Lauderdale Hoping For Return To Form

The road to an NCAA championship begins tonight in Milwaukee for Ohio State and the Buckeyes know they will need all hands on deck. That includes junior center Dallas Lauderdale, who is hoping to bounce back after a disappointing personal showing in the Big Ten tournament.

MILWAUKEE – For Ohio State to go deep into the NCAA Tournament, it will need Dallas Lauderdale to play like he did at the end of the regular season.

In his second season as a starter, the junior center captured Big Ten all-defensive team honors while averaging a conference-high 2.1 blocks per game. Known as a solid defender since his arrival in Columbus, Lauderdale began to show improved scoring capabilities as the season stretched on.

At the tail end of the season, Michigan head coach John Beilein described Lauderdale as a residual player whose impact on the stat sheet comes as the result of other players' actions. Either way, his impact became more pronounced throughout Big Ten play.

After having scored 10 or more points twice in his first two seasons – both as a sophomore – Lauderdale eclipsed that mark 10 times this season. His scoring average climbed to 6.8 points in the process, and he averaged 7.7 per game as the Buckeyes finished conference play 6-1 in their final seven games.

"There were a couple games in a row where he was being dominant down in the post, blocking shots, scoring, rebounding, doing everything we needed him to do," sophomore guard William Buford said. "He's a force in the inside. He doesn't let anybody get any easy buckets in the paint. He's a real good shot-blocker."

That progress was derailed as the Buckeyes captured a Big Ten tournament championship and Lauderdale spent more time on the bench than he did on the court while being replaced by a suddenly more effective Kyle Madsen.

Lauderdale said he did nothing differently in the tournament than he did in the regular season. He simply was out of sync with what the team was doing.

"I'm a defensive and offensive threat," he said. "I can't really define anything because basketball is a reaction-type of game. You can't predict what you're going to do. Just go out and play hard and have fun."

But after having put up solid numbers down the stretch, Lauderdale faded in the conference tournament. The 6-8, 260-pounder scored one basket in each of OSU's three tournament games and averaged 3.0 rebounds – 2.2 less than his season average entering the tournament.

Junior forward David Lighty knows the importance of having a productive big man in the paint during a run through the NCAA Tournament. As a freshman, Lighty was a reserve on the OSU team that featured Greg Oden and reached the title game.

"(Oden) in the middle puts fear in the eyes of our opponents, coming in the paint and not wanting to score," Lighty said. "Combining that with the great guard play that we have is really what gets you to the championship."

Is Lauderdale capable of having such an impact?

"Oh yeah, most definitely," Lighty said. "When he's on his game, it's hard to get around him and get shots up in the middle of the paint."

For the season, Lauderdale has shot 76.4 percent (94 for 123) from the court with his baskets coming almost exclusively in the paint.

The recent good news for the Buckeyes has been the play of Madsen. The senior reserve had logged more minutes than Lauderdale twice this season entering the tournament, once in the first game of the year as Lauderdale recovered from a broken bone in his right hand and later in a blowout victory against Iowa.

In the Big Ten tournament, Madsen averaged 4.7 rebounds and 4.0 points while logging 27.0 minutes per game. He saw a career-high 32 minutes against Illinois, and it marked the first time in his career that he played more than 20 minutes in three consecutive games.

Entering the season, Madsen had not seen more than 18 minutes of action in a game.

"The big guy holds it down in the middle," Lauderdale said. "We're the anchor. We need to come to play. Me, Kyle and (seldom-used reserve Zisis Sarikopoulos), if we come to play we'll be fine."

Madsen was suffering from the effects of a flu virus that has hit the team this week but looks to be recovered in time for tonight's tip. The question now is whether or not his recent play will continue to take minutes away from Lauderdale.

Looking at his own play, Lauderdale said he expects to return to form.

"I just have to play my game and do what I know I'm supposed to do and get the job done for the team," he said. "I have to do what I have to do to help the team win games."

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