Size Could Be Huge In OSU-UT Tilt

Throughout the season, Ohio State has enjoyed the advantage of having an overall height advantage on most of the teams it has played. That figures to be negated in Friday's contest against Tennessee as the Buckeyes prepare for a team that boasts size throughout its lineup.

ST. LOUIS – Evan Turner has not faced size like what Tennessee brings to the table this season, and he does not care.

"I haven't really faced that type of situation, but it's just basketball," he said. "You do what you do."

For the junior point guard for Ohio State, that means leading his second-seeded team against the sixth-seeded Volunteers for the right to advance to the Elite Eight. Although the Buckeyes have no starters listed below 6-5, they find themselves playing arguably their biggest foe of the season.

Aside from 6-3 point guard Bobby Maze, the Vols start no player under 6-7. According to senior guard J.P. Prince, who is listed at 6-7, no one Tennessee guard will be charged with stopping OSU's primary threat. Instead, the responsibility will likely be shared equally among the team's four perimeter players.

"We'll all play him," Prince said. "They play four guards and we have four people that can switch, so matchups will change consistently. There's no one matchup."

That means that the odds are Turner will be facing a defender who can look him in the eye for one of the only times this season. It will require an adjustment from the 6-7 Turner, but one head coach Thad Matta said he is confident he can handle.

"Evan has a great basketball I.Q.," the coach said. "You watch him as the game starts and he's really gotten to where he just reads things and sees how they're going to guard certain things and from there he plays."

That will mean adapting to the fact that he will not be able to find the open teammate because he can simply see over the top of the man guarding him -- an advantage Matta said Turner has enjoyed throughout the season. As a team, however, the Vols said they feel their height will give them more of an advantage on the offensive end rather than on defense.

Therein lies a potential problem for the Buckeyes similar to the one they faced against Georgia Tech in Milwaukee. The Yellow Jackets started two players 6-9 or taller, and the Buckeyes countered with junior center Dallas Lauderdale (6-8) and junior forward David Lighty (6-5).

Against the Yellow Jackets, the Buckeyes often employed a 1-3-1 zone defense with Lauderdale in the middle and Lighty down low. It is likely they will deploy a similar defense against the Vols, meaning Lighty could again find himself leaning on a player several inches taller than himself.

"Smaller players are going to try to front you, so ball reversal is going to be the key to that," Williams said. "I don't think he played any forwards (Chism's) size and strength. It's going to be a great matchup. The Big Ten has great forwards, but nobody with (Chism's) stature."

The plan worked, as OSU used its quickness and athleticism to compensate for the height disadvantage against the Yellow Jackets in earning a 75-66 victory. That might not the case this time out, however.

"I think they do have size like Georgia Tech, but I think they like to get out and pressure a lot," Lighty said. "I don't think it will be too hard of a matchup (in the paint) like it was against Georgia Tech."

Leading the way from that standpoint is forward Wayne Chism. The 6-9 senior enters the game as his team's second-leading scorer at 12.3 points per game but has also knocked down 30.7 percent (31 for 101) of his three-point attempts.

Lauderdale described it as a "do-both game," meaning he will have to be guarding the paint as well as potentially defending the perimeter against Chism. The OSU big man said he is excited for the challenge, while Tennessee junior center Brian Williams said he feels this could be a spotlight game for Chism.

"This would definitely get him credit, if he wins this game and dominates it like he has the potential to," Williams said.

Matta described Chism as being similar to Michigan State's Raymar Morgan and Purdue's Robbie Hummel but added that he shoots the three better than Morgan and posts up more than Hummel.

Each of Tennessee's wings averages between 9.4 and 12.5 points per game in an offense that is more guard-oriented than what Georgia Tech deployed.

"I don't know if it's similar to Georgia Tech because Georgia Tech really liked to pound it inside," Lauderdale said. "I think this is a more guard-oriented team. I think they're going to try to dribble penetrate more and if I do get caught close to the basket trying to block the shot they'll kick it out to Wayne Chism."

So one again, the Buckeyes will be facing a team that can go deeper into its bench and has a height advantage. Standing in his team's locker room at the Edward Jones Dome, Turner said he remains confident in what his Buckeyes bring to the table.

"I think they're pretty tall, but we altogether are (6-5) and taller in the starting lineup," he said. "We just have to go out and compete and not worry about the size. We're fine."


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