NEWARK, N.J. — Ohio State was eliminated from the NCAA Tournament last year by Tennessee — and the Buckeyes say Kentucky reminds them of the Volunteers going into tonight’s East Region NCAA Tournament semifinal here.
“I say kind of like a Tennessee last year, playing against them with bigs that they had and them pushing the tempo as well,” said Ohio State senior David Lighty. “And the wings who get out on the break and finish at the basket. They played different from them, but size and athleticism-wise they are similar.”
“They are athletic on the perimeter and the bigs that they have down low. They are very comparable to Tennessee last year and I think that's why we've put the emphasis on rebounding so much in this game,” guard Jon Diebler said.
“I think my perspective on opinion is they like to block shots,” Ohio State senior center Dallas Lauderdale said. “They were talking on the comparison between how many shots we blocked on them this year and how many shots they blocked. When you brought up Florida State, they sort of remind me about the way that Florida State played us when we played up there. So we have to finish strong and pump fake.”
Ohio State coach Thad Matta says the comparison to last year’s Tennessee team is valid.
“I think that Tennessee last year was long. They were athletic. You know the wings were big, a lot like Kentucky is,” Matta said. “They were interchangeable as Kentucky is. And I kind of view Kentucky a little bit like us, they can make some adjustments and play a couple of different ways.
“Kentucky will push the ball, they will try to score quick. But if it's not there, the one thing we really noticed is they will take the air out of the ball if they get a sizable lead and really slow things down and go into the half-court offense, a lot like Tennessee did.”
Ohio State point guard Aaron Craft says Kentucky knows how to play the pace it wants.
“They like to play pretty fast. They have great guards and guys that can run up and down. We are looking forward to playing a game with this type of pace, but at the same time if they get a lead they are not undisciplined,” Craft said. “They are going to slow it down and get a good shot. They get a lead and they will not make it a track meet. They are more disciplined than they get credit for.
“We have seen people slow it down and people try and run. We enjoy more of an up and down game and we are a better team when we do that. But if UK gets the lead, it won’t be a track meet.”
The Buckeyes certainly didn’t sound like a team underestimating Kentucky.
“They are great team. I mean, they are athletic, they get out and run, they push the pace. They have bigs, they have wings, and they have a guard (Brandon Knight) who can pretty much do it all. So if we don't come ready to play, it's going to be a long night for us,” Lighty said.
“We have to focus on rebounding. They have a lot of guys that are big inside, especially on the perimeter, and they like to crash the glass. We just feel we have to really control the boards,” Diebler said.
Knight, UK’s top scorer, was the one player the Buckeyes talked about the most.
“Very impressed with his ability to run their team. Think that he's got the ability to not only score, but he makes players better around him. For his size as a point guard he is long, he is athletic, and he showed in the Princeton game things —he didn't shoot the ball particularly well in that game but he makes the game-winner,” Matta said. “With as young as they are, I think he has done a tremendous job of coming in and learning the system that they are trying to play. He is a heck of a player. He is a challenge to guard.”
Lighty knows that.
“He has speed, he has size and and I think he plays under control. I think he pushes the tempo when they need it and sets up his teammates when they need it as well. He can score many different ways and shooting the ball with pull-ups and 3’s and getting to the basket when he needs it as well,” Lighty said.
“There are aren't many scoring point guards and that's the one thing he does. He can really score the ball. Obviously he will be someone that we have to pay a lot of attention to,” Diebler said. “We really have to control the transition because they like to run. And as a freshman point guard he does a good job of controlling the tempo and he doesn’t make many mistakes.”
UK Basketball: Buckeyes say Kentucky reminds them of last year's Tennessee team
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