Stan Van Gundy is jobless.Whether center Dwight Howard asked for it or not, Stan Van Gundy is out as coach of the Orlando Magic — and general manager Otis Smith, too.Those two were at the helm of one of the franchise’s most successful eras, an era that in recent years has been marred by a tumultuous relationship between Van Gundy and Howard, its perennial all-star center. In fact, the relationship reached a peculiar stage when, prior to the playoffs, Van Gundy claimed, without prompting, that Howard had requested to the team’s hiearchy that Van Gundy be fired.Howard denied doing so, but soon after was sidelined with back troubles. Orlando went on to lose to Philadelphia in the first round. Turns out, that was Van Gundy’s and Smith’s final competition with the Magic.“It’s time for a new leadership and a new approach,” Magic CEO Alex Martins said at a news conference to discuss the moves. “We simply came to the decision that we were not on the right track.”Martins added: “At no time during that time did Dwight ask me to have Stan fired.”No replacements have been named, but Martins said the hope is to have a new general manager in place by the NBA Draft in late June.There has been much speculation about Howard. He vacillated much of the season on whether he would accept a trade. The latest is that he does not want to return a Orlando.
Josh Smith will apparently meet with the Houston Rockets today to discuss the possibility of joining their franchise, which is also pursuing Smith’s childhood friend, Dwight Howard, according to NBA.com.One has to wonder if the organization is trying to assemble their own big three, which could possibly be Howard, Smith and the current Rockets player James Harden. The franchise reportedly had a good meeting with Howard, and is moving forward with finding pieces to compliment the free agent center. By way of explanation, the Houston Rockets is upbeat enough to where they have started chasing other players who would make a good fit with Howard.According to Yahoo! Sports, Smith, who most recently played for Atlanta Hawks, has other teams seeking him as well. He already met with the Detroit Pistons just shortly after the free agency clock started, in which the general manager Joe Dumars considered him a top choice.
This combination photo shows Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James during an NBA basketball game against the Phoenix Suns in Phoenix on March 13, 2018, left, and filmmaker Ryan Coogler at the world premiere of “A Wrinkle in Time” in Los Angeles on Feb. 26, 2018. (AP Photo)LOS ANGELES (AP) — “Black Panther” director Ryan Coogler is joining LeBron James and the “Space Jam 2” team.James’ production company SpringHill Entertainment tweeted Wednesday that Coogler will produce the sequel to the 1996 movie that featured Michael Jordan alongside Warner Bros.’ animated characters.“Random Acts of Flyness” creator Terence Nance will direct James, and Bugs Bunny, in the film.According to The Hollywood Reporter which first reported the news, production is tentatively slated to being in 2019 during the NBA offseason.The Space Jam sequel with @KingJames has been announced! How many championships will the Tune Squad win? pic.twitter.com/OC524ER8Ki— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) September 19, 2018
DALJ. BennT. SeguinA. Radulov201360.6 None of this is to say the Bruins are a one-line team — they’re far from it. Rookie forwards Danton Heinen and Jake DeBrusk have already chipped in with 11 goals each, and rookie defenseman Charlie McAvoy5McAvoy recently underwent minor surgery to correct an abnormal heart rhythm, but is expected to return in two weeks. is building a solid case for the Calder Memorial Trophy. And David Krejci is a pretty decent second line center, too: He’s scored 24 points in 29 games, and he’s winning 56.3 percent of his faceoffs, by far the best mark of his career.Boston will lose in regulation again — Marchand, who is serving a five-game suspension, and McAvoy’s temporary absences should ensure this happens sooner than later. But there’s nothing in recent memory suggesting Boston’s top line will cease to be a possession beast any time soon.6All three forwards finished in the top ten in Corsi percentage in 2016-17. If they keep getting (and burying) their chances — and if Rask’s ascendancy holds up, which his dazzling career implies it might — the Bruins might find themselves playing hockey in June again. TBLV. NamestnikovS. StamkosN. Kucherov261957.8 TMLeft wingCenterright wingForVS.For % Each member of the line must be on the ice for a goal to qualifySource: Left Wing Lock NYIA. LeeJ. TavaresJ. Bailey241955.8 Goals TORZ. HymanA. MatthewsW. Nylander24972.7 BOSB. MarchandP. BergeronD. Pastrnak21387.5% For the first couple months of the season, the Boston Bruins had more problems than they could handle. They had lost more games than they had won. They were firmly out of the playoff picture. Top-line center Patrice Bergeron and his linemate Brad Marchand had both missed time with injuries. So had second-line center David Krejci. Goalie Tuukka Rask was a husk of his former self, and looked for a moment as though he might lose his starting job. Matt Beleskey, who the Bruins decided to pay $19 million because he had a handful of good weeks during the spring of 2015, had been placed on waivers.1He cleared them and now plays for Boston’s AHL affiliate in Providence.This was a team that had won the Presidents’ Trophy as recently as 2013-14, and that had a core made up of several skaters who’d played in two of the past seven Stanley Cup Finals. This was also a team that had failed to qualify for two of the past three postseasons, and that hadn’t won a playoff series since they beat the Detroit Red Wings in the spring of 2014.But since a loss to the Washington Capitals in mid-December, the Bruins have been damn near untouchable: They are 14-0-4 in their last 18 games. The Bruins looked like basement dwellers a few months ago, and now pundits are wondering whether they’re legitimate Stanley Cup contenders. But are they for real, or is this streak just a tantalizing aberration?The Bruins are a balanced hockey team — seven skaters have at least 25 points — but much of their recent form can be attributed to the extraordinary play of a rejuvenated Rask and the top line of Bergeron, Marchand, and David Pastrnak, which has established itself as one of the best in the NHL.In his last 18 starts, Rask has lost exactly zero games in regulation; in his prior 13 starts, he had won just three. During his recent dominant stretch, Rask has stopped 94 percent of the shots he’s faced; during his disastrous stretch, he stopped just under 90 percent of the shots he faced.2Not what you’d expect from the NHL’s all-time leader in save percentage.Goaltender play is notoriously unstable, so these gulfs in Rask’s performance aren’t actually as shocking as they seem on the surface. Even if Rask’s save percentage regresses and he stops roughly 92 percent of the shots he faces for the rest of the season, the Bruins will be in good shape.To explain the dominance of Marchand, Bergeron, and Pastrnak, the best place to start is their possession numbers. Bergeron is yet again among the league’s elite faceoff takers, winning more than 57 percent of his draws.3That number drops a bit to roughly 53 percent on power play draws, but Bergeron can be forgiven — unless he’s the man in the penalty box, teams often task their best faceoff man with taking draws on the penalty kill. Among qualifying skaters, all three on Boston’s top line rank in the top 50 in Corsi percentage,4Adjusted for score, zone and venue. which estimates a player’s possession rate by measuring the percentage of shot attempts directed at his opponent’s net versus his own net while he’s on the ice. And because the Bruins’ top troika are sending so many shots toward their opponents’ nets, all three also rank in the top 15 for goals per 60 minutes.Among lines that qualify, only 11 others in the NHL have a higher combined shooting percentage than the combination of Marchand, Bergeron, and Pastrnak. And their goals for percentage — which takes the total number of goals scored while a line is on the ice together and calculates the percentage of those goals that were goals scored by the line — is by far the best in the league. LOSA. IafalloA. KopitarD. Brown201360.6 VGKR. SmithW. KarlssonJ. Marchessault321666.7 PHIC. GirouxS. CouturierJ. Voracek231069.7 COLG. LandeskogN. MacKinnonM. Rantanen291467.4 The best among the best lines in the NHLThe top 10 lines in the NHL in goals scored while playing 5-on-5, by percentage of goals for CGYJ. GaudreauS. MonahanM. Ferland251267.6
As we cross the one-quarter mark of the NBA season — with the Clippers in first place out West, the Kings playing .500 ball, and the Jazz and Rockets near the bottom looking up — things are starting to come into clearer focus. That clarity is more than welcome, given how topsy-turvy the league has been for the first month and a half of play.We know a lot will change between now and April, but for the time being, here are the five things we’ve been most and least surprised by so far this year.Surprising: The Celtics haven’t been good, and the Jazz have been even worse.Boston, finally healthy after losing two of its best players last year, has been one of the bigger mysteries of the season. The Celtics have been elite defensively again this year,1At least from a statistical standpoint. They haven’t been very good at limiting individual scoring outbursts at all. but the offense — which almost never gets to the line — can’t get out of its own way much of the time.Before the season began, Jaylen Brown expressed a belief that the starting wings (him, Gordon Hayward and Jayson Tatum) have nearly identical skill sets, which was affecting chemistry. And after watching them for a month and a half, we can’t say that he was wrong. With that in mind, Brad Stevens’s recent lineup shift to bring the struggling Hayward off the bench could help matters.Hayward and Brown, in particular, have both shot far better from the floor when playing apart from each other. Hayward sports a solid 53.9 percent effective field-goal rate without Brown but just 39.7 percent with him. And Brown’s 50.5 percent effective field-goal rate without Hayward is well above the 38.5 percent mark he posts while sharing the court with Hayward.Their net ratings also improve when playing apart. The Celtics outscore opponents by 9 points per 100 possessions with Hayward but without Brown, and Boston wins by a margin of 1.5 points per 100 when Brown is on the court but Hayward is on the sideline. But the Celtics hemorrhage 2.2 points per 100 possessions with the two playing together.Using floor-spacing forward Marcus Morris as a starter may work better because of his rugged screen-setting ability. His off-ball screens, useful for a lineup with so many scoring options on the wing, produce the best scoring efficiency of any player on the team2Minimum 15 screens. at 1.12 points per possession when both Tatum and Hayward are on the floor and a whopping 1.53 points per possession when Tatum and Brown are playing together, according to Second Spectrum.It’s also worth keeping an eye on Terry Rozier, who, to this point, has regressed badly on the offensive end after a highly encouraging postseason run, in which he filled in admirably for the injured Kyrie Irving.As for the Jazz, this — 10-12, and third-to-last in the West — is what happens when your league-best defense from last season is merely a middle-of-the-road one, and your offense not only fails to improve but actually morphs into one of the NBA’s five worst in that same window.What’s behind Utah’s slide? A handful of theories have been discussed. But two things stand out to me: 1) The team’s schedule — the toughest in the league3Similar to last season, when their December schedule was the toughest individual month played by any NBA team. So perhaps this is reason for optimism. — has been front-loaded, and 2) a number of players aren’t playing to their capabilities.Outside of a one-week stretch at the end of October, Donovan Mitchell has been terribly inconsistent, struggling badly from outside. Dante Exum’s offense still isn’t catching up to his defense. And perhaps the biggest issue: Ricky Rubio has been awful on both sides of the ball thus far — even more than he was to start last season, when he had just joined the club and was learning the ropes.Rubio has generally been able to hang his hat on his defense and his passing whenever he’s struggling to shoot. But this season, he has sometimes looked a half-step slower laterally on D, allowing nearly a 10th of a point more per drive he defends, at 0.98 points per play, than he did last season, according to Second Spectrum. And while opponents have long sagged off Rubio, daring him to shoot, that experiment has paid far greater dividends this season, as he’s logged just a 46.6 percent effective field goal rate on jumpers when given 6 or more feet of open space4Shots from at least 10 feet away. — down from 53.5 percent just last year, and the worst percentage he’s connected on since the 2013-14 campaign, according to NBA Advanced Stats.It’s still a little early to consider changing the lineup — especially after Rubio played so well at times last postseason. But if he doesn’t turn it around in the next month or so, it might be worth trying a new starting five and letting Mitchell handle the ball more. (Utah, realizing it needs more punch on offense, traded guard Alec Burks and two future second-rounders Wednesday for sharpshooter Kyle Korver.)We wrote this summer that we believed the Jazz could be true contenders this season — which looks incredibly wrong at the moment. But we said then that much of Utah’s hopes would hinge on Rubio’s play. For better or — to this point — perhaps for worse, that seems to be the case.Not surprising: The Grizzlies got back to Grit ’N’ Grind.A lot of people either wrote off or simply forgot about the Grizzlies after a dismal 2017-18 campaign in which they finished with 22 wins and the second-worst record in the league. But the case for believing in Memphis this season was relatively straightforward: This group, finally healthy with the return of Mike Conley and a more motivated Marc Gasol, had its best players back and added considerable two-way talent over the summer through a handful of deals.Rookie Jaren Jackson Jr. looks like a potential star at times and is already the real deal defensively. The Memphis defense can be overly aggressive at times in helping from the weak side, which leaves corner shooters open more often than most teams. But the Grizzlies’ D is a top-5 unit, and it gets downright nasty when Jackson and Gasol play together, surrendering just 96.8 points per 100 possessions in 287 minutes. (Oklahoma City, which leads the NBA in defensive efficiency, allows 102.6 points per 100 possessions.)In case you need a sign of how smart the Grizzlies’ offseason pickups were, consider this: The team’s three most-efficient rotation players5By effective field goal percentage, counting only those who have played at least 100 minutes. to this point — Omri Casspi, Shelvin Mack and Jackson — were all acquisitions from this summer. Gasol is fourth on that list, but right behind him is Garrett Temple, for whom the Grizzlies traded.So don’t be too surprised if Memphis continues to hang around in the playoff race. There were indications all along that the Grizzlies would find themselves in the midst of this conversation.Surprising: Derrick Rose’s offense came back to life.Rose’s first career 50-point game earlier this year got considerable attention, but that game was no fluke: This whole season in Minnesota has been a consistent one for the former MVP. From an efficiency standpoint, he’s actually never played this well before.He’s shooting a career-best 49.8 percent from the field, and his 60 percent mark from a true shooting standpoint is 5 points better than he’s had in any other season. Rose used to be among the NBA’s worst 3-point shooters — enough of a liability that he essentially stopped taking triples altogether in New York — but he’s been good from that range, too. The 30-year-old, who’s long been a surprisingly good midrange shooter despite having the flattest shot in the game, is better than 48 percent from 3-point distance on almost four attempts per game to this point. His hot start even has him ranking as one of the NBA’s 15 most efficient offensive players, according to ESPN’s Real Plus-Minus metric.It’s still early, but this shooting display — even if his numbers fall off some — figures to lengthen his career, a meaningful development based on how things were going 10 months ago. We knew his otherworldly athleticism wouldn’t be the same after all his injuries, but a steady jumper has changed his outlook.Not surprising: The Rockets-Melo marriage failed.We, like many others, fully recognized the potential pitfalls with Houston’s Carmelo Anthony acquisition this summer. He seemed a less-than-ideal fit, particularly as a sort of replacement for the switchy wing defenders the Rockets lost in Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute. So it’s not necessarily shocking that the experiment didn’t work.But never did we imagine that the team would pull the plug as quickly as it did. Houston cut bait on the fallen star just 10 games in — even though other clear problems seemed to exist (like the lack of depth behind Clint Capela, or Eric Gordon shooting far worse than he ever has). Still, it’s somewhat difficult to knock the haste with which the Rockets made the decision: They couldn’t afford to fall too far behind in the loaded Western Conference, where the playoff race figures to be a bloodbath, and they began playing far better after making the pragmatic choice to hold Melo out of the rotation. But even after winning five straight at one point earlier in the month, Houston now finds itself mired in a four-game skid, meaning that there’s more for this club to figure out.Surprising: California’s other NBA teams have been legitimately good.It was totally fair to wonder whether Los Angeles might be a factor in the Western Conference playoffs this season, but who would’ve thought that the Clippers would be the team making that kind of noise at this point in the year? (In fairness, LeBron James and the Lakers have played well lately, too, and may very well find themselves in the same conversation as we move forward.)A number of things illustrate how and why Doc Rivers’s team finds itself atop the West for the time being. The guard rotation of Patrick Beverley, Avery Bradley and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has done a fantastic job of defending; the Clippers have held opposing starting guards to 40.9 percent shooting, the NBA’s fourth-lowest figure through Tuesday’s games, per the ESPN Stats & Information Group. Danilo Gallinari, who hasn’t played more than 65 games in a campaign in six seasons, has missed only one game thus far and is shooting better than he ever has from outside.But above all else, the Clips have thrived because Tobias Harris — tied with Giannis Antetokounmpo for the league’s best effective field-goal percentage among wing players with at least 300 shot attempts — has quietly pieced together the offensive profile of a superstar this season. Between the huge leap he’s made and the gains of Victor Oladipo, the Orlando Magic front office has to be beside itself after trading away both players.And while Golden State has been Golden State so far, another Northern California team has been making a move. The Kings own a 10-10 mark and have been one of the more entertaining clubs so far. Just about everything begins and ends with their blistering pace. It seems possible that their ability to maintain that 106-possessions-per-48-minutes tempo for entire games may work to their advantage in the clutch, when Sacramento’s opponents simply don’t have anything left.Sacramento ranks 22nd in defensive efficiency in the first quarter, 25th in the second period and tied for 16th in the third, yet it sits sixth in fourth-quarter defense, right behind the defending champ Warriors. And get this: Despite the pace at which they play, the De’Aaron Fox-led Kings have yet to commit a clutch-time turnover this season — they’re the only team that can still make such a claim this late in the season. It’s part of the reason they are 8-3 — best in the Western Conference — in contests separated by 5 points or fewer with five minutes or less remaining, per NBA.com.Not bad for the NBA’s third-youngest team, one whose young players all seem to have taken a step forward this season.Check out our latest NBA predictions.
John Tortorella is introduced with alumni from the 2004 Stanley Cup Championship team at the Tampa Bay Times Forum in Tampa, Florida, on March 17, 2014.Credit: Courtesy of TNSThe Columbus Blue Jackets have had a terrible start to the year with a 1-8-0 start. They lost the first eight games they played, but fired then-coach Todd Richards after an 0-7 start and brought on John Tortorella.Tortorella is someone who the team believes is going to give these Blue Jackets a wakeup call they desperately need. The choice of getting rid of Richards was not an easy one, as the Blue Jackets had a lot of success with him being the winningest coach in team’s short history.Richards had taken the Blue Jackets to the playoffs and helped guide their first victory in the postseason, as well as the only postseason victory at Nationwide Arena. Richards was a good coach who got fired for something that was not his fault: the play of the players.Coming into this season, the Blue Jackets had the highest expectations in franchise history and were being talked about as a possible winner of the Metropolitan Division, a first for the franchise if accomplished. Columbus played a good, hard-fought first game until it came unraveled in the third period. After that, the Blue Jackets didn’t look anything like they did in the preseason. Something had to be done.At the time of Richards’ canning, the team was coming close to history by losing seven games in a row. The last time an NHL team had lost as many games as the Blue Jackets to start a season was in 1943, when the New York Rangers started out 0-11-0.The Blue Jackets lost the debut of Tortorella, but battled to a close finish, falling 3-2 against the Minnesota Wild on the road, which set the franchise-worst eight straight losses to open the season. They came back and won the ninth game of the year on Saturday, pulling to .500 under Tortorella. Since being hired on, the team has looked more and more like the team many thought they could be. Maybe this is all because of Tortorella and what he brings to the table for the Blue Jackets.Tortorella is a very well-respected hockey coach around the league. The man is the all-time winningest American-born coach in NHL history. He has led three different clubs — the Rangers, Tampa Bay Lighting and Vancouver Canucks — compiling a record of 446-375-37-78 (ties were a part of the league until it introduced the shootout in 2005). His career winning percentage is .538, while he joins a team that has a franchise winning percentage of .394.He has won a championship in 2004 with the Lighting and took the Rangers to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2012. He also has a tendency to not be quite as friendly to media as others. Just ask the New York media who had to cover him. That could be what this club — and city — needs. He could restore the team’s blue collar attitude that it held for the last few years, as it finished above .500 in each of the past three seasons.Tortorella has to get this club to wake up. We saw the potential in this team at the end of last season, and the Blue Jackets have had a history the past few years of starting slow but still making a run. The team still has a lot of the same core players that it had last year. All Tortorella has to do is get the players back to the level of play they had, and the confidence they had as well.The Blue Jackets’ biggest weakness has been on the defensive side, starting with the defensemen not looking anything like last year, and Sergei Bobrovsky carrying a 4.45 goals-against average and a 1-6 record. The Blue Jackets showed flashes during their losing streak, but have looked consistently better since Tortorella arrived.Columbus is not the first team to fire a coach this early in the season. In 2013, the Philadelphia Flyers fired Peter Laviolette after just three games and the team still made the playoffs. In the last 25 years, four other teams have fired their coach 10 games or fewer into a season, two of which ended up making the playoffs.The Blue Jackets have some serious odds against them. Going into their 10th game, they are already 12 points behind the Rangers for the top spot in the division. They are also seven points out of a wild card spot.They have an opportunity to get it turned around, but they have to come together with their new coach or it could be another long, postseason-free season for the franchise.
Last year, Quinn Pitcock took home the title belt after dominating the competition in the first season of Lantern weekly picks. This year, Pitcock is seeking to defend his title, and his performance in Week 1 will certainly help. Pitcock and Justin Zwick – who finished third in the standings last year – finished a perfect 3-0 last week, thanks to Boise State’s late comeback win against Virginia Tech. The rest of the field limped to a 1-2 start. Each competitor was asked to predict the winners of four marquee matchups this week. Can Pitcock and Zwick keep their records unblemished? THIS WEEK’S GAMES: No. 11 Miami @ No. 2 Ohio State Michigan @ Notre Dame No. 18 Penn State @ No. 1 Alabama No. 17 Florida State @ No. 10 Oklahoma Dallas Lauderdale Last week/Overall: 1-2 Picks: Ohio State, Notre Dame, Alabama, Oklahoma Justin Zwick Last week/Overall: 3-0 Picks: Ohio State, Michigan, Alabama, Florida State James Laurinaitis Last week/Overall: 1-2 Picks: Ohio State, Michigan, Alabama, Oklahoma Quinn Pitcock Last week/Overall: 3-0 Picks: Ohio State, Notre Dame, Alabama, Florida State Zack Meisel Last week/Overall: 1-2 Picks: Ohio State, Notre Dame, Alabama, Florida State
The past three months of Samantha Cheverton’s life have been amazing — but you wouldn’t know it while sitting down with the soft-spoken swimmer at the McCorkle Aquatic Pavilion. In February, she won the Big Ten individual title in the 200 freestyle. In March, she garnered four All-America honors at the NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships. Then, in April, something even greater happened. Cheverton qualified for the Federation Internationale de Natation (FINA) World Championships for Canada at the trials in Victoria, British Columbia. The championships will be held August in Shanghai. Cheverton won two events, the 200 and 400 freestyle with personal bests times of 1:58.80 and 4:09.67, respectively. “That was really unexpected,” she said. “I made the team but also won two events. I had never won an event at nationals before.” The swimmer from Lachine, Quebec, was not the only one surprised by it. Coach Bill Dorenkott felt the same when he saw the results. “I was at home, and when I saw the results on my computer I started screaming,” he said. “My wife came in and asked what’s wrong.” Cheverton had experience with this song and dance before. The year prior, it was the same routine with all three events falling within 10 weeks of each other. However, this time she felt better prepared and more at ease. “I think our training at the beginning of this year was a lot tougher, more intervals. Maybe that helped me have three solid meets in a row,” she said. “And that’s tough to do not just physically but mentally and emotionally.” Cheverton did have one other thing to help her through it all: her team. “Big Tens is really our focus. We don’t even really talk about NCAAs until it’s over,” she said. “The one thing I love about college swimming is that it is still a team sport. You want to do well so you can get points for your team.” Her fellow OSU swimmers made sure they were there in Canada, in some way, supporting her. “Through Facebook and other means you are always getting messages encouraging you. When I won the 400 free(style), I got like 1,000 text messages from people saying, ‘Good job!’” You wouldn’t know by her post-race interview how excited she really was. “People made fun of me because they pull you out of the pool and immediately interview you when you win,” Cheverton said. “Apparently I sounded not excited at all, but I think I was just in shock.” Though she finished her degree in psychology in December, Cheverton has already started working on a second degree, in human development and family studies. She will take some time off from swimming to recuperate, then focus on the task ahead. Dorenkott said he feels there can be more swimming in her future. “It’s another step in her development as an athlete,” he said.
The No. 6 Ohio State wrestling team improved to 9-2 over the weekend after victories against Big Ten rivals Indiana and No. 19 Wisconsin. The Buckeyes followed a 36-3 trouncing of the Hoosiers last Friday by defeating the Badgers, 29-10, Sunday, improving their conference record to 3-2. Although proud of the victories, OSU coach Tom Ryan said in a phone interview that the team is still not where it needs to be. “You know, I don’t think we’re wrestling our best right now, but we’re in the middle of the Big Ten season and we need to pick up our intensity,” he said. OSU rallied behind nine wins to cruise past Indiana, dropping the Hoosiers record to 6-5 and 0-3 in the Big Ten. The road to victory was a bit different for the Buckeyes against Wisconsin, though the outcome was the same. The Badgers got off to a quick 4-0 start after Wisconsin redshirt junior Tyler Graff defeated OSU redshirt freshman Kyle Visconti, 25-11, in the opening bout between the 133-pound weight class. The Badgers’ momentum was stopped, however, when OSU sophomore Hunter Stieber pinned redshirt senior Tom Kelliher in 1:22, extending his record to 23-0 and giving the Buckeyes a 6-4 lead. Wisconsin went back on top 7-6 when redshirt senior Cole Schmitt defeated OSU sophomore Cam Tessari, 8-7, in a close-fought battle of the 149-pound weight class. Despite the early deficit, the Buckeyes went on to win five consecutive matches. Winning the next three bouts were redshirt sophomore Josh Demas at 157 pounds, freshman Mark Martin at 165 pounds and redshirt junior Nick Heflin at 174 pounds. OSU redshirt freshman Kenny Courts dominated his match in the 184-pound weight class, going up 16-0 before winning the match by a technical fall in the second period. At 197 pounds, sophomore Andrew Campolattano followed with a narrow 3-2 victory over Wisconsin’s redshirt junior Jackson Hein. The streak ended when redshirt junior Peter Capone suffered a 5-2 defeat to redshirt freshman Connor Medbery in the heavyweight class. For the Buckeyes, though, the match concluded on a high note when OSU senior Nikko Triggas of the 125-pound weight class pinned his opponent, redshirt sophomore Matt Cavarllaris, in 45 seconds. With the loss, Wisconsin slipped to 6-4 overall and 3-2 in the Big Ten. Ryan said that in order to finish the Big Ten portion of the schedule strong, the team needs to improve in several areas. “There’s plenty of technical stuff, little conditioning things, but we have to get ready for Illinois and we’ll have to put in some hard work for next week,” he said. The Buckeyes look to continue their winning ways when they take on Illinois on Feb. 1 at 7 p.m. in Oak Harbor, Ohio.
CHICAGO-Ohio State will play in the Big Ten tournament championship game after beating Michigan State Saturday evening, the likely high point of the Buckeyes’ season thus far. The low mark of the year came against Wisconsin Feb. 17, during a 71-49 drubbing by the Badgers in Madison. OSU’s opponent for the conference title at the United Center in Chicago Sunday afternoon? Wisconsin, which upset No. 1 seed Indiana, 68-56, before the Buckeyes and Spartans took the floor. Since the defeat at the hands of the Badgers in the middle of February, OSU has rattled off seven-straight wins. “Ever since we suffered that loss at Wisconsin, we’ve gone into every game with a business-type mindset. Every game is business. There’s no ‘He-he, ha-ha,’” said redshirt senior forward Evan Ravenel. Sunday, the Buckeyes will look to hand the Badgers a spoonful of revenge for the embarrassing loss they suffered that Sunday afternoon at the Kohl Center. OSU is a much improved team since that Feb. 17 contest. So, though, are the Badgers. “We’re a better basketball team than the last time we played them, but unfortunately, so are they. I think Wisconsin is playing at a very high level right now,” said OSU coach Thad Matta. OSU players attribute their success since that rout to them coming together as a complete unit. Everyone is contributing on both ends of the floor, they say. “We kind of came together as a team and said, ‘We can’t rely on just one guy to play offense or one guy to play defense,’” said junior guard Aaron Craft, who scored 20 points in the Buckeyes’ 61-58 defeat of the Spartans Saturday. Wisconsin has been playing cohesively as well. The Badgers had four players in double figures against the Hoosiers and shot 51 percent from the floor. Wisconsin has won five of its seven games since its beatdown of OSU at home. Sunday’s contest will almost assuredly look very different than the two team’s last matchup. “We’re two totally different teams,” said junior guard Lenzelle Smith Jr. “Now that we get another crack at them, it’s game on.” Analyzing the opponent Record: 23-10, 14-6 Big Ten Against OSU in the regular season: 1-1 Jan. 29, OSU 58, Wisconsin 49, in Columbus Feb. 17, Wisconsin 71, OSU 49 in Madison Matchup to watch: OSU’s perimeter defense vs. Wisconsin’s outside shooting OSU hangs its defensive hat on the heads of Craft and sophomore guard Shannon Scott, who routinely disrupt opponents’ guard play. Wisconsin relies heavily on the three ball. In their win against Indiana Saturday, the Badgers made seven threes. In their shellacking of the Buckeyes on Feb. 17, Wisconsin totaled seven makes from deep. If Craft and Scott can hold Wisconsin’s guards in check, limiting the Badgers’ looks from behind the line, OSU would be in good shape. OSU and Wisconsin are set to tip-off at 3:30 p.m. from the United Center in Chicago Sunday. OSU is playing for its fourth Big Ten tournament title under Matta.