Second-half dry spell dooms Ohio State

SALT LAKE CITY----Randy Ayers doesn’t believe in the fates, or the winds of ill fortune.

The Ohio State coach blamed his team’s 76-65 Saturday afternoon loss to UNLV in the NCCA Tournament on second-half lapse that lasted nine minutes, and a Greg Anthony three-pointer that in a spit second sent his Buckeyes back on the bus bound for Columbus.

With the second-round West Regional win before 12,896 in the Huntsman Center, the Rebels advance to Oakland for an encounter with the upstart Ball State Cardinals. The loss gives Ayers’ 17-13 team plenty to think about in the offseason.

“At times we just had lapses in our offensive execution,” Ayers said. “I felt (UNLV) Coach (Jerry) Tark made a great move when he switched over to the zone, because we were having a lot of success in our man offense.

“I really think that slowed us down quite a bit. It’s hard to completely stop a (David) Butler or a (Larry) Johnson. I thought they made some great shots. Defensively, I thought we were in good position down low. We did exactly what we wanted to defensively.”

That was not the case for UNLV. The Buckeyes drove through the Rebels’ man defense in the first half like a New York taxi driver though a red light at noon. There were no stopping guards. Mark Baker and Jamaal Brown.

Ohio State led early 9-6 on a tip by Brown, a layup and foul shot by Brown, another layup by Perry Carter and a layup by Baker that sent Tarkanian stomping up and down in front of the bench as he called for a timeout.

The Rebels switched into the amoeba defense and it confused the Buckeyes throughout the game. They committed 21 turnovers, shot only 34 percent from outside and managed only 1 of 11 from three-point range---and that successful shot came with only nine-seconds left in the contest.

“It’s absolutely un-American to play the zone,” Tarkanian said. “When we came back in the second half, we played the man-to-man much better. I thought Stacey Augmon did a much better job and it picked up the whole team defensively.”

Augmon limited freshman star Jimmy Jackson to only 11 points on a 5 for 15 performance from the field. HE got a couple of tips and dunks early on, but it was in the second half that Augmon finally came to the NCAA party.

Anthony never arrived defensively. He did manage to connect on the only three-pointer with 1:23 left that put the contest out of reach. Until that point, the Rebels were doing everything possible to allow Ohio State back into the game.

“Great teams have a way of winning ballgames,” Ayers said. “Down the stretch that’s what Vegas did. I felt when it was 67-62 we still had a chance, then Anthony hits the three. Great players step forward when they need a big play and that’s what Anthony did.”

Carte led the Buckeyes on the boards with eight and in scoring with 15. He hit only 5 of 11 from the field against Butler, both of Washington, D.C. Butler said he went to a public school (Coolidge), while Carter went to a private one (Gonzaga). Both took shots at each other in the paint.

Out in the perimeter, all the guards took plenty of shots that missed. UNLV and Ohio State were a combined 16 of 46 from the guard spots. Considering the early success for the Buckeyes sharp shooters, it was pretty dismal overall.

“Their coaches must have scouted us pretty well,” Baker said. “Because we haven’t seen the ball that well against them. We knew Vegas was going to be tough. They are a national power that could still win national championship.”

“For us, we have to go back home and learn from the season. I don’ think any of us believes in losing. It makes us sick. I think we’ll bounce back and come back hard. We’re still young, but we still have lot to improve upon before we’re s good as Vegas.”

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