Share

Marty Bannister, the play-by-play voice of the Ohio State women’s basketball team for the past eight years, will be keeping a blog throughout the postseason to provide fans with insight on the team and give his take on the Buckeyes, the Big Ten and the rest of the college basketball landscape. In addition to his duties with the women’s cagers, Marty also has served as the football sideline reporter for The Ohio State Buckeyes Radio Network since 2006 and shares play-by-play duties with the baseball team in the spring.

 

 

March 28, 2011

Well, what a ride this season was.

I will be the first to admit when Ohio State was stammering along with a mark of 13-9, the thought of reaching the Sweet 16 and having top-seed Tennessee down at the half was, at best, a pipe dream. The credit for what this season turned out to be starts at the top with Jim Foster, his coaching staff, and then to, of course, the players. They don’t buy into what was being sold, and none of what happened down the stretch happens.

The first 5 minutes of any game, or half, are among the most critical of any match up. Saturday was no different. Ohio State stood toe-to-toe with the Lady Vols at the outset, telling themselves, and Tennessee, this would be a game. And what a first half it was, as electric, entertaining and relentless a half of basketball as we have seen all season. The first 5 minutes of the second half were equally as important in determining the outcome. Tennessee came out of the locker room with a little different “hitch in their giddy-up”, if you understand the meaning. Ohio State was a little too quick on offense, and Tennessee took a lead they would not lose. The Lady Vols were just too deep for Ohio State. They kept running size and quickness off the bench and just wore down the Buckeyes. Tennessee’s depth allowed them to weather every Ohio State run. Fresher and quicker, they beat the Buckeyes to seemingly every loose ball and were a step quicker on defense. I agree with everyone who says there is no such thing as a “moral victory”, but Ohio State walks away from Saturday knowing they gave their all, and made Tennessee earn its way to the Elite 8.
 
So now thoughts to next year. Three starters return: Samantha Prahalis, Tayler Hill, and Ashley Adams. There are some productive parts from the bench returning as well: Amber Stokes and Martina Ellerbe all played quality minutes and gained valuable court time and Emilee Harmon has reached a point where, if she works hard over the offseason, she can add some needed minutes up front. The four incoming freshman, led by 6’1 Kalpana Beach, will have a chance to make immediate contributions.
 
For 8 straight years, Ohio State has had the dominant presence in the post in the Big Ten. From Jessica Davenport to Jantel Lavender, the Buckeyes have ruled the middle. Lavender’s departure leaves a cavernous hole in the lane (and brings a collective sigh of relief across the Big Ten). Losing Brittany Johnson’s perimeter shooting is huge as well. Sarah Schulze brought needed toughness and scrappiness, and Alison Jackson was a key contributor when called upon. Four BIG holes to fill. That type of talent (and leadership) is not replaced … you fill the spots and hope those who step in give you quality minutes.
 
Following this team this year was at the same time fun, challenging, maddening, confusing, and in the end, a real pleasure. A great bunch of coaches, players, and staff, that all made my job a great deal of fun. Writing this blog was enjoyable as well, and hopefully we can make it a season long effort next year.
 
Thanks for listening (and reading) this year….already looking forward to 2011-2012!

 

 

March 22, 2011

How much fun was Monday night at St. John Arena? What a great atmosphere for an intense, physical, struggle that decided a berth in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament.
 
Calling the 67-60 win over Georgia Tech “physical” is an understatement. The two teams went after each other almost from the get-go. Ohio State’s toughness – both mentally and physically – had been in question, and rightfully so, at this time of year. I thought each time the Yellow Jackets “shoved” Ohio State, there was a return push from the Scarlet and Gray. Tech’s Deja Foster attempting to get Samantha Prahalis off her game with aggressive, up close defense … and Prahalis, while being demonstrative, let her game do the talking. A sure sign of some of the growth she has shown of late. With all the pushing, shoving and grabbing that went on, it was the type of game that used to throw the Buckeyes into a funk. Jim Foster summed it up best afterward in the press conference when he said “they tried to be tougher than us … that does not work anymore.” Tech is one of those teams that Coach Foster refers to as a team “that throws the ball off the glass and then goes and gets it”… meaning they are a very good offensive rebounding team. Buckeyes assistant Patrick Klein told me prior to the game: “if we (Ohio State) either dominate in points in the paint or win that stat, we will win the game.” At one point the Buckeyes had doubled up Tech, 36-18, and eventually won that category, 40-38. And I can’t go any further without mentioning Jantel Lavender. She surpassed former Oklahoma star Courtney Paris’ mark of 134 straight games with at least 10 points (Jantel had 21 last night). She was a factor on both ends of the floor and took the game over during a stretch in second half when Ohio State started to pull away.
 
So now Tennessee awaits this Saturday afternoon in Dayton. With all that has happened this year, some may say that just reaching the Sweet 16 is a major accomplishment for this Ohio State team. This team has a different outlook … they are enjoying (and embracing) the run they are on, and enjoy being with each other a great deal. It’s something they don’t want to see end. The Lady Vols will be a major hurdle to clear, make no mistake. I expect a very interesting game at the UD Arena.
 
See you in the Gem City!

 

 

March 20, 2011
 
It’s on to Monday’s second round of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament for Ohio State.
The #4 seed Buckeyes on Saturday beat back a scrappy UCF bunch 80-69 to move to a meeting with #5 seed Georgia Tech.
 
I thought the Buckeyes showed a little rust from their two week span without a game against the Knights. There were stretches, such as when Ohio State pushed the lead to 18 points in the second half, where they looked like the team that had won 9 straight games down the stretch. Then there were other stretches, such as UCF’s run to get to within 6 that the Buckeyes struggled. Add to this the weeks practice was altered somewhat to allow for exams, and leaving with a less than perfect 11-point win is a good building point for a tough Monday meeting with Georgia Tech. Jantel Lavender’s 30 points were a NCAA-career best for her, and her match up on the inside with Tech’s Sasha Goodlett will be very interesting to watch Monday. The Yellow Jackets were able to pull away from Bowling Green in the day’s first game 69-58. BG closed to within 1 at the break, down 33-32 at the half. I thought Tech’s pressure wore down the Falcons and BG’s lack of size hurt them as well. One of the theme’s Georgia Tech is using is their not being happy with having to play not one Ohio team in Ohio, but now another on what is widely thought to be that teams (Ohio State’s) home floor. Tech is a very athletic team, brings almost relentless defensive pressure and strong rebounding to the game. Much like in any tournament, when a 4 seed meets a 5 seed, a very good game is in the offing, and I think Monday will be an intense 40 minutes of basketball at St. John Arena.
 
Tough day for Iowa. The 6th seed Hawkeyes losing their NCAA opener to 11th seed Gonzaga, 92-86. Think Georgia Tech is not happy with having to play Ohio State in Columbus? Iowa had to face Gonzaga on the Bulldogs home court in Spokane where they have won 30 of their last 31 games. Their only loss in that stretch was to Stanford. Penn State wins at home, beating
Dayton 75-66. The Lady Lions have what figures to be a “track meet” style game with DePaul awaiting them on Monday. Michigan State and Purdue start their tournament runs Sunday.
 
Also need to say a word about the crowd at St. John Arena Saturday. What a great atmosphere. Attendance announced at a little over 6,000 … and the building was electric. Buckeye fans will be needed in full voice on Monday.
 
A win Monday night and the Sweet 16 awaits Ohio State. We will talk again after the meeting with Georgia Tech!

 

 

March 17, 2011

We get ready for the best time of the year if you are a basketball fan as the NCAA tournament(s) get underway over the next few days.
 
It was interesting to watch and gauge the reaction Monday to the draw and seeding for Ohio State as the team gathered to watch the ESPN Selection Show. Buckeyes coach Jim Foster had stated earlier he felt his team was worthy of a number 3 seed, but there was no real disappointment on any ones face when it was announced the Buckeyes were in the Dayton Regional as a #4 seed. In fact, it was just the opposite. Almost to a person, the reaction was “we (Ohio State) got a very good seed”. And I agree wholeheartedly with that. The teams that come to Columbus – UCF, Georgia Tech and Bowling Green – are all solid teams, but with the way Ohio State is playing right now, the edge favors the Buckeyes in any matchup. Home court, yes it plays a factor, but having seen two of the three teams play on more than one occasion, Ohio State has the edge in talent, depth and coaching. That’s meant as no disrespect to the other three teams, just an opinion.

There has been so much talk about Ohio State’s recent inability to move out of the second round. And again, this is just one man’s opinion, but there seems to be something different about this team opposed to others that have entered the NCAA tournament. A bit of a “swagger” or “confidence” accompanies this current bunch of Buckeyes into the field of 64, something that seemed to be lacking on some of the prior teams that left the dance early.
 
The Big Ten saw a total of five teams receive invites. No real surprises, other than the fact Michigan was left out. The Wolverines really have no one to blame but themselves.  Their awful performance in losing to Illinois in the Big Ten tournament could not have been a positive for the selection committee. Iowa’s draw of Gonzaga in Spokane left the folks in Iowa City a little baffled. From what I hear, the Hawkeye coaching staff is using that as motivation, playing the “we get no respect” card. For Purdue, the #9 seed finds them in Storrs, Conn., to face the #8 seed Kansas State. A win by the Boilers, and well, you know what (and whom) awaits them – UConn. Penn State gets a regular season rematch with Dayton, a game the Lady Lions won in double overtime in the season opener. Michigan State is a #4 seed, and heads to Wichita to face Northern Iowa. Could be interesting if Sparty has to face Green Bay in the second round.
 
Enjoy the Madness … we’ll talk again after Saturday’s games at St. John Arena!

 

 

March 7, 2011

Sunday was a great day to be a Buckeye, with both the women’s and men’s basketball teams winning championships. For the women, the win over No. 2 seed Penn State in Indianapolis in the Big Ten tournament title game capped off a turnaround to a season that just three short weeks ago teetered on the brink of disaster.
 
I asked Jim Foster on our postgame show Sunday if, when his team was struggling with a record of 13-9, he was confident the season could be salvaged. Foster responded by saying HE felt it could be done, he just was not sure the players felt the year could be turned around. Guard Taylor Hill told me in an interview that aired at the half of the Iowa game that people don’t understand the internal differences between a women’s and men’s basketball team. When a men’s team has issues, they simply go out and play through them … Hill telling me a women’s team needs to clear the air and talk through their problems. That was something this Ohio State team needed to do … once that was done, the road towards this becoming a true “team” became much easier to navigate.
 
The Buckeyes were dominant in their three-game stay in Indianapolis. They became the first team to win all their tournament games by double figures en route to the title, and they beat three “higher” seeds (although you would be hard pressed to find anyone who felt the Buckeyes were a true No. 5 seed), to win the crown. Defense was again one of the big reasons Ohio State won. Samantha Prahalis again had the task of shadowing Penn State freshman sharpshooter Maggie Lucas, and with help, kept Lucas without a made field goal until under 2 minutes were left to play. When my broadcast partner Kristin Watt asked Samantha about her defense on our postgame show, a big smile broke out across her face. That, I think, says a lot about how this team has bought into  the defense-first concept.
 
Now, the task of keeping the momentum of this nine-game winning streak alive with a two week break falls to Coach Foster and his staff. Next Monday night is when the 64-team NCAA women’s tournament field will be announced. My opinion is this Buckeye team is a  solid No. 4 seed. The resume, including one of the nations best schedules, and a 7-2 record vs Top 25 teams, is impressive enough to garner that type of seed. How many Big Ten teams join the Buckeyes in the field will interesting. Michigan State, Penn State and Iowa are locks. Purdue should be in as well. I would imagine they may be a bit nervous in Ann Arbor. Michigan looked awful in being eliminated by Illinois in the tourney. The Maize and Blue did finish third, but are 17-12 and the last memory for the committee is the loss to the Illini. They did beat Ohio State twice, so that should help their cause.
 
Great turnout by Buckeye Nation this weekend in Indy! It was fun talking to and meeting so many of you. See you at St. John Arena in two weeks for the NCAA Tournament!

 

 

March 6, 2011
 
Postseason tournament basketball is the most exciting part of the year and last night’s Ohio State-Michigan State semifinal at Conseco Fieldhouse more than fit the description. The game featured a little bit everything, but once again, Ohio State’s ability to do things that don’t often show up in the box score proved big in the 72-57 win.
 
Sarah Schulze battled through 17 minutes, the most she has played since returning from her knee injury, collecting a key rebound, taking a charge, chasing down MSU’s Porsche Poole who appeared headed for a break-away lay-up and knocking the ball away. Huge plays. Amber Stokes playing a career-high 20 minutes with two points, five rebounds and four assists. Not to mention great defense on the perimeter. Taylor Hill, running the point in the final 6-plus minutes after Samantha Prahalis picked up her third foul, was very big for Ohio State. Jantel Lavender’s career-high tying 37 points were enormous, but Jim Foster’s team has figured out what “team” means, and that’s a big reason they face Penn State today for the tournament title.
 
The two games with Penn State during the regular season were up and down the court affairs, and expect today to be roughly the same type. Ohio State’s defense though, was a determining factor, not only in the first two tournament games, but especially in the second meeting with the Lady Lions. After freshman Maggie Lucas torched the Buckeyes for six 3s in the first meeting, she could barely breathe in the return match, hitting just 3-of-10 shots and scoring eight points. Penn State is not afraid to turn the ball over.  Nine times this year they have committed 20 or more miscues in a game, including 27 in the second game with Ohio State. The Buckeyes have been making opponents pay for mistakes of late, and that could be a key factor today.

Both teams know they are NCAA-bound. In fact, both Ohio State and Penn State are serving as first and second round hosts. Today is for seeding, but also a chance for the Buckeyes to do what has been done only one other time in tournament history:  win three straight tournament titles. The Buckeyes would equal Purdue’s run of wins in 1998, 1999 and 2000. It’s been a fun three days in Indy … let’s hope it ends with a win!

Our broadcast coverage starts a 3:15 on AM-1460 ESPN, with the tip from Conseco Fieldhouse at 3:30.

 

 

March 5, 2011
 
Friday night’s Ohio State-Iowa game fit the perfect description for anyone who may wonder what a No. 4 vs. a No. 5 seed tournament game is like. Four ties and 9 lead changes, back and forth action and two, for the most part, pretty evenly matched teams going after each other for 40 minutes.

I thought Ohio State’s ability to withstand every Iowa rush, and the Buckeyes doing the “little” things down the stretch, were big parts in the 71-61 Ohio State win. One of those “little things” was a charge taken by senior Sarah Schulze late in the game. Iowa’s Jamie Printy was penetrating down the lane when Schulze got position and took the charge. Printy at one stretch had scored 12 straight Iowa points to bring the Hawkeyes to within two at 56-54. Another key play came with a little over 1:20 left to go. Ohio State led 63-61 when Samantha Prahalis missed a jumper, Jantel Lavender was able to keep the ball alive enough to gather an offense rebound, and kick the ball to Brittany Johnson who then stroked home a dagger of three-point shot to push the lead to 5 at 66-61. Again, a little thing to turned out to be very big for Ohio State. And let’s not forget Johnson’s three-point shooting. Seven made 3’s on the night, and in the last 6 games the senior has made 26 of her last 46 triples. Lavender’s defense on Iowa’s Kachine Alexander cannot be overlooked as well. Lavender was a big reason Alexander was 2-15 from the field and scored just 7 points. Say what you will, but Jim Foster has not won 736 games in his career by mistake.
 
So now the third meeting with Michigan State awaits Ohio State in the tournament semifinals tonight. Buckeyes assistant coach Debbie Black joined Kristin Watt and I on our postgame show Friday. She, I think, hit the nail on the head when previewing the third meeting with “Sparty”.
Coach Black saying rebounding will be the key. Michigan State makes a living on second and third chances thanks to offensive rebounds. Ohio State has to stay even, and hopefully win, in the rebound battle. Even though Michigan State won the regular season Big Ten title, and they were the best team over 16 games, I think Ohio State is the overall better team. Should be fun tonight at Conseco.
 
The big surprise to this point of the tournament has been the run of the 11 seed, the Illinois Fighting Illini. After winning two games in two MONTHS in the Big Ten, Illinois has won two games in two days in the tournament. In fairness, the two teams they have beaten were good match ups for them, Wisconsin and Michigan. Neither team has an extreme abundance of athletic ability, so Illinois matched up well with both. That should change today at 5 p.m. when they face No. 2 seed Penn State.
 
We join you at 7 p.m. this evening across the Ohio State Buckeyes Radio Network, and locally in Columbus on AM-1460 ESPN.

 

 

March 1, 2011

With the start of the Big Ten women’s basketball tournament Thursday in Indianapolis, the best part of the season begins for fans, players, and most media. Most coaches I have dealt with through the years mostly shrug their shoulders when the topic of postseason tournaments is brought up. The coaches — Ohio State’s Jim Foster included — understand these three to four day events are a necessary evil. Fans flock to the games, media converge in great numbers, players enjoy their last shot to perhaps salvage a season gone awry, and most leagues make money.

Ohio State rolls into Indianapolis as the No. 5 seed and will face the No. 4-seed Iowa Hawkeyes. Ironic that the two preseason Big Ten favorites are meeting in the 4-5 game. It would have been hard to convince anyone in November that would happen. The Buckeyes and Hawkeyes split two regular season match-ups, each winning on their home floor. As most 4-5 games are, this one figures to be the best game of the first two days of play at Conseco Fieldhouse.

While the Buckeyes were stumbling through the mid-part of the schedule, much discussion around the league centered on what was going on with this team. The one comment that was made to me, and almost to a person this was the theme, “If they (Ohio State) put things together, it will be very scary for the rest of us”. Well, that has happened. This is my eighth year broadcasting these games, and the Ohio State team that arrives in Indianapolis will do so with the most momentum of any of the seven prior. The bottom half of the bracket, Ohio State’s, is the tougher of the two in my opinion. Top-seed Michigan State is there, as is No. 8 Northwestern and No. 9 Minnesota. All figure to be very tough outs. Not to mention the Buckeyes and Hawkeyes.
 
Purdue at the No. 7 seed should be interesting to watch. The Boilermakers are playing on what basically amounts to their other “home” floor at Conseco. That is, and has been, a big edge for the Boilers. The difference though this year is Purdue will play on the tournament’s first day for the first time in program history. Most figure Purdue needs to at least reach the semifinals to be certain of an NCAA bid. Can they muster up enough energy to win four games in four days 45 minutes from home?
 
Every aspect of what Jim Foster has continually preached, starting with defense, is working for Ohio State. Now, that does not guarantee a third straight Big Ten tournament title for the Buckeyes, but of the 11 teams that converge on Conseco, Ohio State, in my opinion, is the most dangerous of the bunch.
 
Our broadcast coverage starts at 8 p.m. Friday. The game can be heard statewide on the Ohio State Buckeyes Radio Network, in Columbus on AM-1460 ESPN and on-line for FREE at www.OhioStateBuckeyes.com.
 
We will talk again after the Iowa game! Go Bucks!