March 21, 2013

Notebook: Bucks ready to play at any time

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Follow Noon | Givler | Axelrod | Birmingham

DAYTON, Ohio - Sometimes the waiting is the hardest part, or at least that is what Tom Petty would like you to believe. Most of the field of 68 will be cut in half by the time that Ohio State takes the court on Friday night at 7:15pm (EDT) as the Buckeyes hope to advance against the No. 15 seed of Iona.

One could look at that as a chance for the Buckeyes to get some rest after playing three games in three days in the Big Ten Tournament while others could see it as a negative with the team being cooped up in their hotel, watching basketball and wanting to start the march toward Atlanta.

"We are just excited to play, whether we play early or we play late," center Trey McDonald said.

By the time Ohio State plays there will have been 25 second round games played or underway and the field will have already seen 20 teams have their dreams dashed. But playing late is not always a bad thing as well when it gives you a chance to survey the landscape and not come into a game overconfident, or at least that would be conventional wisdom.

"I would rather play late because the seed we are in, we want to get a great seed," forward Deshaun Thomas said. "It doesn't really matter to us as long as we make it to the NCAA Tournament and go out there and play Ohio State basketball and play with passion, we will be great no matter what."

Ohio State is not short on experience and every player outside of true freshman Amedeo Della Valle has played in the NCAA Tournament before. Coming off of three straight games in the Big Ten Tournament has the team used to playing on short turnaround but waiting a little bit longer doesn't faze this veteran-laden team.

"The time we play doesn't really matter to me," guard Shannon Scott said. "We have to just play our A game, regardless of who we are playing and we are going to watch the games today and go from there."

And Iona has to wait just as long as Ohio State does to play so it is not as if the opponent is getting an advantage and actually the Gaels have been out of action since winning the MAAC Championship on March 11th, more than a week ago.

"We know whenever we play that we have a great test in Iona," Sam Thompson said. "They are going to come to play and we need to come to play, whether it is on Thursday or Friday so we just have to come out do what we do."

Getting your legs back?

As mentioned earlier, the Buckeyes went three straight games in three days in Chicago. Of course that is a good problem to have when you are raising the trophy at the end of the conference tournament but it could be a bad thing when you see your shot going away.

Ohio State's shooting percentage went down from 59-percent (Nebraska) to 42-percent (Michigan State) to 39-percent (Wisconsin). Of course there is something to be said about tougher competition leading to less open shot but the argument could be made about Ohio State losing its legs. The Ohio State players had a couple of differing opinions as to what warranted the dip.

"Obviously the competition got better as the tournament went on but also we were a bit fatigued" Sam Thompson said. "Honestly I didn't know that stat but what is important is that we were able to win those basketball games even with our shooting percentage going down."

Buckeyes' leading scorer Deshaun Thomas agrees that it wasn't as much about tired legs that led to Ohio State's shrinking offense in the B1G Tourney but rather highly correctable decisions by shooters like himself.

"We were rushing the shots a little bit and getting so anxious," Thomas said. "But we have guys who are really scoring the ball right now, like Craft and Q and they are scoring well and you really don't need that one person who can score when you have a lot of people scoring."

And with the emergence of players on the offensive side like Aaron Craft and LaQuinton Ross, the need for Thomas to be the main guy is diminished.

"Sometimes we were not taking the best possible shots that we could," Shannon Scott said. "I think as we go later into the tournament we are going to get better shots and improve from there."

But Thomas did make one prediction, especially after having a couple of days of practice and rest under his belt.

"A lot of people have their legs back in it and you are going to see a lot of threes knocked down," Thomas said with a sheepish smile.

Short trip

The Buckeyes only had to make the 70-some mile trip from Columbus to Dayton to play their first two games and Dayton Arena was decked in Scarlet and Gray as the Buckeyes had their open practice of the session. Sam Thompson, Lenzelle Smith, Jr., LaQuinton Ross and even Shannon Scott put on a show with an impromptu dunk session for the fans.

It is well documented that the last time that Ohio State played in Dayton that things didn't go so well but that time around it was an 8-9 game, a game that is really just a coin flip. A 15-2 match-up is not a sure thing but odds are much more in Ohio State's favor to make it out of the first game (second round).

The Buckeyes are just happy to be close to home and not have to venture too far, even if they are in the 'West Regional'.

"This is amazing," Craft said. "We practiced this morning in our own gym, which is great, got on the bus and got over here really quickly. It was a lot quicker than I thought it was going to be. Buckeye Nation travels really well, and being only about an hour away, it can only help. We're just excited to see what kind of crowd we can get out there."


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