, four games in and I think maybe this Ohio State women's basketball team may have something going for it. I'm not going to tell you this squad is ready to run roughshod through the Big Ten, but there are some interesting parts to this team that once they come together, could make this a team that could make things interesting in February and March.
The Tuesday night win over St. Francis (Pa.), showed some of that. With 6-5 center Ashley Adams forced to miss the game with a leg injury, five players scored in double figures as the Buckeyes pulled away late and won 70-54. I know, that should not have been a game to begin with, right? Well, keep in mind Adams provides a shot blocking presence that allows the perimeter defenders to be more aggressive, she may be the best passing post player in the league (she was tied for the team lead in assists prior to Tuesday night) and she can score when called upon. Without those aspects, it took the Buckeyes awhile to find the proper mix, but once they did, away they went. I especially liked the effort of Amy Scullion. Lots of hustle, key rebounds and she held her own defensively. Martina Ellerbe scored a career-high 10 points and Tayler Hill and Amber Stokes had their usual productive nights. Hill may be the nation's best at slashing to the glass and drawing contact. She scored 23 points Tuesday, 17 of those in the second half. Winning a game without Adams was no doubt a confidence builder for a team that is getting better each time out.
The upcoming games should provide some interesting tests. A visit from Wright State Sunday comes after the Thanksgiving break, always an interesting time for teams in any sport when you factor a holiday break into things. Then after that game, a visit on Wednesday night to Chapel Hill to face North Carolina in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. After four straight home games, I think that trip comes at a good time. Ohio State will face a talented, athletic team in a hostile environment. It will be another one of those "we'll find out a lot about our team" type nights.
Since we last spoke, the Big Ten has expanded to 14 schools, with the addition of Maryland and Rutgers. I admit to being a "traditionalist" (I hate baseball's inter-league play, and find no use for the DH), but if you must add to the league, I think from a women's basketball standpoint the Big Ten really could not have done much better. Brenda Freese has taken the Terrapins to a national title within the last 5 years, and well, Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer's record of success (over 800 career wins) speaks for itself. Both programs are great additions to the league.
Our coverage of the Wright State game this Sunday starts at 12:45 p.m., with the game tipping at 1 p.m. Then Wednesday from Chapel Hill we join you at 6:45 p.m., followed by the tip at 7 p.m.. Both games are on 1460 ESPN/97.1 The Fan HD2 and anywhere right here at www.OhioStateBuckeyes.com.
Nov. 9, 2012
Hard to believe, but the basketball season tips off Friday, and it does so at of all places, on the DECK of an Aircraft Carrier! I have just passed the 30-year mark in broadcasting and I must tell you, I am as excited for this broadcast as I have been for any game I have called in the past. With my son, Corey, being an Army veteran, and my daughter, Amy, currently serving in the Navy, anything associated with our Armed Forces holds special meaning for me, so this should be great.
I can remember asking Jim Fosterin the past prior to games played in different locations or atmospheres, about the mental aspect of playing in those games. His response has always been similar to the line from the movie "Hoosiers"... you know, "the basket is 10-feet high, the floor is 94-feet long, the ball is round for both teams" ... this game, though, presents numerous challenges. Aside from the obvious, (the opponent and the location) dealing with the conditions when playing outdoors could be as big a factor. I can recall playing outdoors growing up as a kid, but in these days of intense AAU summer action played in the comfort of air-conditioned gyms, playing outside may be an entirely different animal for a number players on both teams. Keeping a close eye on the Weather Channel has usually not been a factor in my pre-game prep, but it will be this time.
In talking with Ohio State's coaches, there has been sort of a quiet confidence about this team and how it is developing. Make no mistake, losing Kalpana Beach to a knee injury for the season is a huge blow for this team. All that means is Emilee Harmon has a chance in her senior season to step up, Martina Ellerbe will be counted on to provide quality depth, and Aleksandra Dobranic will have to become a front-line contributor. Darryce Moore last season made as big of an improvement as any Buckeye player in recent memory. I like what I have seen from the guards, of course, led by Tayler Hill and Amber Stokes. They give Ohio State as athletic and explosive of a backcourt as any team in the B1G. Add in Raven Ferguson (who looks slimmed down and bulked up), Maleka Kynard, and Ohio's "Ms. Basketball", Ameryst Alston, and Coach Foster has more than enough quality depth at guard.
This is a team that I think right now is "flying under the radar" a bit. It may be not be now what it could be in February and March, but that's when you want to be at your best to begin with, right?
I'm thrilled to have both Kristin Watt and Toni Roesch returning as my broadcast partners again this year. They do as good a job as any color analyst's going, and have the added burden of working with me!
We go on the air at 3:45 Friday afternoon from the deck of the U.S.S. Yorktown, in Charleston, South Carolina. The tip is at 4:00 on 1460 ESPN, and free anywhere at OhioStateBuckeyes.com.