Big Weekend For OSU Athletics

Several OSU athletic squads will be in action this weekend. That includes coach Jim Foster's women's basketball team, which faces Minnesota in a Big Ten tournament quarterfinal game tonight. Also, the OSU men's hockey team meets Miami (Ohio) in a home and home series and the wrestling team hosts the Big Ten championships at St. John Arena. Click this free link for more.

We normally associate March Madness with men's basketball, and rightfully so with the conference tournaments and NCAA Tournament.

But Ohio State has three more of its marquee athletic teams in important action this weekend. Of course, you can follow all of OSU's athletic teams more closely at the official web site:

We have updates on important events happening this weekend in three of these sports.

* Women's Basketball -- The OSU women's basketball team (19-8, 11-5 Big Ten) has won six in a row and nine of its last 10 on its way to a third-place finish in the conference, its best showing in the league since sharing the title in the Final Four year of 1993.

The 22nd-ranked Buckeyes tackle sixth-seeded Minnesota tonight at 8:30 p.m. in a quarterfinal match-up at the Big Ten tournament at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. The Gophers, ranked 18th nationally, disposed of 11th-seeded Northwestern 68-47. OSU owns two wins over Minnesota already this year, winning 75-57 in Columbus and 76-62 in Minneapolis. The Gophers will likely be without star Lindsay Whalen, who was injured in the game in Columbus and did not play in yesterday's UM win.

Tonight‘s game will be televised by Fox Sports Net.

"You're happy the regular season is over because, really, this is the time of the season you look forward to," said OSU coach Jim Foster, who led the Buckeyes to the conference tournament title game a year ago. "The first opportunity for one-and-done is the Big Ten tournament. We're looking forward to taking some of these youngsters into that environment for the first time.

"We just have to be right. I don't think it matters, at this time of year, who you're playing. You need to be good and lucky at this time of year. I think we're good. There's no such thing as playing too much basketball. I've got a team that loves to play. I think they relish the opportunity to be out there."

A win would put OSU in the semifinals at 6 p.m. Sunday. The championship game is set for 7 p.m. Monday on ESPN2.

Four OSU players were honored with All-Big Ten honors. Caity Matter, LaToya Turner, Jessica Davenport and Brandie Hoskins were named members of various All-Big Ten teams Tuesday. Matter, a junior shooting guard, was named to the coaches' and media second teams and senior forward Turner was a third team media selection and a coaches' honorable mention pick. Davenport, a freshman center, was named the 2004 Big Ten Freshman of the Year by the media, an honorable mention all-league pick by the media and joined Turner on the coaches' honorable mention team. She and Hoskins, a rookie guard, were named to the coaches' all-freshman team. Davenport is Ohio State's first Big Ten Freshman of the Year since teammate Turner garnered the honor in 2000.

OSU seems to be a lock to host NCAA Tournament first- and second-round games March 20 and 22 at St. John Arena. Tickets for those games are available at (800) GO-BUCKS.

* Men's Hockey -- OSU's 11th-ranked men's hockey team (20-14, 15-11) closes out regular-season play with a two-game home-and-home series with rival No. 9 Miami (Ohio) (19-11-4, 16-7-3 CCHA) this weekend.

The Buckeyes and RedHawks will meet at 7:35 p.m. tonight at Goggin Ice Arena in Oxford, Ohio, and at 8:05 p.m. Saturday at Value City Arena in Columbus, Ohio. The game Saturday marks senior night for Ohio State's nine-member Class of 2004. Plus, several of the seniors will be available for autographs after the game.

This series has playoff implications within the CCHA. Miami is in second place, two points behind CCHA-leading Michigan. OSU is in fourth place, three points behind third-place Michigan State. If OSU sweeps Miami and Michigan sweeps MSU, OSU could move up to third place in the CCHA.

OSU and Miami have met three times this year. OSU won 5-3 in a tournament in Dayton, then lost 2-1 at home and 4-2 at Miami in January.

"We want third place," OSU coach John Markell said. "I think we're very capable of beating this hockey club. Everybody is giving them all kinds of kudos. We didn't think we played very well the last time we played them, especially here on the Friday night. We went back down there and played a pretty good game. They beat us on the power play.

"They're playing for the championship. We can play the spoiler's role, plus do ourselves a favor. We've beaten better teams than them in the past. We know they will be a formidable opponent."

OSU has won five of its last seven games going into this series.

Scott May (12 goals, 18 assists) leads OSU with 30 points, while Paul Caponigri (14-15) is next at 29. Senior goaltender Mike Betz has been solid with a .907 save percentage and a 2.47 goals against average.

"I like the way we have responded from losses," Markell said. "We go in there and apply ourselves. This team seems to be motivated by what happens to them on a Friday night."

Regardless of what happens this weekend, OSU will host a first-round Central Collegiate Hockey Association playoff series March 12-14 in Value City Arena. The Buckeyes have clinched a top-six spot in the league.

The Buckeyes' opponent has not yet been determined, however, the teams will face off at 7:05 p.m. Friday and Saturday, March 12-13, in Value City Arena in Columbus. If a third game is necessary, the teams will meet Sunday, March 14, at a time to be determined.

Ticket prices for each game are $15 for adults and $8 for students and children; everyone is required to have a ticket. Ohio State "Go Bucks" cards are not valid for the series. Tickets for game three will only be sold Sunday, March 14, if the third game is needed.

In the CCHA, the Top 6 teams play host to first round series, with the matchups as follows - 1 vs. 12, 2 vs. 11, 3 vs. 10, 4 vs. 9, 5 vs. 8 and 6 vs. 7. The winners of each series advance to the CCHA Super Six at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit March 18-20. The winner of the league tournament earns the CCHA's automatic bid into the NCAA tournament. OSU also has a chance to advance to the NCAA as an at-large participant.

OSU will host the Frozen Four in VCA next season.

* Wrestling -- The OSU wrestling team hosts the Big Ten tournament Saturday and Sunday at St. John Arena. The two-day event begins Saturday at 11 a.m. and runs through the finals Sunday at 2 p.m. The Buckeyes seek to improve upon their eighth-place finish a year ago as they welcome the tournament back to Columbus.

Ohio State last played host to the championships in 1993, when the Buckeyes placed third behind Iowa and Penn State.

Individually, Ohio State has claimed 10 individual Big Ten champions, including current senior Tommy Rowlands, who was crowned heavyweight champion at the 2002 meet. Rowlands and fellow senior 165 John Clark earned No. 1 seeds at their respective weight classes. The final seeds will be determined at the coaches meeting Friday before the event.

Iowa leads the way with three No. 1 pre-seeds as Luke Eustice (125), Cliff Moore (141) and Tyler Nixt (174) earned the top spots in their respective divisions. Moore is the defending Big Ten champion at 141, while Nixt was a runner-up in 2003.

Ohio State also boasts three additional wrestlers with Top 5 pre-seeds as freshman J.D. Bergman will seek to continue a standout freshman campaign as the No. 3 pre-seed at 197, while seniors Jeff Ratliff and Blake Kaplan were voted as No. 4 pre-seeds at 149 and 184 pounds, respectively. Fellow senior Jesse Leng also earned a seed at No. 6 in the 133-pound class, while sophomore Anthony Magistrelli gained a No. 8 seed at 174.

Rowlands has advanced to the finals of the heavyweight class at the Big Ten championships in each of his three seasons as a Buckeye. In his freshman campaign, Rowlands moved to the semifinals, where he lost a 4-3 decision. He recovered with two more wins to claim third place. In his sophomore season of 2002, Rowlands claimed the conference crown over Iowa's Steve Mocco, who Rowlands eventually defeated at the NCAA Championships two weeks later to become the Buckeyes' first national title winner since Mitch Clark in 1998.

Last season, Rowlands again faced Mocco in the finals, but the Hawkeye turned the tables with a 4-1 decision, sending Rowlands to his second career runner-up finish. Rowlands will seek to become the first two-time conference champ since Clark scored back-to-back titles in 1997 and 1998. As a senior, this will be his final appearance at St. John Arena.

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