First, a disclaimer is called for. I am a current student at the Ohio State University (and we do indeed stick a "the" in front of the name). Still, I keep a great interest in the little guys in the tournament, which is what you do when your team loses in the NCAA tournament. (Only a few teams end their season with a win, even in conferences above The Red Line.) And, so, here I am, with a day off, and a girlfriend who has scheduled me to visit for most of my day off of work, and, lo! There is a basketball game, according to Eleven Warriors. So, I text and then call the girl to gauge interest in going to the game. She agrees, and we drive down, arriving on campus about 7:30. It takes another ten minutes to get to the parking area for people who have not bought a parking pass specifically for basketball (which, due to having a student parking pass, is free instead of $10), and then we boarded a handy shuttle back to the Schottenstein Center.
The Schottenstein Center and its embedded Value City Arena is sportz failing, but only half due to greed. The main factor is an overestimation on what Ohio State fans will pay to watch things that are not football. We have arguably the best team in the nation. Last year, Ken Pomeroy had us as overall #1, and we removed George Mason's spleen in the tournament before being defeated by Kentucky. (We apologize. They reportedly talked a small bit of smack in the first five minutes, and, whether or not that was true, it was about that point that Jared Sullinger went berserk.) And there are plenty of good seats still available! They built one of the largest college arenas in the country to replace St. John's Arena, and we still can't fill the place. At one point, views of fans on the video screens hanging from the ceiling showed happy, content fans sitting and watching a game calmly. Talking over crowd noise was not an issue, and not just because we had taken the $10 seats in the corner of the third deck of the arena. Not all of it is an interest issue - student season tickets sold out this year in minutes, with a waitlist as long as the 1,400 tickets offered (for a 50 thousand plus undergraduate student population); due to a public shaming by infamous former player Mark Titus, known for the Club Trillion blog, an upper deck section was designated as a second student section at a reduced cost.
We got to our seats as the early warmups were going on. While the players practiced superhoops, I settled in trying to connect to the campus wireless network I had access to so I could pull down the Osprey roster - it has great coverage over the entire campus, but only two of four bars inside the Schott around the third deck. The players left to the locker rooms to leave me with this frustration and to explain the nuances of OSU basketball and Mid-Majority to the girlfriend. The Star-Spangled Banner was next, followed by a well-synced video intro involving eight of twelve video screens and the ring around the bottom of the third deck. This ended with a live feed in front of the OSU locker room, from which the players emerged. The Fall Athletic Band broke out the fight song as the players hit the court with a microphone in front of them allowing the PA system to aid them in volume. After some more warmups, the court darkened for another video intro, this ending with #0 Jared Sullinger in headphones and leading to the player introductions. For the record, the crowd felt only the first two Osprey players in need of a half-hearted boo; there is sportsmanship at OSU, if nothing else.
Tipoff occurred, but no one told the shooters that. North Florida's #5, Charles McRoy, proved that fouling to prevent layups is a sound strategy against cold-shooting teams, and we would remain scoreless for a minute or so. Finally, the Ospreys' David Jeune would provide the first basket and lead; this was followed up by a two and a three by the Buckeyes, led by one #44 David Buford who was the only player in the early going with any success putting ball A through hoop B. The Ospreys would take their second and final lead shortly thereafter at 6 to 5.
The Buckeyes' aforementioned stealing capabilities were in full effect, primarily along the baseline. Stealing back there, however, made breakaways difficult, and the Ospreys fouled layup attempts effectively to make scoring even harder. Consequently, scoring was hard to come by for anyone in the early going, and the Ospreys kept the lead within five to seven points. Also keeping the lead in check was coach Matthew Driscoll's willingness to call time outs whenever the lead crept up to seven. These timeouts allowed OSU to reveal the latest in souvenir launching technology: a mini-basketball air cannon attached to a cylinder on wheels (with a well-placed Tansky Toyota advertisement). It still couldn't get projectiles to the cheap seats.
The Osprey's #5, Charles McRoy, was tasked with Buford, and that meant he was doing a fair bit of that fouling; the result was taking a seat with 9:49 remaining in the first half. About three minutes later, DeShawn Thomas for the Buckeyes started to wake up, and scoring and crowd noise increased just a bit. OSU's #4, Aaron Craft, would also pick up a third foul on a hustle play at half-court against North Florida's #14 Jimmy Williams, and that received a loud set of boos. (Sportsmanship is not nearly as strict a rule when it comes to the refs.) With 1:20 left in the first half, the score was 41-26, though one UNF fan in the lower sections on the bench side of the court was screaming "MISS IIIIIIIT!" loud enough to echo throughout the court during Sullinger's foul shots.
At halftime, the OSU dance team performed to a Lady Gaga medley remix; the dancer on the right slipping at the end of the routine was not nearly as flawed as the music choice. Also, the drawing for the Buckeye prize pack was announced; my girlfriend actually won, and we walked down to the ground floor Guest Services desk to pick up an OSU lunch box with a pom-pom and can cooler inside. A soda and lemonade later, we went back up to the third deck for the second half.
With 16:20 left in the second half, the Buckeyes finally doubled up the Ospreys, 52-26, though the Ospreys scored right after that and were never to be doubled up again; they would not get much closer in score, either. Coach Thad Matta started pulling his starters slowly at that point in order to get the bench some much-needed practice; this was ended with around nine minutes to go as said reserves' sloppy play resulted in the lead being narrowed to 20. #21, Andy Diaz, would succumb to fouls due to blocking too many shooters with his hands. During most of this time, I had my laptop closed, half to preserve battery life and half to cuddle with the girlfriend, as the empty upper ring had a slight breeze that produced a chill, and that is what you do when you are sitting with your girlfriend and she is feeling a chill.
With 5:00 to go, the crowd noticed the home team's score was approaching 70, and began chanting, "WE WANT FREE FRIES!" A few more trips up and down the floor would be required, but the required score was achieved with 4:40 to go, and the scoreboard's and third deck's rings lit with the familiar yellow arches and the words, "FREE FRIES!" The starters were finally pulled for good with 3:50 remaining, the lone screamer during foul shots was offered a half-hearted "SCOREBOARD" in response, the reserves actually showed off a few good moves, and the Ospreys found themselves dribbling on their end as time expired, with a final score of 85-50.
I and the girlfriend slowly got up, and went down to the shuttle buses to take us back, picking up a couple of vouchers for medium fries on the way out. While there was much more of a crowd, filling the first set of four buses easily, the second wave was right behind and whisked us back to the parking lot. The good news? The girlfriend enjoyed herself at the game. The bad news? She's happy largely because she's a Buckeye fan. (The other good news? Part of it was enjoying the game with me.)
at OHIO STATE 85, NORTH FLORIDA 50 11/21/2011
NORTH FLORIDA 1-4 (0-0) -- T. Wallace 3-7 1-2 7; J. Granberry 3-9 0-0 8; J. Williams 2-3 3-8 7; M. Sauey 0-3 1-2 1; F. Landers 3-8 0-0 7; P. Smith 3-5 3-4 10; D. Jeune 2-4 0-0 4; W. Wilson 0-3 0-0 0; C. McRoy 1-3 2-2 4; A. Diaz 1-1 0-2 2. Totals 18-46 10-20 50. OHIO STATE 4-0 (0-0) -- W. Buford 4-13 4-5 13; D. Thomas 5-11 5-6 16; J. Sullinger 9-16 9-10 27; A. Craft 0-1 2-4 2; L. Smith Jr. 3-4 1-6 7; J. Sibert 1-3 0-0 3; S. Scott 2-5 0-0 5; E. Ravenel 1-1 2-4 4; S. Thompson 1-4 0-0 2; A. Williams 0-0 0-2 0; J. Weatherspoon 2-2 2-3 6; T. McDonald 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 28-60 25-40 85.
Three-point goals: UNF 4-20 (M. Sauey 0-2; P. Smith 1-3; J. Granberry 2-8; D. Jeune 0-1; C. McRoy 0-1; F. Landers 1-5), OHST 4-17 (W. Buford 1-4; A. Craft 0-1; J. Sibert 1-2; L. Smith Jr. 0-1; J. Sullinger 0-1; D. Thomas 1-4; S. Scott 1-3; S. Thompson 0-1); Rebounds: UNF 31 (T. Wallace 7), OHST 43 (J. Sullinger 13); Assists: UNF 6 (J. Williams 3), OHST 17 (L. Smith Jr. 5); Total Fouls -- UNF 28, OHST 19; Fouled Out: UNF-A. Diaz; OHST-None.