Courtside With Marty Bannister
Marty Bannister
 
Marty Bannister

Returning for an unprecedented sixth season is Courtside with Marty Bannister! The play-by-play voice of the Ohio State women's basketball team for the past 13 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 14, 2016

Anxious, excited, and looking forward to showing people they are not the same team that dropped 3 of its last 4 games is where the Ohio State women's basketball team now finds itself. The team will gather Monday night to watch the nationally televised selection show to learn their NCAA tournament fate.

After losing in the B1G tournament semi-finals, the Buckeyes have had a little over week of practice time. I have said in the past I wish the gap between the end of the B1G post season tournament and the start of the NCAA field was not as lengthy as it is. However, for Ohio State, the almost two weeks between games probably could not have come at a better time. Refresh, regroup, get healthy (in the case of Ameryst Alston's wrist injury) and forget the grind that is the 18-game plus a tournament B1G schedule is where the focus turned for Kevin McGuff's team.

So at 24-7, Ohio State awaits it Monday night seeding. I have been asked a great many times in the span since Indianapolis where I see the Buckeyes being seeded. So, here goes. If I were on the selection committee (i'm not), Ohio State would be a 2-seed...reasons? Strength of schedule, Top 50 wins, and a #2 finish (in which they beat the eventual regular season and tourney champ TWICE) in what was a good year in the B1G. So called "bad losses" are taken into consideration...and Ohio State really only has one of those, and that was at
Northwestern in January. Keep in mind, the Wildcats, at that time, were a fringe Top 25 team. Many will point at the Michigan State tourney semi-final loss, but Alston was a non-factor in that game due to her wrist. Throw the UConn loss out the window (the list of teams that have been drubbed by the Huskies is a long one). So, when comparing Ohio State with the list of other potential number two seeds, that's where I would place the Buckeyes. With that said, I do believe the committee will take a long look at the 3 losses in the last 4 games, and Alston's status, and will seed the Buckeyes at #3 come Monday night. What is a virtual certainty is Ohio State hosting 1st and 2nd round games at St. John Arena later in the week. When playing as we all have seen how they CAN play, the Buckeyes are without a doubt one of the nation’s top-16 teams.

The rest of the B1G? Maryland, Michigan State, and Indiana are in. Purdue, I believe, is in as well, but I'm sure the ESPN selection show will be "must watch" TV in West Lafayette. Minnesota and Iowa? Neither were helped by the likes of the MAC's 8-seed, Buffalo, winning that tournament. The Gophers and Hawkeyes are very similar in many areas upon comparison. Iowa lost 6 of its last 10, Minnesota 4 of its last 5 (including a first round B1G tourney loss). The Gophers saving grace could be the overtime win over the Buckeyes. I don't think the NCAA takes both teams.

So, it's on to March Madness. Ohio State can be a very difficult opponent at this time of year to match up with. The Buckeyes style, guard play, and the fact they will be at home, make at least a run into the Sweet 16 within reach. The NCAA games, as always, will be on 1460 ESPN!

February 23, 2016

With two games left, one win is all that stands between #5 Ohio State and the B1G regular season title. Make no mistake, that needed victory will not be easy to get, as the Buckeyes will have to capture the crown at one of two very difficult road stops. The B1G leading Buckeyes visit Minnesota Wednesday and then go to Michigan State Saturday.

The B1G leaders closed out the home part of the schedule with two very impressive romps.....blistering Nebraska last Thursday 96-70, then toying with Illinois 117-74 in Sunday's Senior Day finale. In each game, the Buckeyes got rolling early on offense, imposing their will on both the Cornhuskers and the Illini almost from the moment the ball was tossed up. Against Nebraska, the Buckeyes hit 57% of their first quarter shots, then against the Illini made 14 their initial 17 shots from the floor. Each game Ohio State shot better than 50%, and totaled 29 made three's in the two outings. Even though 70 and 74 points were allowed, each game the Buckeyes made needed stops when momentum started to shift a bit. Ohio State also outrebounded both teams. Kevin McGuff has talked season long about his team's assist to turnover ratio, and how that shows how well his team is (or has been) playing. In the two wins, the Buckeyes totaled 32 assists to 19 turnovers (the margin was 18-to-8 vs Illinois). Ameryst Alston scored 63 points in the two games, 39 Sunday which tied her career high. She also had 5 assists and 0 turnovers. Kelsey Mitchell surpassed the 30-point mark for the 5th time this year, and 12th time overall, after scoring 35 against Illinois.

So now it's on the road to close out. First up is a visit to Minnesota to face the dangerous Gophers Wednesday night. Currently in 4th place, they enter the game still in dire need of a "marquee" win to impress the NCAA Tournament selection committee. Marlene Stollings team has started its final four games of the season with back-to-back road losses. First at Indiana, then Sunday at Michigan State. In each game the Gophers allowed 90 or more points, 93 in Bloomington and then 114 in East Lansing. They enter the Ohio State game having allowed the most points per game in the league. What the Gophers do have is perhaps the hottest player in all of the women's game, guard Rachel Banham. She has surged to the top of the B1G in scoring, and is among the nation's leaders, at just over 27 points per game. She tied the womens single game NCAA Division-1 record when she scored 60 points, yes 60, in a double overtime win at Northwestern on Super Bowl Sunday. Last Sunday in the loss at Sparty, all Banham did was toss 52 on the board. Along with 19-point-per-game scorer Carlie Wagner, they certainly can match Ohio State point-for-point. The Wednesday meeting could well be decided by which team makes defensive stops, and who wins the rebounding battle. The Gophers are 5th in rebounding, Ohio State is 11th. Needless to say, this will be a game if you turn away, you might miss a boatload of points being scored. It's also Minnesota's Senior Night, and the only home game of their last four. They close at Maryland Saturday.

Ohio State closes out the regular season Saturday at Michigan State. The Buckeyes opened conference play on New Year’s Eve by outlasting the Spartans in Columbus 85-to-80. Sparty clobbered the Buckeyes on the glass that day 49-31. Ohio State was able to offset that difference by outscoring MSU 27-14 at the free throw line. Both areas will be big Saturday at the Breslin Center. The Spartans feature as good a "big three" of players as any team in the league.
Double-double machine Aerial Powers, post player Jasmine Hines, and team assist leader and perimeter threat Tori Jankoska, make Michigan State a very "tough out" when you start thinking to March.

We join you Wednesday evening from Williams Arena in Minneapolis at 7:45 for our pre-game show coverage, with the tip to follow just after 8:00. Saturday it's a 1:45 pre-game start, with the tip to come a little after 2:00. All games, as always, are on 1460 ESPN. You can also listen on line by going to our web site, http://www.971thefan.com/ and following the links to 1460 ESPN.


February 18, 2016

Just four regular season games left now for the B1G leading, 5th ranked Buckeyes, the first two of those at home when Nebraska and Illinois visit.

The Buckeyes return home after a pair road wins last week, the high scoring 98-81 run past Iowa, which was followed up by the somewhat sluggish 77-63 win at Penn State Sunday. The Iowa win was played at a frantic 40 minute pace, with the Buckeyes surpassing the 90 point mark for the 11th time this season (they have won all of those games). The pace resulted in Ohio State scoring a whopping 54 points in the paint, with most of those coming from sprint outs or dribble drives into the lane. Ohio State also shot a blistering 72% from the field in the 3rd quarter, and 58% for the game. Yes, Iowa did score 81 points, but the Buckeye defense had answers when the Hawkeyes made runs. Ohio State totaled 10 steals as well, scoring 16 points off those turnovers. Another telling number as to how well the Buckeyes played, they had 20 assists, and with the game at a high octane level, just 10 turnovers. Shayla Cooper and Makayla Waterman both played crucial minutes off the bench, combining for 26 points and eight rebounds.

Sunday at Penn State, the Buckeyes were somewhat slow out of the gate against the Lady Lions, and trailed 15-14 after the first 10 minutes. Ohio State finally pulled away in the second half, but not until the midway point of the 4th quarter, to get the win. Ameryst Alston told me in our halftime interview she senses the team is playing with a "sense of urgency' right now, and she backed that up. Alston made the second most three point shots in Ohio State single game history, 8, and scored a game high 26 points in the win. The Canton senior, now 4th all-time in scoring at Ohio State, has averaged 22 points a game over her last 5 outings. She also has 26 assists over that span. The Buckeyes navigated their way through 20 turnovers to post the win.

Thursday Nebraska arrives for the only regular season meeting between the two programs. Connie Yori's teams have always impressed, and this squad features perhaps the B1G freshman of the year in 6'4 post Jessica Shepard. She enters the Thursday game a "double-double" away from the school freshman record in that category, and has scored a Husker program first year record 514 points. Shepard is in the B1G top 10 in both scoring and rebounding. Along with the talented backcourt duo of Natalie Romeo and Ohio product Rachel Theroit, the Big Red have one of the league's better inside-outside attacks. The Huskers, who lost their first 3 league games, since have gone 8-and-3, and last weekend beat then #17 Michigan State 73-66. They are another B1G team that is trying to impress the NCAA selection committee with a marquee win.

Sunday Illinois comes in. The Buckeyes beat the Illini the first day of this month in Champaign 80-70. That game, like the Penn State win Sunday, was one that the Buckeyes were able to win despite not playing their best. Chatrice White is the struggling Illini's best player, the 6'3 post is among the conference's top scorers and rebounders. White has the ability to pull post defenders away from the basket and knock down a three (she made 4 vs the Buckeyes). Illinois will enter the game in the B1G basement.

Sunday's game is also the final home game for seniors Ameryst Alston and Cait Craft. Both have been through much during their 4 years, and both have been key ingredients in the program's success. Alston adjusted to being another scoring option, instead of the "go to" scorer, when Kelsey Mitchell arrived. Make no mistake though, Alston is still one of, and maybe the league’s best, at breaking down a defender on her dribble drives to the hoop. When the Buckeyes need a basket, it's good to know an option like Alston is on the floor. She will finish her great career as one of the school's top 4 all-time scorers. Craft will finish up as one of the programs top 3-point shooters, and has shown she is definitely not just "Aaron's sister who plays on the women’s team". Craft's defense and her ability to do the so called "little things" (win 50-50 balls, take charges) are a valuable part of this Buckeye team. Both will be missed, and both have been fun to watch over the years.

Thursday we join you at 5:45 for our Nebraska pre-game show, with the tip at just after 6:00. Sunday the final home game has a 2:00 start, our pre-game breakdown starts at 1:45. All games, as always, are on 1460 ESPN and on line at http://www.971thefan.com/ and follow the links to 1460 ESPN.


 

 

February 10, 2016

After a pair of impressive home wins, it's right back on the road for the now B1G leading Buckeyes. Ohio State heads to Iowa for a Thursday tangle with the Hawkeyes, then visits Penn State on Sunday.

Ohio State opened the homestand with an 87-61 thrashing of Wisconsin. The Buckeyes struggled somewhat early against the pesky Badgers, then steadily pulled away. The Buckeyes led by just after first quarter, before expanding the lead to 46-33 at the intermission. Ameryst Alston continued her standout play of late, Alston scored 21 points and totaled 4 assists. Her points were especially important as Kelsey Mitchell managed just three points in the first 20 minutes. Mitchell would finish with 16. Ohio State got a strong night from Shayla Cooper, who recorded a double-double of 16 points and 10 rebounds.
Makayla Waterman also had an impressive night with six points and six rebounds. What was most impressive to me was Wisconsin was a team Ohio state should have cruised past, and did. Coming after four straight games decided by 10 points or fewer, the 26 point coaster was much needed.

Monday's first place showdown with 5th ranked Maryland was perhaps the best 40 minutes Ohio State has played this season, and maybe in Kevin McGuff's 3 years as head coach. The Buckeyes never trailed, and jumped on the turtle's shell right away, racing out to a 7-0 lead that seemed to set the tone. I'm sure many expected the Terrapins to be still smarting from the Buckeyes win in the team’s first meeting in College Park, but if that was the case, Ohio State never let them get in that mood. The Buckeyes constant pressure, length on the perimeter, and always being in the attack mode was the games difference. Yes, Maryland did seem to score at will inside in the second half, but the Buckeyes were able to overcome that and answered every Terps push. Kelsey Mitchell (33 points) and Ameryst Alston (22 points and an important eight assists) led the way. The Buckeyes became just the 3rd team this season to score 80 or more points in a game against Maryland....in fact Ohio State has now done that twice. Maryland (the other being to UConn) has lost all three of those games. Even though Maryland shot 50% from the floor, Ohio State got the stops needed, won important "50-50" balls, and forced 23 Maryland turnovers, scoring 27 points off those miscues.

A visit to Iowa Thursday starts a two game road swing. The Hawkeyes are a team that is in dire need of a win over a Top-10 ranked team. They have had big issues of late closing out opponents, blowing second half leads in losses to Michigan, Indiana and Sunday to Michigan State. Defensive lapses have been big, witness the 56 points Indiana scored in the second 20 minutes. Meetings with Iowa always seem to evolve into an up tempo affair, and the Carver-Hawkeye Arena has been especially unkind to Ohio State. The Buckeyes have lost the last six straight times they have played there, having last won on January 6 of the 07-08 season. Ally Disterhoft leads the Hawks in scoring at 16 per game. Iowa has lost
5 of its last 7 outings, and has fallen to 5-7 in the B1G.

Sunday the Buckeyes meet Penn State for the only time this season. The Lady Lions have won just three times in 12 conference outings, but two of the wins are noteworthy. They beat Northwestern (which has handed Ohio State it's only league loss to date), and won at Iowa 82-69. The Lions have three players averaging in double figures, led by Teniya Page at 15 per outing. While Ohio State visits Iowa on Thursday, Penn State will be playing at Michigan State.

Both of the upcoming Buckeyes opponents fall into that "if you are not ready to go, something bad can happen" category. Both teams know the Buckeyes are riding high after the Maryland win. In Iowa's case, the game is a chance to remind the NCAA selection committee who they are and what they can do. For Penn State, it's a chance to salvage something from another season that has not turned out as they had hoped.

Thursday it's another late start, 8:15 is our pre-game show followed by the tip at 8:30. Sunday we visit with you starting at 1:45, followed by the tip at just after 2:00 from State College. All games, as always, are on 1460 ESPN, and can be accessed on-line by going to http://www.971thefan.com/ and following the links to 1460 ESPN


February 4, 2016

Ohio State returns home for a pair of games after securing two more wins by 10 points or fewer. The Buckeyes have now won four straight games by that margin, that for those who think the B1G is not a strong league this season.

The Buckeyes fought their way to a 76-73 home win last Thursday over Northwestern. I am waiting for someone to explain to me how, as of this writing, that the Wildcats have won just TWO league games. The Wildcats, and this is not only my opinion, but that of many I have talked with around the B1G, may have the fourth best starting unit in the league in terms of overall talent. In two games with Ohio State they have given the Buckeyes fits. Northwestern's zone defense frustrated the Buckeyes offense in both meetings. Even though Ohio State scored 82 and 76 points in the two games, the "rhythm" the Buckeyes are capable of getting into just never materialized. A certain plus for Ohio State was the fact the Buckeyes found a way to win the second game, and much of that goes to the defensive end and to rebounding. When needed, the Buckeyes made plays in both areas, being edged 39-38 on the glass, and getting needed stops that translated into offensive scores. And let’s not overlook Kelsey Mitchell's second half. After scoring just ONE point in the first half, the nation’s 3rd leading scorer erupted for 26 in the 2nd twenty minutes. Without her usual production, Ohio State still trailed by only four at the half. Among the key parts of the game came with just under five minutes to play, and the Buckeyes trailing by five. Cait Craft (who had a huge game with 14 points) made a layup and a free throw...that was followed by a Kelsey Mitchell three to put the Buckeyes ahead. Craft continues to do the "little' things, on both ends of the floor, that round out the Buckeye line up nicely.

Monday Ohio State visited Illinois, a place where the Buckeyes suffered one of their more surprising losses last year. The last place Illini, losers of 11 of 12 entering the game, gave the conference co-leading Buckeyes all they could handle. Ohio State led 49-41 at the break, but scored just 10 points in the 3rd quarter and led by one point entering the final 10 minutes. Ohio State's defense came up big, holding the Illini without a made field goal for just over three minutes late in the game. Kelsey Mitchell scored five straight points, that after a Makayla Waterman bucket. That came courtesy of Waterman capturing a huge offensive rebound, and the Buckeyes would go on to survive 80-70. Shayla Cooper and her 13 points and 8 rebounds per game did not play due to a coaches decision, so plays like the one Waterman made were huge. Alexa Hart continued her outstanding play of late, 18 points-14 rebounds and 8 blocked shots a part of her night. All she has done in the last 10 games is average 17 points, 9 rebounds and shoot over 70% from the field. Hart is also a matchup problem for opponents. Her ability to run the floor simply wears other post players out, and she has developed (as the above numbers show) into a viable offensive option, and threat, for Kevin McGuff.

Two home games await the Buckeyes next, starting with the only meeting with Wisconsin this season on Thursday night. The Badgers are lead in scoring by Nicole Bauman, averaging 16.3 per outing. Bauman has scored in double figures in her last 7 games, and is the Badgers all-time top 3 point shooter percentage wise. In last year's game with Ohio State, Bauman made a school record 8-3's in the 85-73 loss in Madison. The Badgers are a perimeter oriented team, ranking 18th in the nation in 3-point percentage. Despite that, the Badgers are next to last in the B1G in scoring at 65 points a game. They also struggle defensively, as Badgers opponents shoot 42% from the field, the highest mark in the league. Wisconsin hits town having dropped 6 straight games.

Monday night a rematch showdown with 5th ranked Maryland awaits. The Buckeyes on January 2nd handed the Terrapins their only loss in 21 overall games against B1G opponents to date since joining the league, Ohio State winning at College Park 80-71. Key parts of that huge win.....The Buckeyes outscored the Terps 43-31 in the 2nd half, held their own on the glass (losing 38-35 in rebounding), and outscored the home team 15-7 at the free throw line. The Buckeyes also held a commanding 34-14 edge in points in the paint, and a 16-5 advantage in points off turnovers. That tells you how hard it is to beat the Terrapins...you have to be "on" in just about every category. Before facing the Buckeyes, the Terps have a snowstorm-delayed Friday meeting at home with #15 Michigan State. Maryland on Tuesday won at Purdue 87-67, as Shatori Walker-Kimbrough scored a career high of 41 points.

Thursday's meeting with Wisconsin has a 6:45 pre-game show, followed by the tip at 7:00 p.m. Monday's tilt with the Terps has an 8:45 coverage time beginning, with the nationally televised tip set for just after 9:00 p.m. All games, as always, are on 1460 ESPN, and can be accessed on-line at http://www.971thefan.com/, then follow the links to 1460 ESPN.


January 28, 2016

After a pair of road wins, Ohio State returns home, then packs the travel bags again, as two games await the Buckeyes this week. A return match with Northwestern awaits Thursday, then a trip to Illinois comes up Monday for the B1G co-leaders.

Last week Ohio State won two road games in very different ways, a high scoring 97-93 win at Michigan, followed up by a 67-58 "grind it out" type win at Rutgers. The way the game in Ann Arbor was played should come as no great surprise, after all, each team ranks among the top three in scoring...Ohio State remains No. 1 while TTUN is 3rd. The Buckeyes opened the game by playing what may have been their best first 10 minutes in a game, maybe of the season, and led 31-17. The Buckeye lead would be cut to 7 at the break, but another solid 3rd quarter by the Scarlet and Grey proved huge. Ohio State has averaged close to 25 points coming out of the locker room in the 3rd quarter in B1G play, and hit that mark. Shayla Cooper was dominant throughout, coming off the bench to notch a career best 25 points, and haul in 13 rebounds. She hit a career best four 3-point shots, continuing to show her game has expanded from simply doing work close to the hoop. Asia Doss has returned to the starting lineup, a move that Coach Kevin McGuff said in our post game conversation allows his team to turn the pressure up right away. Doss had numerous deflections, was credited with three steals, and scored her career best of 15 points. This, in my opinion, is Ohio State's best "look" line up wise. Cooper, Makayla Waterman, and Lisa Blair coming off the bench give the Buckeyes a good rotation. You may say, "well, once again they are only playing 8". This 8 is a different "8" than last year. This group all have adapted to their roles, all can contribute on both ends of the floor, and it gives Coach McGuff more flexibility than he had last year. Kalpana Beach has returned to game ready status as well. It's hoped at some point Kianna Holland will be ready, she remains day-to-day with a sore knee.

Sunday the Buckeyes "slugged" their way, not only through the snow in New Jersey, but on the floor, to a 67-58 win at Rutgers. I'm sure many wondered (myself included) what would happen when a team finally forced the high octane Buckeyes into a half-court game. Coach McGuff used the word "patience" in our pre-game conversation, knowing his team would need that against a stingy Rutgers defense. The Scarlet Knights also worked the shot clock under :10 seconds on just about every offensive possession, keeping the game from getting to Ohio State's "style". The Buckeyes were able to fight their way through that, "up tempo-ed" the game when and where they could, and pulled away for the win. A key area for Ohio State was rebounding, the Buckeyes won the glass 33-to-24. Again, a big 3rd quarter keyed the Buckeyes. Ohio State scored 24 points, that after totaling 30 in first half. Another big part of the win was defense. Ohio State held Rutgers almost 10 minutes without a made field goal, stretching over the 2nd and 3rd quarters. Yes, the Buckeyes were a little sluggish early, (being stuck in a hotel for an extra day while a Blizzard raged outside will do that), but winning that type of a game will be a good reference point come March.

Thursday Northwestern arrives. The Wildcats surprised the Buckeyes 86-82 two weeks ago in Evanston. Credit to the Wildcats, they were better team that night. That game also a stark reminder, and it's something Kevin McGuff has addressed, as to what happens when the Buckeyes are not ready to play. Ohio State never led in the game, and trailed by as many as 23 points. The Buckeyes did stage a furious rally and got to within 4 points, but the hole was too deep. Nia Coffey, who took a scary fall in the game, but has not missed any time since, continues to average a double-double for the Wildcats. Coach McGuff calls Coffey "one of the nation's best players". The Wildcats, after opening at 10-0, have stumbled to a 2-6 B1G mark. The two wins are over the Buckeyes and against the current 4th place owner, Nebraska, so this is definitely a capable 'Cats team. Maggie Lyon has had "career" type games vs Ohio State. Lyon scorched the Buckeyes for 5-3 pointers and 24 points in the first game.

Monday, the Buckeyes first of two meetings with Illinois awaits in Champaign. The Illini will enter the game in last place in the B1G, after dropping a 82-77 decision Tuesday at Minnesota. The Illini won seven of their first eight games, but have just one win in their last twelve outings. Illinois is last in the league in FG% at 40%, and last in rebounding margin. Chatrice White is having another solid season, averaging 16 points and nine rebounds per outing. Kyley Simmons (12.0) and Alex Wittinger (10.9) also average in double figures. The Illini have struggled in close games, losing seven times by ten points or less. Ohio State lost 66-55 in Champaign last year. For a reason why, I reference what happened two weeks ago at Evanston. Like that loss, the 11-point setback was one where the Buckeyes were not mentally ready to go.

Thursday's Northwestern tilt coverage starts with our pre-game show at 6:45 p.m., followed by the tip just after 7:00 p.m. Monday similar start times for the game at Illinois. All games, as always, on 1460 ESPN, and available on-line by accessing http://www.971thefan.com/, and following the links to 1460 ESPN.


January 21, 2016

A lesson hopefully learned for the Ohio State women's team in its loss at Northwestern that started a two-game stretch that saw the Buckeyes end the week still tied for the B1G lead.

The Thursday 86-82 setback at Northwestern was a brutal reminder of what life on the road in this conference can be like, especially when you are not ready to play. There is no home court advantage to give a team that extra little bit of gas in the tank needed to get in the right frame of mind. Welsh-Ryan Arena in Evanston can be a tough stop, and give the Wildcats credit, they were itching to get after the then #5 Buckeyes. Northwestern had been embarrassed on the road the prior Sunday at Michigan State, and they jumped on the Buckeyes right away. NU opened up a 27-16 first quarter lead, and led by 18 at the break. The 'Cats expanded their advantage to as many as 23 points in the 2nd half. While Ohio State rallied in the second half, the hole they had dug themselves was deeper than a Chicago deep dish pizza, and Northwestern held on. Ohio State never led in the game, and was outrebounded 46-35. 19 of those misses that the Wildcats captured were on the offensive glass.

Back home Sunday, then league leading Purdue arrived. Much in same the way Northwestern rudely greeted the Buckeyes Thursday, Ohio State wasted little time jumping on the Boilermakers, opening up a 10 point, 24-14 first period lead. The Buckeyes would shoot 56% from the field, (the highest allowed by Purdue to that point), knock down 13-three point shots, and score 23 points off the 19 Boilermaker turnovers. I'm sure you've heard the old "you live by the three, you die by the three" line often associated with a team that shoots the three often. The impressive thing about Ohio State's arc effort Sunday was the shots came in rhythm within the offense. Coach Kevin McGuff addressed that in our post game radio conversation, saying that was one of the better efforts in that area of the season. Ohio State would go on to win 90-70.

A couple of things stand out from last week. After going 24-of-32 at the free throw line in beating Rutgers, Ohio State the last two games has totaled just 16 makes in 23 attempts. The Buckeyes have also been outrebounded in the prior two games 86-to-63. The opponents totaled 38 offensive rebounds, which were turned into 35 2nd chance points. When the shots are falling, those are areas you can navigate through, but when they are not, it's obvious Ohio State needs better production in both.

Two games on the road this week start with a visit to Michigan Thursday evening. The Wolverines, like the Buckeyes, are a team that does not mind getting out and running. "M" is third (Ohio State is 1st) in scoring in the B1G, and when they score 80 or more points in a game this season, they are 10-0. Katelynn Flaherty is the Maize and Blue top scorer, averaging 22 points per game. She is a very good perimeter shooter, having made 47 threes (10 in her last 3 games) this season. Ohio's "Ms. Basketball", Chagrin Falls product Hallie Thome, is having a solid freshman season. Thome averages 12 points a game and is 7th in the B1G in blocked shots. The 6'5 post has scored 49 points in the prior three games, while making 21 of her 31 shots. Michigan has twice trailed this season from down 17 points in a game in the 2nd half to win. The two teams split last season, Michigan winning at the Crisler Center 100-94 in overtime (OSU lost despite having SEVEN players score in double figures), then the Buckeyes rallied from 13 down in Columbus to post a 77-73 win. Thursday's game is the only meeting between the two teams during the regular season.

Weather permitting (a major snowstorm is slated to pound the East Coast this weekend) Ohio State will visit Rutgers Sunday. The two teams met just two weekends back in Columbus and Ohio State used a big 3rd quarter to pull away for a 90-78 win. Up 43-34 at the break, the Buckeyes went for 32 points in the 3rd-10 minutes, pushing their lead to as many 23. Ohio State outrebounded the Scarlet Knights 40-36 and outscored the visitors 24-12 at the free throw line. Rutgers at home is a handful, having won 8 of their 9 games this season at the RAC, including the last 8. Rutgers has scored 30 or more points in the paint 3 of their last 4 games. This will be Ohio State's first visit to Rutgers since the 1st game a non-conference home and home series back in the 2004-05 season.

We join you Thursday night from Ann Arbor at 5:45 for the pre-game show, with the tip at just after 6:00. Sunday from Rutgers it's a 2:45 pre-game start, and the tip at just after 3:00. All games as always, on 1460 ESPN, are available on line at http://www.971thefan.com/, then follow the links to 1460 ESPN.


January 13, 2016

Having won 8-straight games, 5th ranked Ohio State starts perhaps it's roughest stretch of B1G games with a Thursday visit to #24 Northwestern, and then a Sunday meeting with current co-leader Purdue. Ohio State will play four of its next six games away from Columbus, with one of the home games with the Northwestern team they will face Thursday.

The last two wins at home for the Buckeyes were each impressive in their own way. The 97-70 victory over Indiana was highlighted by a second half pull away from a pesky Hoosier team. The win for Coach Kevin McGuff's team came on the heels of the Michigan State and Maryland victories......wins that McGuff knew would increase the "target size" on the backs of his team.

In the Indiana game the Buckeyes played somewhat sluggishly, McGuff calling the effort "not bad, but not to the level we had been playing" Leading by just five, 40-35 after the first twenty minutes, the Buckeyes found that "up tempo gear" they possess midway through the 3rd quarter. Much of that provided by the play of Shayla Cooper. She scored a career high 23 points for the game, and at times simply took over the proceedings on both ends of the floor. She was 10-of-16 shooting the ball, and totaled eight rebounds in just 25 minutes. Alexa Hart's night was equally as impressive. She totaled 18 points to go along with 13 rebounds, blocked a pair of shots, and had two steals and two assists. Although the
Buckeyes do not have the so called "true post threat"....Cooper and Hart can be as effective inside as any, and their ability to run the floor makes life tough for opposing post players. Ameryst Alston, who had scorched the Hoosiers in three prior meetings to the tune of 26 points per outing, struggled until the 4th quarter. She scored eight of her 14 points in the final 10 minutes, hitting a pair of threes. The Buckeyes turned ball over a season low six times and outrebounded the Hoosiers 50-36.

Sunday a talented Rutgers team came in and again Ohio State's athleticism and "spurt-ability" proved to be the difference. Ohio State never trailed and withstood a number of Scarlet Knights runs to get the win. The Buckeyes made 9 of their first 15 shots from the field and held Rutgers to 10 points over the first 10 minutes. Rutgers entered the game allowing the fewest points per game (52) in the B1G. The Buckeyes had 43 at the break, and without 13 turnovers in the initial 20 minutes could have scored more. Again, Alexa Hart was a key cog in the win. Hart totaled 17 points and pulled down eight rebounds, but also made seven of the nine free throws she took. She has improved greatly at the line this season, so the "Hack-a-Hart" approach that teams took at times last year may backfire if tried this go-around. Kelsey Mitchell scored 31 points, the 3rd time this season she has surpassed the 30-point mark. Mitchell also dished out six assists in the win.

Thursday the Buckeyes hit the road and play at Northwestern. The Wildcats, after winning 11 of their first 12 games, have struggled out of the B1G gate. Coach Joe McKewon's team has lost three of its first four game conference games. The `Cats feature four double-figure scorers, topped by Nia Coffey's 18.6 points per outing. Coffey also averages 11 rebounds a game. She is the only player in the league averaging a double-double. Despite Coffey's efforts on the glass, the Wildcats are next to last in the league in rebounding margin. Guard Ashley Deary is second in the B1G in assists at just over six an outing. In their most recent loss, 74-51 at Michigan State, the Wildcats made just three of their 26 three-point shots. In the prior Purdue loss, they were 3-for-17 behind the arc.

Sunday, Ohio State hosts Purdue in the only regular season meeting for the two. The Boilers certainly qualify as a bit of surprise to this point of the season, as I'm not sure many thought they would have won 13 of their first 15 games and enter the week tied for the B1G lead with Ohio State. The Boilers have just one player in the league's top 30 individual scorers (guard April Wilson at 14 ppg). They are, as is seemingly the case with just about all of Sharon Versyp's teams, one of the stingiest in the league defensively. Purdue allows the 2nd fewest points per game, they hold opponents to the 4th lowest defensive field goal percentage, and are 4th in steals. Only two teams have scored at least 70 points against the Boilers, and they have held four foes under 40 points in a game. Matchups with Purdue are always (with just a few exceptions) tense, hard fought games, and this certainly is one of the better rivalries in the league.

We join you Thursday from Northwestern starting at 7:45 with our pre-game show, followed by the tip at 8:00. Sunday, our broadcast opens with the pre-game at 1:45, and the Purdue tip at 2:00. All games as always are on 1460 ESPN, and you can also join us online by going to http://www.971thefan.com/ and following the links to 1460 ESPN.


January 7, 2016

If the target was not already a sizeable one on the backs of the now 5th ranked Ohio State women's basketball team, it has without a doubt grown after the team's last two wins. The key now, understanding that and building off the impressive victories over top-25 ranked Michigan State and Maryland to open B1G play.

Coach Kevin McGuff addressed that during his Tuesday session with the media prior to the Buckeyes practice. For all the things his team did well in the wins....make crucial shots, get key rebounds, come up with defensive stops...those all will be even more critical as the treacherous B1G schedule continues. Coach McGuff saying that the key now is to build off of what they have done, citing Maryland as a prime example. McGuff saying that the Terrapins got better as each of the last two seasons progressed, and did not peak in January. That being a big reason they reached the last two Final Fours. I talked with sophomore guard Asia Doss prior to practice that day, and she echoed those sentiments, adding this team still has a long way to go to reach where it wants to be. Her attitude is especially interesting, as she went from starting EVERY game in her freshman season last year, to coming off the bench this year in all but one game. While obviously wanting to start, she told me she has taken to her role, knowing that "minutes are precious" with this team and she makes every effort to contribute in whatever area she is asked. Her offensive game has certainly improved, putting one more option on the floor for the Buckeyes.

It was admittedly tough having to "listen" to the last two wins while in Arizona with the Buckeye football team for the Fiesta Bowl, so I am glad to be back for the remainder of the campaign. My thanks to Neil Sika for sitting in. (Coach McGuff called me "Wally Pipp" as we exchanged text messages after the wins)

Indiana and Rutgers come in for two home games Thursday and Sunday. The Hoosiers enter Value City Arena after a 77-69 overtime win over Michigan. That win came on the heels of a B1G opening loss at Wisconsin. Indiana, which in the off season saw leading scorer Larryn Brooks and key reserve Tyler Agler both transfer, has posted impressive wins over Chattanooga and Georgia Tech. Guard Tyra Buss, who had a solid freshman year, is now the Hoosiers top scorer, averaging just under 20 points a game. She has scored in double figures in every game this year, and has played at least 31 minutes in every outing.

IU does struggle at times shooting the three, they were 1-for-8 behind the arc in the Michigan win, but countered that by getting to the free throw line 42 times, making 32 of those. Defensively, the last 6 opponents have all shot 40% or better from the field against Indiana. Depth is an IU issue, only 10 players have played this year. The two games with the Hoosiers last year for Ohio State could not have been more different. Ohio State rolled the Hoosiers 103-49 in Bloomington, then battled to a 78-70 win in Columbus. Buckeye guard Ameryst Alston has been especially tough on the Hoosiers lately. In the last 3 meetings she has scored 26 points per game, shot 66% from the floor, and averaged five rebounds and five assists. Ohio State has won 19 of the last 21 meetings. This is the only regular season get-together with IU.

Rutgers comes in Sunday. The Scarlet Knights had a five game win streak snapped Monday night when they lost 69-65 at Iowa. The game was a physical affair, and Rutgers still seems to possess some of that so-called "Big East" rough and tumble mentality. Don't be misled by that, they have talent. Kahleah Copper (an all-conference selection) and Tyler Scaife both average over 16 points per game, and 6'4 Rachel Hollivay is a presence inside. Iowa was the first team this season to shoot better than 50% from the floor against C. Vivian Stringer's team. Rutgers has outrebounded 10 of their 14 opponents. Ohio State won the teams' only meeting last year at Value City 85-68. Rutgers hosts Wisconsin Thursday night before coming to Columbus Sunday. Ohio State will travel to Rutgers January 24th.

Our coverage Thursday vs Indiana starts at 6:45 p.m. with our pre-game show, the tip follows at 7:00 p.m. Sunday coverage begins at 1:45 p.m. with the tip at 2:00 p.m. The games, as always, on 1460 ESPN, or listen on-line at http://www.971thefan.com/, then follow the links to 1460 ESPN.

December 18, 2015

A challenging non-conference schedule for Ohio State wraps up with a pair of entertaining and interesting match-ups as Princeton and Virginia will visit the Schottenstein Center. With the B1G schedule rapidly approaching, the Buckeyes last two games before league play opens are crucial.

Ohio State arrives at its next two games having won six of its last seven. Among those a win over then 10th ranked Texas A&M, and a road victory over the Cincinnati Bearcats. The latest victory coming on Sunday, when the Buckeyes steadily pulled away from North Carolina A&T in a 89-56 home win. To most it looks on paper like a win over another of those "directional, hyphenated school" type opponents, but there were areas where the Buckeyes took some positive steps. First and foremost A&T was a team Ohio State should beat by 30 or so points, and they did just that. The Buckeyes also saw improvement in two areas where they have struggled at times this year, defense and rebounding. The Buckeyes in the 4th quarter held the Aggies to just five points, and throughout the game generated offense from their defense. Ohio State scored 24 points off Aggie turnovers, making them pay for almost every mistake they made. In rebounding, the Buckeyes' edge was 40-33. The numbers in that category should improve when Shayla Cooper returns following a one game suspension. Cooper is averaging almost 10 boards per game. Her ability to rebound will be crucial the remainder of the season.

Also along the front line, Alexa Hart has started to show flashes of her play from her freshman season. In her last two games Hart has totaled 28 points, 20 rebounds, and 8 blocked shots. One other key part of the win came late in the 3rd quarter. A&T had cut the Buckeyes lead down to 16, and had some momentum. Coach Kevin McGuff decided against calling a timeout and let his team "play through" the rough stretch, and they responded. They quickly pushed the lead back into the 20's, and carried that momentum through the 4th quarter. In my opinion, that was a significant "growth" moment for this team. Despite all the talent that returns, this team still is learning about itself, and that was a solid step forward.

Princeton is the first of the final two non-conference games that await the Buckeyes.
The Tigers were one of the stories in last year's season. They won their first 31 games, before falling in the NCAA 2nd round at Maryland. Coach Courtney Banghart's team excels in two areas that I wrote about earlier where Ohio State is still working out the kinks, defense and rebounding. The Tigers opponents score just 53 points per outing, and they are dominating their opposition on the glass by almost 16 rebounds per game. They already own a win over Michigan, and beat a Pitt team that came into Columbus last year and defeated the Buckeyes. Princeton returns four starters, and the Tigers are ranked #1 in the latest "mid-major" top 25 poll.

Virginia from the ACC comes in Monday night. The Cavaliers currently own a 7-3 record as they prepare to host Charleston Southern Friday night. After winning their first five games, the Cavaliers dropped three straight. Among those losses was an 85-73 setback at home to Iowa in the B1G/ACC Challenge. They also dropped a 60-48 decision to Rutgers. Four players score in double figures for UVA, led by Mikayla Venson at just under 14 points per game (She scored 28 in the Iowa loss).
Faith Randolph scores 13 points per outing. She and Venson were all ACC selections last season. The Cavaliers beat the Buckeyes in Charlottesville last year in the season opener.

We join you Friday night for our pre-game show at 6:45, with the tip at 7:00 p.m. Monday similar times, 6:45 pre game followed by a 7:00 tip. The games, as always, on 1460 ESPN. You can listen on line by accessing our website http://www.971thefan.com/ and follow the links to 1460 ESPN.

November 19, 2015

Ohio State gets back into action with two home games before it begins another challenging stretch of games after Thanksgiving.

The first two games to open the season, the season-opening loss at South Carolina and the Monday defeat the hands of defending champ UConn were designed to give Kevin McGuff and his staff an early indication of where this team is.

There were definitely positive signs in Columbus. The Buckeyes, after falling behind big early, did not flinch and roared back and even held the lead late. That 88-80 loss came in a charged up atmosphere with almost 16,000 fans watching. While Kelsey Mitchell and Ameryst Alston had their usual effective games on offense, one more double-figure scorer may have been enough to get the Buckeyes over the hump.

Monday night against UConn? The Huskies 40 minutes were as impressive a performance by a team in its season opener as I have seen. They are long defensively at every position, contest every shot and make you pay dearly for every mistake you make. That being said, I know all associated with Ohio State wanted, and expected, to play better. How they rebound from that game will be interesting to watch, and I am confident it will be a successful recovery. Still, anytime you lose 100-56, you also realize there is still a lot to do, regardless of the strength of the opponent.

The next two games, tonight vs. Belmont and Sunday's game with Wagner, look to be good chances to work out whatever kinks have emerged. No matter the opponent, Ohio State can't be outscored 22-5 in the game's first minutes, like they have been total in the first two games, and expect to roll along. Ler's not forget, 88 and 100 points have been allowed in two games. Make no mistake, Kevin McGuff demands better in that area.

Belmont is a member of the Ohio Valley Conference, and the Burins bring a 2-0 record to Columbus. They were the pre-season #3 choice in the OVC, and return four starters from last year's team. Guards Sierra Jones leads the Bruins in scoring at 12.5 points per game, 6-3 post Sally McCabe was a preseason All-OVC selection. They reach Columbus off a 63-62 win over UAB.

Wagner comes to Columbus Sunday for a game at St. John Arena. With Ohio State in line to host 1st and 2nd round NCAA Tournament games in March, this game is the required arena site "run through" game. Members of the Northeast Conference, Wagner has dropped its first two games. They fell at Pittsburgh and at Old Dominion by a combined total of 40 points. Last year, guard Jasmine Nwajei finished second to the Buckeyes' Kelsey Mitchell as the nation's leading scorer. Nwajei was also 3rd in steals. Nwajei is averaging 15 points per game through two games.

Our coverage tonight starts at 6:45 p.m. with the tip at 7:00 p.m. Sunday, we join you at 1:45 p.m. followed by a 2 p.m. tip. Both games, as always, are on 1460 ESPN.

November 13, 2015

"We certainly aren't dodging anyone".....that perhaps the best comment to sum up the non-conference schedule that Ohio State faces this coming basketball season. Coach Kevin McGuff could not have said it any better, what with the Buckeyes facing three of last year's Final Four teams before the B1G season starts in late December.

Before we get further into that, let's look at the Buckeyes as they get ready to open Friday night at South Carolina.

After last year's thrilling and heart-breaking ending to the Buckeyes NCAA Tournament run, the collective thoughts turned to this season. Directly, the thoughts centered on having a full roster, instead of the eight healthy players that the Buckeyes rolled out each game. The comment I heard the most was "wow, look what they did with eight, think what they can do with a whole roster".

Of course, the returnees on the perimeter get the majority of the attention. Senior Ameryst Alston and now sophomore All-American Kelsey Mitchell formed one the highest scoring backcourt duos in the nation. Mitchell, who was nothing short of sensational, led the country in scoring. Alston (who took advantage of the attention on Mitchell and had a very good year offensively) averaged just a shade under 20-points-per-game. She is one of the best at breaking down an defender off the dribble. Both have improved their games, especially on defense. Asia Doss and Cait Craft also return, and both bring many intangibles. Both defend, handle the ball well, and are not afraid to do the little things (battle for loose balls, guard whomever they are asked to) that make each player valuable. Kianna Holland is full go this year after missing last year with a knee injury. It tells you something about her impact when she was named one of the three captains, despite not playing a minute last year. Holland is a strong perimeter shooter, and has one of the quickest shot releases I've seen. Freshman Kaylan Pugh has impressed early on as well. A strong player, she handles the ball well, rebounds, and has shown moments on defense. What you have in the backcourt are for the most part interchangiable players, giving Coach McGuff many options there.

Rebounding was a big issue for the Buckeyes last year, as then freshman Alexa Hart was tasked with a majority of that responsiblity. Shayla Cooper's arrival in December eased that burden, as did the continued development of Lisa Blair. This is a big area for Ohio State to improve in. When they were at least competitive on the glass, they were just that much more dangerous. In fact, the Buckeyes were 11-0 last year when they outrebounded their opponents. It's not fair to say the season Alexa Hart put together was a pleasant surprise, but there is no doubt she impressed each time out, and got markedly better as the season went on. It was thought her offense may need some time to develop, but she became a
reliable scorer, with nice moves around the hoop. Her shot blocking and rebounding were crucial to the Buckeyes success. Cooper brought (and brings) a needed air of toughness to the floor. She has developed a nice mid-range game on offense, and can defend and rebound with anyone. It seems Blair gets better with each practice. I'm sure some wondered what she would eventually bring, but she has worked hard, and has made herself into a counted-upon player up front. Makayla Waterman will be a factor across the front as well. She runs the floor well, can handle the ball, and can rebound. Kalpana Beach has been full go as well in practice, and certainly can bring another body to the fray up front.

This is a team that has the ability to impose it's will on opponents, and will make life miserable for teams with it's pressure. What you saw last year was the style the Buckeyes play simply wear teams down, (and that was with 8 players). Defense will have to improve, as yes, the Buckeyes can score with anyone, but on the night the shots are not falling, they have to be able to put the clamps on people.

Ah, the schedule.....if you can't excited for this non-conference slate, then I'm not sure what you want. Three of last year's national semi-finalists await the Buckeyes, (including the home opener Monday with 3-time defending champ UConn), and just for good measure, Texas A&M, Liberty, Virginia and Princeton will challenge the Buckeyes. You want to find out just how good you are prior to the B1G schedule?....here's your chance.

Oh, in case you missed it, don't get thrown by the game now being played in four, ten minute periods. Yep, the two 20 minutes halves are history.

The season opens Friday night at South Carolina, Neil Sika sits in for me, and will be joined by Toni Roesch. Coverage on 1460 ESPN starts at 6:45 p.m......Monday, Toni joins me for the game with UConn. We are on the air at 5:15 p.m.