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The Buckeyes might have crawled back from the brink of NCAA tournament limbo Tuesday night in Iowa City, as they survived a last-second 3-point attempt by the Hawkeyes to pull out a 60-58 victory. Ohio State's Dallas Lauderdale blocked a layup with six seconds to play that would have tied the game, and the final Hawkeye shot, permitted by Evan Turner's missed free throw, got rim, but bounced off at the buzzer. In his latest edition of Buckeye Leaves, Buckeye Dan updates our readers on the Buckeye hoop team, David Lighty's return, Mo Clarett's blog from prison ... as well as much more.
The Buckeyes might have crawled back from the brink of NCAA tournament limbo Tuesday night in Iowa City, as they survived a last-second 3-point attempt by the Hawkeyes to pull out a
. Ohio State's Dallas Lauderdale blocked a layup with six seconds to play that would have tied the game, and the final Hawkeye shot, permitted by Evan Turner's missed free throw, got rim, but bounced off at the buzzer.
Turner led the Buckeyes with 22 points, five boards and nine assists, and Jon Diebler hit 4 of 7 threes to finish with 12 points. Lauderdale had just four points and four rebounds, but his late block was the play of the game, and probably prevented an overtime.
Coming into this game, Thad Matta's troops were tumbling to an 8-8 conference record after a brief early-February surge that had seen them pull away from the .500 mark to 7-4. The solid NCAA tournament berth that looked to be firmly in hand a month ago was starting to look more iffy even before Purdue
blew out the Bucks
by 25 points in West Lafayette on Saturday.
But the picture is a lot rosier for Matta's big dance card today, with the 19-9 overall mark and a home game against Northwestern this Sunday, a chance to finish with a 10-8 conference record as the Big Ten regular season schedule wraps up. With a win in that game, even a first-round exit from the conference tournament probably couldn't keep Ohio State out of the NCAA's. The Iowa win is a huge swing victory for Matta, who wouldn't have been assured a finish higher than 9th in the conference if Ohio State had lost to Iowa.
Ohio State came into the game with an
of 42, and will now fight it out with Wisconsin and Penn State, both currently 9-7 in the conference, for 4th place
in the league
behind front-runners Michigan State, Purdue and Illinois. A winning conference record, plus a 10-1 non-conference mark, including resumé-enhancing wins over Miami (FL), Butler and Notre Dame, should convince the NCAA committee to slot Ohio State in the field of 65.
Since the last Leaves edition, the Bucks suffered a 3-game losing streak to end the month, including
a tough 55-50 loss
at Wisconsin, and then an even tougher
at Northwestern, which ended an 11-game OSU winning streak over the Wildcats. (It's always tough when you lose to the Wildcats in
....surely you get that.)
Illinois applied the trifecta with
a 2-point win
in Columbus, a game in which the Illini led at the break, and never trailed in the second half. A convincing
over a surprisingly good Penn State team stopped the Scarlet and Gray bleeding temporarily, but Purdue squelched any Buckeye momentum with
that dominating win
over the weekend.
Only West Virginia whipped the Buckeyes by a greater margin this season, and the 50-point total for Ohio State brings into question this team's ability to generate enough offensive punch to make any significant tournament splash. Purdue held Turner to 14 points in the game, and no other Buckeye could manage more than seven.
Teams that figure out a way to deny Jon Diebler good looks at 3-pointers seem to succeed against these Bucks. He was held to eight points
in losses to Wisconsin and Purdue, and there just don't seem to enough other scoring options on this team to make up for an off-night shooting by Diebler.
Help on the Way?
Hopes of getting David Lighty back before tourney time were jolted somewhat when he experienced so much soreness in his injured foot after practicing for the first time that he couldn't go on it the next few days. At this point it looks like the team can hardly count on getting any significant contribution from Lighty in the season's last weeks.
And that makes the job Thad Matta has done this season all the more remarkable. He started the season with no seniors on the entire roster, and only one player with more than one year in the OSU program. That was Lighty, Matta's only junior contributor, and he went out with a broken foot before Christmas. Getting this group into the NCAA Tournament with nothing but underclassmen and JC transfers might be Matta's best coaching job since he's been in Columbus.
It looks as though the recurring problem of keeping his best young players in college may continue after this season for Coach Matta. People much closer to the program than I are saying they expect freshman center B. J. Mullens and sophomore guard Evan Turner to declare for early entry into the NBA. Sure seems to me that Mullens could use another year at the college level, but the big bucks beckon. What can you do? Turner, on the other hand, could probably play in the NBA right now if he improved his ball-handling a little bit.
Not only will these defections (obviously, just rumored ones at this stage) hurt the continuity of the program for Matta, but without open roster spots (no seniors) this year, he hasn't been recruiting for the 2009 class, and may have to fill in with JC players or try to get in late on some other recruits. Matta does have 7-footer
practicing but sitting out this season after transferring to OSU, but a replacement for Turner is nowhere in sight.
In a minor traffic incident in Columbus the other day, freshmen Buckeye offensive tackles Mike Adams and J.B Shugarts were stopped by police for rolling through a stop sign. Some slightly more serious charges were made initially, and then quickly dropped for lack of evidence, making this
the most celebrated stop sign violation
in recent memory.
On Tuesday, ESPN, the sports network that could always be counted on to bravely report Maurice Clarett's every inane utterance,
that Mo-C now has
, presumably to cut out the middle-man. To his credit I suppose, Clarett (who has no access to a computer in jail, but dictates to people on the outside) seems more coherent than he has in years, and he certainly is humbler and less self-centered than ever....a low bar to get over, to be sure.
The Buckeye wrestling team (16-2, 7-1) under third-year coach
is ranked 6th nationally going into
this weekend's Big Ten Tournament
at Penn State. Top-ranked Iowa is the favorite, but the Buckeyes finished second in the conference, and have a legitimate chance to win the tournament for the first time since 1951.
Ryan's Buckeyes finished second in last year's NCAA Championships on the strength of two individual national champions,
, both of whom return for another shot at All-American status this year. But the Big Ten Tournament is almost as tough as the NCAA's, as
conference teams are ranked in
the nation's top 25
Coach Tressel's football staff added another name to the 2010 recruiting class with a commitment from David Durham, a linebacker from Texas. And I don't need to elaborate, because our TCF colleague Mike Furlan is all over the story
One of the annual features of college football's National Letter-of-Intent Day, when high school football recruits formally commit to colleges, is the selection
of the All-Name Team from among the signees. These come to you via Mike Wachsman, of Buckeye Sports Bulletin, who gives his top award this year to Florida International signee Pooh Bear Mars (whose real first name it turns out, is Larvez.) Here are a few of my own favorites from the selections:
Justin Cabbagestalk, Vanderbilt
Blaze Caponegro, Temple
Mister Cobble, Kentucky
Pearlie Graves, Texas Tech
Dax Dilbeck, Oregon State
Daytawion Lowe, Oklahoma St.
Boogie McCray, Louisville
Barkevious Mingo, LSU
Nubian Peak, Virginia Tech
Radermon Scypion, Houston
Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe, Boise St.
Isaac Virgin, South Florida
Diamond Weaver, Akron
Rantavious Wooten, Georgia
Nothing against Pooh Bear Mars...I mean, he does have a famous literary character and a planet for names, after all. But you can't do much better, even in a good year, than Barkevious Mingo. Just sayin'.
See you next time in Buckeye Leaves.
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