March 23, 2013

Three-point play: Iowa State

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DAYTON, Ohio -- Two days after beating Iona in the second round of the NCAA tournament, the Ohio State basketball team (27-7, 13-5) will return to action on Sunday, when it takes on Iowa State (23-11, 11-7 Big 12) in the tournament's third round. Following their respective wins on Friday, members of the Buckeyes and Cyclones met with the media to preview their upcoming matchup.

Trying for ten

Ohio State enters Sunday's contest riding a nine-game winning streak, after finishing the regular season on an 8-0 run, including three consecutive wins in the Big Ten tournament. Despite his team's recent string of success, Buckeyes guard Aaron Craft said that he doesn't feel any added pressure heading into Sunday's game.

"If we're under the radar, I don't think we notice it too much," Craft said. "Sometimes you have a little extra pressure if you're like that team always in the spotlight. I think we've done a great job of really relying on one another and really kind of being there for each other."

Ohio State head coach Thad Matta also downplayed his the Buckeyes' winning streak, but admitted that he's enjoying the current state of his team.

"I don't know in this tournament if you could say anybody has a hot hand," Matta said. "I like the way our team's playing. I like the fact that we're winning games right now ... we've got to be better tomorrow than we were today and same thing on Sunday.  That's kind of who this basketball team is in terms of how we operate."

Catching the Cyclones

The West Region's No. 10 seed, Iowa State comes into Sunday's contest having just beaten No. 7 Notre Dame on Friday night. Against the Irish, the Cyclones committed just six turnovers, but will face a whole different challenge against the Buckeyes' backcourt.

"We've been doing a great job with our turnovers," ISU forward Melvin Ejim said. "I would expect that coming out to those games we'd try to do the same things that we did today, which is take care of the ball and really get after the teams defensively. I definitely think our defensive effort is something that can carry over to the next game."

Now playing in their second straight year in the tournament, the Cyclones are enjoying newfound success under head coach Fred Hoiberg. Ejim said that regardless of Sunday's outcome, he's confident in the direction of the ISU program.

"Our past two years, we've really had great strides in the right direction," Ejim said. "It just shows how much work we've put in, how much talent we have on our team, and the future ability I would say we'll have in the Big 12 and on the national stage.  I think we're doing a great job."

Slammin' Sam

It's a day later, but people are still talking about the vicious one-handed alley-oop dunk that OSU forward Sam Thompson threw down in the first half of the Buckeyes' win over the Gaels. Catching a pass in the air from Shannon Scott, Thompson threw down a dunk that ignited the UD Arena crwod.

"An alley‑oop is a great team play. It shows two guys on the same page offensively," Thompson said. "Shannon did such a great job getting into the teeth of the defense, having the defense collapse, and just letting me do the easy part and finishing it."

While Matta admitted that he too was excited by the play, the Buckeyes' head coach admitted that he was even more excited to put some points on the scoreboard.

"I will say this, I think it's a very good play in basketball, to be honest with you, because you can freeze a defense," Matta said. "We tell our guys, hey, if you can dunk it, dunk it.  But if you have to come down with it, I'm fine with that. Just make sure we get two points."


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