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  • Another Thrilling Hoops Season

    Usually this space is reserved for a hodgepodge of extra quotes from several different teams that are under the umbrella coverage of SportsRappUp.com.

    However, the Ohio State basketball team made another deep postseason run this spring that included a Big Ten Tournament championship – the program’s third straight conference tourney net-cutter – and ended in Los Angeles a win short of the Final Four.

    Once again, Thad Matta took the Buckeyes to the end of March and basketball Buckeyes fans experienced a thrilling campaign – and some heartache at the very end.

    The action was so fast and furious we’ve let the dust settle and compiled some of the best quotes that were left behind as Ohio State made its journey through a palpitating 29-8 season that included contests with eight top-10 teams.

    The Buckeyes suffered preconference losses in high-profile contests with Duke and Kansas and endured embarrassing 20-plus-point defeats at Illinois and Wisconsin, but they also rose up to knock off rivals Michigan in Columbus and Indiana in Bloomington when each was ranked No. 2 in the country.

    Despite coming up just a hair short of a piece of yet another Big Ten title – which wasn’t decided until a Michigan layup attempt vs. IU rolled off the rim in the final seconds of the regular-season finale – OSU made its mark in Chicago with wins over Nebraska, Michigan State and Wisconsin and earned a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

    That set up crowd-pleasing results in Dayton with wins over Iona and Iowa State and another nail-biter against Arizona in L.A. LaQuinton Ross’ game-winning three in overtime marked OSU’s 11th straight victory, but the balloon finally burst two days later in an Elite Eight loss to Wichita State.

    It was another memorable and exciting campaign, certainly worthy of its own Quote Me recognition.

    Here then are the hoops-related quotes of interest that almost got away through the course of the season, presented in semi-chronological order:

    Matta discussing Ross’ development heading into the 2012-13 season – “It’s getting him to understand what he has to do within his capabilities to help us win games. I think he’s had a great spring, he’s had a good summer in the weight room and that sort of thing. It’s going to be a little bit new to him but by the same token going through the same practices and having been in the arena hopefully he’ll be ready to go.”

    Former Buckeye great and current CBS analyst Clark Kellogg on his preseason assessment of OSU – “They will surprise on the high side. That’s my initial feeling, that they will not be expected to be as good as they’re going to be. I think Deshaun Thomas and Aaron Craft are going to come back determined to prove that Sully (Jared Sullinger) and Will (Buford) are gone but we’re still here and we’ve got stuff to prove ourselves.”

    Matta on the Nov. 28 mathup with Duke – “I hope in 25 years that our program is still at the level that it is, because that’s exactly what Duke has done. They’ve stood the test of time. There’s been a lot of great players rolling through there. We’ve had a lot of great players. Not as many because we haven’t been here that long. They recruit at the highest level; we attempt to recruit at the highest level.”

    Matta on how difficult it would be to stay at OSU as long and be as beloved as Mike Krzyzewski is at Duke – “(Lou Holtz) told me, ‘Don’t ever stay for more than seven years at a place because the longer you stay the more you fall in love with it but the more they fall out of love with you.’ It’s funny because my seventh year we were 34-3 and we won by 12 and people were like, ‘only 12?’ ”

    Matta on going to Cameron Indoor Stadium and a similar ACC/Big Ten Challenge road game at North Carolina in 2006 – “It had to be 120 degrees on the court because at halftime my pants were stuck to my leg.”

    Matta on Kansas’ Dec. 22 visit and his developing rivalry with KU head coach Bill Self – “Obviously he’s proven with the success he’s had. He is in an elite crowd in terms of coaches and his assistants have gone on as head coaches. I’ve got the utmost respect for him and the job that he’s done over the course of time.”

    Craft on the surprising effectiveness of sophomore center Amir Williams vs. Kansas – “It’s in him (to play like this every game). He is growing and just needs more experience. He needs to continue to be consistent in these big game situations. He can come in and make an impact immediately.”

    Kansas guard Ben McLemore on Shannon Scott igniting OSU off the bench – “He surprised me with his speed. He can get up the floor fast. Thankfully, we slowed them down in the second half in transition defense.”

    Self on the Jayhawks’ 74-66 win, Kansas’ third over OSU in the course of a year – “The first time we played last year, Sullinger didn’t play. The second time we played, they controlled the game and we made some plays late in the game. Today’s probably the best we’ve played against Ohio State in three games.”

    Matta on the same subject – “The first game we played them was hard just because we weren’t at full strength. To be honest this game was a lot like the second half of the Final Four game in New Orleans where the ball just wouldn’t go in the basket for us. The leadership they have … I haven’t had four seniors in about eight years. And Ben McLemore is as good as any player in the country.”

    Ross on his off-court personality – “I’m a real laid-back guy. I’m not too much into parties. I’m a real gentle guy, laid-back and goofy. I’m the one sitting back and cracking jokes.”

    Ross on Scott – “He’s like a little pest. He’s like the brother that you didn’t want.”

    Matta on if he planned to go out and celebrate the pay raise the university granted him in January – “Not with these new tax laws.”

    Matta on the school recognizing his efforts since becoming OSU head coach in the summer of 2004 – “One of the things I’m most proud of is what we built here. We were at Ground Zero nine years ago in terms of the uncertainty of the future of our program, and we’ve been very, very fortunate with the teams that we’ve had and the job that the coaches have done.

    “For me personally, I’m a lot more proud of that than I am with a contract. I feel as blessed as I can be to be at Ohio State. I love this university and I’m extremely grateful in terms of what they’ve allowed me to do and how they’ve taken care of me throughout the time I’ve been here.”

    Gangly freshman guard Amedeo Della Valle on being a fan favorite – “I like it a lot. I really see myself being like a regular student and most of the students maybe see themselves as me, because maybe I don’t look like a basketball player. They can tell I’m working really hard to try to be successful.”

    Matta on Sullinger’s rookie season with the Boston Celtics being cut short because of back surgery – “I haven’t talked to Jared. We’ve texted back and forth, and the first thing I texted when he got out of surgery was, ‘Please tell me you can move both your feet.’ You hate to see it, but in talking his agent, David Falk, he broke it down for me, why they did what they did, and I think long-term it was definitely the right thing to do.”

    Craft on his rematch at Michigan with fellow Ohioan and UM point guard Trey Burke – “He comes from a great family and they definitely keep him grounded. That’s what it takes. I’ve seen him be very successful at just about every level. It’s great to see another guy we kind of grew up with having some great success.”

    Scott on another Ohio-based point guard, Wisconsin’s Traevon Jackson (son of former Buckeye great Jim Jackson) – “I played him like a couple times in AAU, not too much. With the game against Minnesota where he got the last shot, he probably has great confidence and he’s playing great basketball right now. I think guarding him is going to be a great challenge for me, but I believe that I’ll be ready for it.”

    Sophomore and Chicago-area native Sam Thompson on going back to familiar environs before the team’s trip to Northwestern – “It’s weird. We fly into the airport and drive through downtown Chicago, going past things I’ve seen for the last 20 years. I can’t go home and I can’t do the things I normally do in the city. So it’s kind of a weird feeling. But it’s definitely fun to go home and play in front of my family and my friends.”

    Matta on the team getting hot after an eye-opening 71-49 loss at Wisconsin on Feb. 17 – “There’s going to be ups and downs. I remember two years ago we got to 24-0 at one point and in there after the game we’d be all upset at how we played, and (assistant coach) Dave Dickerson, who just left Tulane, would be like, ‘Hey, fellas, I only won nine last year. I’m having the time of my life. This is the greatest thing I’ve ever seen.’ ”

    Craft on losing his title as Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, which went to Indiana forward Victor Oladipo – “Victor did a great job of coming out and having a great year. I don’t think it’s a knock on me. I think it just attests to what he was able to do, and he did a lot. He’s that guy out there you’re always worrying about on the defensive end and you’ve got to give him a lot of credit.”

    Thomas on Craft being listed as a candidate on ESPN.com’s Most Hated Pool – “I voted for him.”

    Craft on the same subject – “I would love to win that one, too. I do know that I have a higher seed in that tournament than (OSU video coordinator) Greg Paulus. I just like to make sure to let him know I continue to beat him at various things. But I’ve got a tough matchup with Joakim Noah. That’s a tough one, but we’ll try to pull the upset.”

    Craft on the comparison to Paulus, a former Duke point guard – “It is what it is. I know I wasn’t the fondest of Gregory when he played and I’m assuming it’s probably similar to what’s going on right now with me. Greg’s one of the nicest guys I know. I didn’t know him (then), I just chose not to like him very much.”

    Matta, at the Big Ten Tournament, on the notion that a league team needs to win a national championship soon to confirm its reputation as an elite basketball conference – “Yeah, it’d be nice. That team we had in ’07 was as good a basketball team as I’ve ever seen but wouldn’t you know we’re playing the defending national champs with five starters back. There’s a lot of things that happen and a lot of it is matchups and who gets rolling. I think there are some teams in this league who have a legitimate shot to win it this year.”

    Matta on hearing the news that 13-year Northwestern coach Bill Carmody had been let go by the school – “I think Bill Carmody maybe has the best offensive mind of any coach I’ve ever seen in my life, and I think he could be the most unlucky with the injuries just in the time I’ve been here with nine years in the league. It’s amazing to see the things that have happened to his team.

    “We’re No. 1 in the country a couple years ago and John Shurna runs into a basket support and has a concussion and can’t play against us – and we go down to the wire. Who could win and keep coaching those guys and stay competitive with what he lost this year?

    “He’s one of the greatest human beings and he coaches as well as anybody.”

    Matta on his preference for OSU’s soon-to-be-announced NCAA Tournament bracket – “Dayton hasn’t been real kind to us so I don’t want to go there. We haven’t fared too well there – 1 and 2.”

    Matta on going to the postseason – “Ohio State, the thing I’ve learned – and I like it about it – people either love Ohio State or they hate Ohio State. There’s no gray area.”

    OSU assistant Jeff Boals on the “one-way conversation” between the coaches and players after the loss at Wisconsin – “You look at the tape and you could see it wasn’t normal Buckeye basketball. Our guys understood that. Thad did a great job of making them understand that the next two days in practice. We watched a lot of tape, did a lot of talking, and they corrected it.

    “They always say the tape doesn’t lie, and these kids have personal pride and team pride. When you let your teammates down, that’s when you feel the worst.

    “He made it clear that’s not acceptable. We told them they embarrassed the university, embarrassed the team and embarrassed themselves. That’s not what he stands for, and wasn’t going to let it happen.”

    Lenzelle Smith on Ohio State shooting a high percentage and getting to empty the bench in the NCAA tourney blowout of Iona – “It does a lot. A lot of guys got to see the ball go in, which is very good. They can relax a little bit and the pressure is not really on their shoulders anymore.”

    Senior Evan Ravenel on the Gaels coming into the game with no apparent fear of the Buckeyes – “When someone’s talking trash to you or saying stuff through the media, you kind of want to take your game up to another level. It does add fuel to the fire.”

    Boals after the Buckeyes nipped Iowa State to return to the Sweet 16 – “We’re playing with a lot of confidence, and our three guys off the bench – Ravenel, LaQuinton Ross and Shannon – are all giving us something different. It’s different from game to game, it’s different things at the defensive end and different things at the offensive end. When those guys started playing that’s when we kind of lifted off.”

    Arizona coach Sean Miller on preparing to face OSU and his good friend Matta – “It’s not like they’re a bad team on offense. I think they’re really good. They’re not as talented, maybe, as some of the most recent Ohio State teams, but they make up for it with really unselfishness and togetherness. They have a guy that gets 20 every night, Deshaun Thomas, who from a scoring perspective, is as good as it gets.

    “They play together on both ends of the floor. Aaron Craft is exceptional at what he does. Deshaun Thomas is equally exceptional at what he does, and they have a lot of other good players that play Ohio State basketball.”

    Thompson, after the loss to Wichita State, on the exit of Ravenel – “It’s been a great honor to play with Evan these last two years. I wish him the best of luck wherever life may take him. My hat is off to him for a great Ohio State career. He did a lot of good, he’s a great teammate and I love him to death.”


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  • From Luke To Urban To Coach K

    Anyone who thinks college sports are small potatoes wasn’t hanging around Ohio State’s athletic programs recently.

    In the span of just a few days in late November alone, the Buckeyes heard from former coach Jim Tressel, played before the largest crowd in the history of Big Ten football in Ann Arbor, nearly pulled off a stunning upset of the ranked Wolverines, landed none other than Urban Meyer as their new head coach and announced that Luke Fickell would remain on the staff as one of Meyer’s top assistants.

    And that was just the football team. The night after Meyer was introduced, Thad Matta’s second-ranked roundballers took to the hardwood before a sellout crowd at Value City Arena and clobbered No. 3 Duke and legendary coach Mike Krzyzewski to the tune of 85-63.

    All of those developments made national news – major national news – and also produced more quotes than even the rabid media could reproduce.

    Trailing back a few months it has been even more of a whirwind following the two top programs at The Ohio State University. The football team endured a topsy-turvy second half of the regular season and the basketball squad has been in the top-five spotlight practically since breaking camp in mid-October.

    SportsRappUp.com has been there every step of the way and has compiled for you some of the better quotes that got away. Well, almost go away. Enjoy.

    Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith just before introducing Meyer – “Urban and I go back quite a ways and have known each other for a while. Our first conversation about this job was on Sunday, November 20th. There were no previous conversations about this job until Sunday, November 20th.”

    Former Buckeye linebacker Chris Spielman on Meyer, his broadcast partner this season, and rumors of him joining the OSU staff – “If ever I were to coach it would be for him, because I believe in the guy so much and what he stands for. I think I serve the university in a more important capacity and involvement with the fundraiser for the Spielman Fund for breast cancer. And also I made a promise to Stef, I made a promise to my kids and a promise to people at Ohio State that this is what I’m going to do, and I intend to keep my word. I always do, I think. I try to. And I’ve got a 9-year-old and 10-year-old and I’m a single dad. It wouldn’t be fair to them, because I’m afraid what I’d turn into.”

    Matta on speculation of the Meyer hiring and what he had heard about him from his good friend and current Florida basketball coach Billy Donovan – “Billy has always told me dating back to years when we would talk shop about my relationship with Jim and his relationship – I think they were neighbors – he always said he was just a great, great guy. So if that’s who it is that would be a tremendous get for Ohio State.”

    Outgoing senior center Mike Brewster on the football squad’s off-field transgressions and subsequent 6-6 season – “It’s hard. It just kind of shows you that the decisions you make can affect your teammates. That’s how it goes sometimes, but I think I’ve grown a lot this year. I’ve had to deal with a lot more stress and responsibility than in the past three years. But I think I’ve come a long ways and in the long run I think it will be good for me.”

    Krzyzewski on the Blue Devils’ inability to slow down Ohio State – “We couldn’t hit a shot. Their defense was outstanding. And then they got hot. They can score from a number of different positions. They had a great crowd. They had a lot going, and they took advantage of everything. They were just really good.”

    Krzyzewski on OSU’s dynamic duo of Jared Sullinger and Aaron Craft – “When you have Sullinger in there, he’s just a man inside and he’s always an option. You can always get the ball to him and run offense through him or have him be the offense. That’s a big thing for their team. And Craft, he busts his butt. He’s a terrific player on a team that’s very talented.”

    Krzyzewski when he was asked to evaluate the play of OSU forward Deshaun Thomas – “I wasn’t focused on each one of their guys. I was trying to figure out how to not lose by 30.”

    Tressel, speaking to WTVN morning host Bob Conners on his final day at the mic, on Meyer – “Urban has done a great job wherever he’s been. He’ll come in and do a good job with a great group of kids. When you go through some suffering like (Ohio State) went through this year and you have the right kind of players in the program, you’re probably going to have some good things happen. So he will come in and do a good job. He knows how to coach the game.”

    Fickell on the key to attracting prospects to Ohio State – “You want to have them get on campus. You want them to see you in a different light. You want them to see you around your players. You want them to see how you react or respond in the general public. Unless you just talk to people over the phone in recruiting and you have some great sales pitch … to me, I tell parents you want to be able to see it, you want to look in that coaches eyes and feel how genuine he really is and see how genuine each coach on that staff really is and see the people that are in the program, because that’s what’s real.

    “That’s what I’ve told them all along since I’ve been here for 10 years. That’s the way I’ve recruited. It hasn’t been, ‘Come here because of me.’ It hasn’t been come here because of a different coach. It’s been come here because it’s The Ohio State University, all the things it has to offer and, most importantly, the young men and the people who are in the program. Those things will never change.”

    Defensive back Tyler Moeller on what he recalled about OSU’s loss at Purdue in 2009 – “I don’t really remember too much from that game just because I had a brain injury. I wasn’t at the game. I don’t really remember too much of that period of my life so it’s hard to comment. Weak excuse, I apologize.”

    Jackson State basketball coach Tevester Anderson’s assessment of Ohio State after his team was blown out at VCA – “We have played Florida, we have played Baylor. Coming here, I didn’t see a weakness at all for this team. They are strong, but they have good perimeter shooting. They also have good guard play, which is huge. I thought they were just as good as North Carolina coming into this season and tonight just reinforced that. They executed well and their chemistry is really, really good.”

    Anderson on Sullinger – “We have a big man at home that’s pretty good. He had to stay back because of an eye surgery, but I don’t think it would have made a difference against Sullinger tonight. He’s strong and he jumps so quickly. He moves like Charles Barkley. I had the chance to coach Barkley at Auburn. Sullinger is something special.”

    Matta on insulating his team from the media and distractions – “Honestly, you’d like to just sort of coach a basketball team in a cave, go out and play games and go back in. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.”

    Senior left tackle Mike Adams, who was suspended for the first five games of the season, on being named a game captain against Indiana – “It was great. I’ll never forget it, being out there and being able to lead my teammates. It’s cool just to do the coin toss and all that stuff. It was a good experience.”

    Fickell after being told Boom Herron, who was suspended for the first six games of the season, was seen crying during the national anthem just prior to his 2011 home debut against Wisconsin – “We know what kind of passion Boom has. We would expect nothing different, whether it’s his play or how he reacts to the national anthem.”

    Fickell on why he believed Herron was deserving of being named a game captain – “Because there’s no one it means more to. We’ve all made mistakes in our life and we all continue to learn from the mistakes we’ve made. We’ve all paid the prices at times and we’ve gotten away with things at times. Eventually, you’ve got to forgive and move on. It’s not hard to do when a guy’s got the passion and the work ethic and he handles it the way in which Boom has handled it. There’s nobody that would bat an eye at making Boom Herron anything and that’s a tribute to the way he’s handled the situation, his maturity and what this place really means to him.”

    Matta on his affinity for Donovan – “It goes back … his coaching tree, my coaching tree. There’s some ties there from Herb Sendek. They were assistants together at Kentucky. Billy was coaching at Marshall when I was at Western Carolina. I don’t know. He’s one of the good guys, I think, and I enjoy being around him.”

    Fickell, on Nov. 3, on how he continued to keep the Buckeyes positive despite looming NCAA sanctions – “Once somebody knows something, I would much rather know. But until they do, I don’t want to speculate about it, I don’t want to waste any of our energy or of our time worrying about it. It’s always better to have things out in the open and know what the situation is, but until then we’re going to continue to move forward and go about our business.”

    Fickell on the versatility of fullback Zach Boren, who weighed as much as 280 pounds in high school – “Zach would be a good football player, I don’t care where you put him. You could put him at right guard and he would be one heck of a football player. You could put him at tailback and he’s going to be a heck of a football player. You could put him at linebacker.”

    Herron on smoothing over matters with fellow tailback Carlos Hyde after seizing the starting job at Illinois (Hyde tweeted his displeasure with receiving only a few late carries) – “We definitely talked. And I think he’s doing a lot better now. And like I told him, you know, when I first got here, I had a lot of guys in front of me, Beanie Wells, Brandon (Saine) and Maurice Wells, I told him he has a couple of years left. So his time is definitely going to come. He’s a great running back, and he’s always working hard, always doing a great job. So his time will definitely come.”

    Wide receiver Philly Brown on the game-winning touchdown toss from Braxton Miller to Devin Smith against Wisconsin – “We were scrambling … and they didn’t give us a play or nothing. So we’re out there just running playground routes. I think I ran a deep out or something like that. And Braxton said he pointed at me to get the safety to run over (so he could) throw it to Devin. So on his part, that was like a veteran move.”

    Craft on the temptation for team members to produce another video showing off their singing, ahem, skills after last year’s memorable stab at “Party in the USA” – “As of right now, I don’t think so. We went that route and realized that maybe it wasn’t the best thing to do. But it was exciting, I enjoyed it, and I still like the song. You never know.”

    Fickell on whether wearing black made him feel tougher –Al Davis thought so, I think. For me, it’s just what we wear. People ask why you wear that. We wear black, just to be the signal guy. It’s not anything history-wise. Unless they have something back in the archives, I don’t know that we’ll be changing that uniform much.”

    Michigan State football coach Mark Dantonio on why he put a moratorium on player interviews the week of MSU’s visit to Ohio State – “I just wanted Kirk Cousins to have fun, and all of our players. I just didn’t want them stressed about being interviewed. That’s what I decided to do. I know it wasn’t really popular but I thought that it allowed people to step away and deflate a little bit. Sometimes you have to be able to do that. You have to deflate.”

    Sullinger on Will Buford deciding to return for his senior season after the heartbreaking loss and a poor shooting night vs. Kentucky in the Sweet 16 – “He didn’t come back just to waste his time. He doesn’t want to lose. He wants to win just like everybody else. We’ll see how that goes. It’s burning. If someone says, ‘Kentucky,’ he always says, ‘Forget you, man.’ It’s motivation. Will knows everybody is going to look back on that game until he steps back on the floor and shows what he can do.”

    Fickell on former teammate Eddie George being honored at halftime of the Wisconsin game for his recent election into the College Football Hall of Fame – “Eddie George is probably to me one of the best stories that I’ve ever been around here at Ohio State, from a guy that came in, things didn’t go his way to start with. For the next three years, he was the hardest-working guy on the team. I’ve told guys that story several times.

    “People see the Heisman Trophy, figure he was a big thoroughbred guy that was a big running back from the get-go. I don’t know in my time here that there was anybody that out-worked him. That’s why he is where he is today. That’s why he’s going into the Hall of Fame. That’s why he has a Heisman Trophy. It’s not just on the ability. It’s on the person, the character, the work ethic that he had to get better.”

    Meyer on several players having legal troubles on his watch at the University of Florida – “I know there’s been some issues that we’ve had that I’ve had to deal with, not that we’re proud of. We have a set of core values. Honesty, respect. Number one, treat everyone with respect. Number two, no drugs, no stealing, no weapons. Those are core value issues.”

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OSU ended the season with two straight losses, allowing 34 points in the B1G title game with Michigan State and 40 more vs. Clemson in the Orange Bowl. The D needs work, but what should Urban Meyer fix first?

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Quote Me

From time to time, we will take a look back at some of the more interesting remarks we came across, funny quips or meaningful statements that may have been bypassed. Here is a sampling:

 
 
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