MBB Notebook: Buckeyes Like St. John

Sunday night's Ohio State men's basketball victory over the Virginia Military Institute might have seemed like a ho-hum nonconference affair given OSU's eventual 90-57 victory. However, a number of interesting notes from the contest find their way into a BuckeyeSports.com notebook, including why the players enjoyed suiting up in St. John Arena.

When do 6,670 people sound like twice as many?

When they cross the Olentangy River from Value City Arena to St. John Arena.

Despite a crowd of just 6,670 – more than 6,000 less than the announced crowds for season-opening games in VCA against Wisconsin-Green Bay and Columbia – for Sunday night's basketball game in St. John against the Virginia Military Institute, the old barn was rocking during the Buckeyes' 90-57 dispatching of the Keydets.

In particular, the 51-year old building, named after former basketball coach athletic czar Lynn W. St. John, hit its highest notes late in the first half after a dunk by Evan Turner with 48 seconds left. On the ensuing VMI possession, Buckeye pressure kept the Keydets from getting a good look, pushing the decibels even higher. As the crowd reached a crescendo, Hunter Houston of VMI tossed up a tough three-pointer with the shot clock running down that was partially blocked by David Lighty.

Afterward, Ohio State's players sounded as though they did enjoy the chance to play in the historic venue in which OSU has now won 428 of 579 games.

"It seems like everything is a little bit packed in and it's louder," point guard Jamar Butler said. "If we could play every game here, I would."

Teammate Kosta Koufos seemed to agree, comparing St. John Arena to an Atlantic Coast Conference venue – despite having never played a collegiate game in one – and Value City Arena to an NBA arena.

"It was a blessing," Koufos said of the opportunity to play in St. John. "It's just nice playing in a different style arena."

The game was the second in four years in St. John Arena, which before that had last hosted a men's basketball game during the 1997-98 season. In November of 2004, the Buckeyes defeated Chattanooga in the old barn in front of 11,568 fans.

Head coach Thad Matta said the occasional trip to the building will probably continue to be in the cards, but he wouldn't expect the frequency to pass one game per season.

"It's good to hit this every once in a while," Matta said. "This is our second time in four years, which is good. You feel the tradition in here. When you sit in the locker room before the game you think about all the great players, the great coaches that have been in there."

Ohio State played in one of the world's most famous basketball arenas, Madison Square Garden, Wednesday and Friday nights as part of the preseason NIT, while the Buckeyes will travel to historic Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis this upcoming Saturday to face Butler.

Pick Up The Pace: There was no shortage of goalward attempts Sunday night between the Buckeyes and VMI. The Keydets, coached by Duggar Bunsom, prefer to play at a high rate of speed, pressing their opponents in an attempt to force steals and easy baskets while launching threes once setting up their offense.

Between the two squads, 135 shots were taken, including 68 three-pointers, and the teams piled up a total of 86 rebounds and 36 turnovers. Because of the frenetic nature of the game, 18 players had played at least 10 minutes.

Afterward, Butler said he enjoyed playing at a high pace.

"It's a fast pace, and that's the way we like to play too," the senior said. "It was a fun game. You don't get too many games like that."

Butler's last point was absolutely right, in that most teams do not play a high-tempo game like VMI, which came into the game leading the nation in scoring. The fact that the Keydets showed up on the Buckeyes' schedule for the second year in a row might not be a coincidence, as Matta said after the game that he does like to try to schedule different styles of teams during the nonconference slate to prepare OSU for anything that might come up later in the season.

"Absolutely," he said. "I'd like to if at all possible."

Bombs Away: A full 67.1 percent of VMI's shots (49 of 73) were three-pointers, a strategy that didn't quite work when the Keydets made only 11 of the 49 long-range shots (22.4 percent).

Coming in, the Keydets were taking threes on 47.0 percent of their shots (156 of 332), but they had not had much more success finding the bottom of the cylinder: they were only shooting 25.0 percent (39 of 156) coming into the game from beyond the arc.

On the other side, the Buckeyes – save Butler, who made 4 of 8 tries – also struggled in the unfamiliar environment, making just 4 of 19 shots (21.1 percent) from long range. Players who were not Butler were 0 for 11 combined from downtown, led by struggling shooting guard Jon Diebler, who was 0 for 4.

That performance pushed the Upper Sandusky, Ohio, native, who was billed as a tremendous three-point shooter after finishing his high school career with Ohio's career scoring record, to 2 for 24 on the season on treys.

Petering Out: During a break in the action with about a minute to play during the game, a yell from the east student section behind the basket was audible on press row.

"Peters, I implore you to shoot," yelled the voice.

Yes, there's no denying that walk-on junior Danny Peters and his quest for his first points of the season were on the minds of many of the fans when he and fellow walk-on Mark Titus checked in with 2:10 to play.

Peters followed instructions, missing a jumper with 1:35 to play and a three-pointer with 37 seconds to play, much to the chagrin of the crowd - and Koufos,who slumped to the bench after the missed trey.

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