A Statistical Appreciation Of Li Na

Li Na, the two-time Grand Slam champion who on Friday announced her retirement, was the greatest Asian tennis player of all time. She was much more than that, too: At her best, she was as dominant as any of her peers, and she kept improving as she got older.“I’ve succeeded on the global stage in a sport that a few years ago was in its infancy in China,” Li wrote on her Facebook page.Li, the first Asian-born man or woman to reach, let alone win, a Grand Slam singles final, is right. Heading into the 1999 U.S. Open, when Li was 17 years old and ranked outside the top 300, China could boast only 0.55 percent of ranked players on the WTA Tour and just 0.35 percent of all singles ranking points, according to data I compiled this month with the help of colleagues Paul Schreiber and Andrew Flowers.Heading into this year’s U.S. Open, which ended early this month, China had 3.5 percent of ranked players and 5 percent of singles ranking points. The rise of China as a women’s tennis power coincided with, but also surpassed, the rise of women’s tennis elsewhere in Asia. Li was a major part of that rise, but other Chinese players have accompanied her on the journey. Li sat out the U.S. Open with the knee injuries that are forcing her to retire, which meant she couldn’t defend her ranking points from reaching the semifinals last year. In her absence, Peng Shuai, the second-ranked Chinese woman, reached the semis, by far her best career result. (Peng withdrew, injured, from her semifinal match.)Even on a tour led by No. 1 Serena Williams, who is five months older than Li, Li stood out for her ability to keep improving. She took two years off from pro tennis starting in 2002, a period during which she began studies toward a journalism degree she earned in 2009. Li cracked the top 100 at age 22, the top 20 at age 24, the top 10 just before her 28th birthday and the top five at age 29.Although Li struggled with knee problems during her last years on tour, she also kept improving, fine-tuning her serve and net game while working with coach Carlos Rodriguez. Her ranking showed it: Li played nearly all of her last nine months as an active player at a career-high ranking, first reaching No. 3 last fall, then the No. 2 ranking early this year, after winning the Australian Open.At that Australian Open, Li — sometimes inconsistent during her career — reached total dominance. She won four sets by the most dominant possible score of 6-0, including two against Top 25 opponents in the fourth round and the final. Williams, a winner of 18 Grand Slam singles titles, won four bagel sets at the same major tournament just twice in her career. Among the stars Li bageled at Grand Slams were two Grand Slam champions and four other major finalists.Although she never reached the No. 1 ranking, Li’s bagel rate establishes just how good she was when she was dominant: really, really good. She averaged 18 bagel sets won for every 100 Grand Slam matches played, just behind Williams’s rate. Li is ahead of four of the eight other two-time Grand Slam winners over the past decade in bagels sets won per Grand Slam match. read more

NCAA Probing Myck KabongoLeBron James Connection

Texas sophomore guard Myck Kabongo has been questioned by NCAA investigators about his relationship Rich Paul, who represents LeBron James, a Longhorns men’s basketball spokesman said.Texas spokesman Scott McConnell said Kabongo has talked with investigators but is in school and practicing with the team. Kabongo has not been declared ineligible and the school compliance department is communicating with the NCAA, McConnell said.Yahoo! Sports first reported the probe into Kabongo’s relationship with Paul, who his James’ close friend and agent. Yahoo! reported that Paul called NBA front offices on behalf of Kabongo before the 2012 draft. Usually, when players probe their stock in the draft, the college coach or someone associated with the school makes the inquiry.Kabongo chose to stay with Texas instead of entering the draft.Yahoo! reported the NCAA is also investigating whether Paul was involved in a trip to Cleveland last spring that included at least one workout with professional trainer Jerry Powell, and who paid for the trip and the workout.“We are aware of the situation,” McConnell said. “We have not heard any decisions from the NCAA.”Later Wednesday night, Kabongo tweeted, “HUGE reach.”Kabongo started 34 games for Texas last season. He was third on the team in scoring at 9.6 points per game and led the Longhorns by averaging 5.2 assists. He has been projected as a possible first-round draft pick in 2013.He could be declared ineligible if the NCAA determines he received improper benefits from an agent.James and Paul met when the former was a teenager and quickly formed a strong relationship. By the time James reached the NBA in 2003, Paul had become one of his closest friends and confidants. When James left Goodwin and formed his own marketing company, LRMR, Paul became a business partner.Paul represents two former Longhorns, Cleveland Cavaliers forward Tristan Thompson and San Antonio Spurs guard Cory Joseph, Yahoo! reported. read more

NBA Power Ratings And Playoff Odds Hornets Rising Heat Falling

With just about five weeks remaining in the 2014-15 regular season, we present another edition of FiveThirtyEight’s NBA Power Ratings. How do these numbers work? In a nutshell, each team is ranked according to a projection of its strength over the upcoming week — and the upcoming week only — using Real Plus-Minus (RPM) player ratings provided by Jeremias Engelmann and Steve Ilardi. For more details on the methodology, see our introductory rankings post.A few observations on this week’s ratings:Don’t look now, but the Charlotte Hornets suddenly have a 53 percent chance of making the playoffs in the East. Winners of six of their last seven games (including five straight), they also saw their long-term talent rating improve greatly with the prospect of guard Kemba Walker returning for the season’s stretch run. A knee injury has kept Walker out of action since late January.The Atlanta Hawks, owners of the league’s second-best record, still rank just 8th in our power ratings. What’s going on? It’s not their loss Saturday to the lowly Sixers, nor is it a disconnect between the team’s winning percentage and its point differential (they rank third overall in Basketball-Reference’s adjusted efficiency differential, so they’ve been winning by margins plenty strong). Instead, the issue is similar to what plagued the Hawks last week: Injury-related playing time allocations are working against them in the short term. This time, FiveThirtyEight favorite Kyle Korver sat out over the weekend and is listed as day-to-day in the injury report, which means more projected minutes for Kent Bazemore. Since Korver carries one of the best RPM ratings in the NBA (+4.5) and Bazemore sports one of the worst (-3.8), any shift in minutes from the former to the latter takes a toll on Atlanta’s power rating.The week’s two biggest risers are the New Orleans Pelicans and Dallas Mavericks, and both boosts come largely because key players are returning from injury.Pelicans superstar Anthony Davis, owner of the seventh-best RPM in the NBA, suited up last week for the first time since aggravating his nagging shoulder injury on February 21, and his presence alone improved New Orleans by 2.5 rating points (to say nothing of the points gained by not having to play his backups as much). For Dallas, the big gains come with Tyson Chandler and Chandler Parsons re-joining the lineup. Our projections expect that pair to play about 54 combined minutes per team game over the upcoming week — an increase of 25 minutes per team game that yields a 1.9-point rating improvement for the Mavericks. They also project to gain 0.6 rating points via decreased minutes for players lower on the depth chart.Since the news of Jimmy Butler’s injury broke too late to be accounted for in last week’s rankings, the full extent of its damage can be seen in Chicago’s power rating this time around. A reduction of 26 minutes per game to Butler’s projection cost the Bulls 1.7 rating points, while big playing-time upticks for low-rated wings E’Twaun Moore and Doug McDermott set Chicago’s rating back by another 1.5 points. The loss of Butler was much more damaging to the Bulls than that of Derrick Rose, whose injury only cost the team about 0.4 points of power rating after his backups were accounted for.The Miami Heat have been hemorrhaging playoff probability for weeks now and are down to just a 30 percent chance of making the postseason despite sitting at 93 percent back on Feb. 2. The team has gone 7-8 since then, while Indiana, Boston and Charlotte — at that time, three of Miami’s chief competitors for the final pair of unclaimed Eastern Conference playoff slots — have gone a combined 28-14. But Miami’s bigger problem is that their talent pool has been drained, even after winning the trade deadline. Highly-rated players such as Chris Bosh, Hassan Whiteside, Luol Deng and prized deadline acquisition Goran Dragic are all injured (or listed as day-to-day), while the team is projected to give big minutes to poor RPM players such as Henry Walker, Michael Beasley and rookies Tyler Johnson and Shabazz Napier. read more

Will Buyout Season Help The Cavs And Warriors

It’s buyout season in the NBA, meaning that washed-up, out-of-favor or otherwise disgruntled veterans have begun to make their way to contenders. Specifically, Deron Williams and Jose Calderon have (or will soon have) new teams. Williams appears to be headed to Cleveland, where he’d become the latest in a long line of faded stars and aged role players to team up with LeBron, while Calderon seems likely to wind up in Golden State.Neither move would likely change how deep Cleveland or Golden State goes in the playoffs, but both players could fill key roles for the defending finalists.Deron WilliamsWilliams, who has already cleared waivers and has reportedly informed the Cavs that he’ll sign with them, has had a rough year in Dallas, being displaced in the rotation by Seth Curry, Devin Harris and Yogi Ferrell. He’s averaging 13.1 points and 6.9 assists in 29.3 minutes on the season but has seen his role cut considerably since January. But even though Williams’s overall stats remain down and he clearly isn’t the player he was earlier in his career, there’s a chance that he’ll fill the specific needs of the Cavs.LeBron James has publicly called for Cleveland to add another point guard to its roster after the departure of Matthew Dellavedova to restricted free agency, and the stats bear out the claim: The Cavaliers have only three players with an assist rate over 10 percent:1Basketball Reference.com’s assist rate is an estimate of the percentage of teammate field goals a player assisted while he was on the floor. LeBron (41.9), Kyrie Irving (30), and 21-year-old backup point guard Kay Felder. This season, Williams has a 40 percent assist rate, which may not be the best gauge of point guard play on its own but could be a good indicator that he can help the Cavs.While the Cleveland offense is known for ball movement and numerous 3-point shooters, it also relies on having a player initiate the offense using ball screens and drives. That’s what draws the defense’s attention away from the other, off-ball actions that spring Kyle Korver or Richard Jefferson open. Williams should help to keep those skills on the floor when James and Irving take a rest. According to Synergy Sports Technology, Williams scores 89.9 points per 100 possessions as a pick-and-roll ball handler (this is fairly good) and outperforms Felder in nearly every scoring category.Williams obviously won’t solve all of the Cavs’ problems — for that, Kevin Love and J.R. Smith will need to return healthy and ready for the playoff run, and Andrew Bogut, who has secured his release from the Philadelphia 76ers and is expected to sign in Cleveland, will have to help hold down the fort until they return. But if Williams can do even a passable job at alleviating the playmaking deficiency that’s forced James into long minutes, he may prove just as crucial as either of those players.Jose CalderonCalderon was waived by the Los Angeles Lakers and is reportedly leaning toward the Warriors as his preferred destination. Calderon would be the Warriors’ third point guard, behind Stephen Curry and Shaun Livingston, so his role would be smaller in Oakland than Williams’s would be in Cleveland, but adding shooting off the bench is key for Golden State, which has surprisingly few dead-eye shooters on the roster behind Curry, Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant. When Did Sports Become So Political? Related: Hot Takedown Calderon has never been a lockdown defender, and rarely even a serviceable one, but he’s always balanced that out by being one of the most efficient offensive players in the game, picking up a 50-40-90 season along the way. This season, his shooting numbers are all way off of his career norms — 41.6 percent from the field, 35.3 percent from three, and a 50.8 true shooting percentage — though he’s also played fewer than 300 minutes on the season.During his longest stretch of extended action — an eight-game run in November and December during which he was pressed into starting — Calderon looked more like himself, posting a 60.2 true shooting percentage and 34.6 assist percentage. He also put up a 116 defensive rating to a 107 offensive rating, and the Lakers dropped five of those eight, so he wasn’t exactly a game-changer. But in a spot-role for the Warriors, he wouldn’t need to be.Most relevant to a job with the Warriors is Calderon’s 39.3 percent shooting on spot-up threes, making him, at worst, one more piece of shooting on a team that runs on the stuff.Check out our latest NBA predictions. read more

Ohio State womens soccer clinches postseason spot behind Paradisos 2 goals

OSU senior forward Michela Paradiso (9) during a game against Purdue on Oct. 9 at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium. Credit: Anbo Yao / Lantern photographerMichela Paradiso saved her best for last. Playing in her final home game for the Ohio State women’s soccer team, the senior midfielder/forward netted a career-high two goals to lift the Buckeyes over Michigan State on a rainy Wednesday evening at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium.With the win 2-0 over the Spartans, OSU (10-5-3) clinched the No. 7 seed in the Big Ten tournament, which is set to begin on Sunday.“I knew we needed this game to enter the Big Ten tournament so I just wanted to help carry my time and show them what it takes to come out on top,” Paradiso said.The game, which was senior night for Paradiso and forwards Marisa Wolf and Katelyn Kraft, was a perfect finale for the players to end their careers in Columbus on.OSU got on the board early on. In the third minute of play, Paradiso — an Upper Arlington, Ohio, native — possessed a corner kick from sophomore midfielder Nikki Walts and finished from 15 yards out.With the win, the Buckeyes are 9-1 when they get on the board first on the season.The hometown girl’s story just continued to get better.“(Paradiso) has really found herself this year,” OSU coach Lori Walker said. “Michela’s a very serious young woman. She takes her academics seriously, she takes herself seriously and her soccer. So what I’m proud of is that she’s really found a way to enjoy everything.”Perhaps it was the way Walker prepared Paradiso in the morning that propelled the senior to be successful on Wednesday night.“I said to her this morning, ‘Just soak it all in because you don’t get these moments back.’ So I think for her to have those goals and help carry her team into the Big Ten tournament and what we were calling a championship game today, I’m just so proud of her,” Walker said.In the 31st minute, Paradiso drew a penalty kick and finished to her right for her second goal of the night and her fifth of the season.Heading into halftime, OSU led the Spartans 8-4 in shots, including 5-1 on the frame. The teams were knotted in corner kicks at two.The Spartans brought on very physical play in the first half, and Walker said she prepared her team to stay at ease and not feed into negative energy.The Buckeyes were unrelenting in their pressure in the second half though they sat comfortably with their two-goal lead.“We really felt that was the biggest challenge. In soccer, a 2-0 lead is most difficult because all it takes is one goal and all of a sudden the team gets their confidence back and your team feels like they’re on their heels,” Walker said. “We just challenged them to step up and make sure that we did all of the little things again.”Freshman goalkeeper Devon Kerr was in the net for the entire 90 minutes as opposed to the Buckeyes’ usual starter, redshirt junior Jillian McVicker,..“Devon is such a big presence, physically. She makes great reactionary saves,” Walker said. “Devon is so young so there’s still a lot of experience that she needs to gain so for us today she really did what she needed to do.”Walker said she could not be more proud of her team and how it rose to the challenge presented to them.“I want them to really enjoy this moment right now while we wait to see where we’re headed,” Walker said.The win for the Buckeyes gave them the No. 7 seed in the Big Ten tournament, which granted them a matchup with No. 2-seeded Wisconsin.“This is what you’ve done all this work for,” Walker said. “The excitement is that we’ve gotten there and now let’s see what kind of run we can put ourselves on.”Paradiso last appeared in the Big Ten Tournament as a freshman, so she said she is excited to return in her final year wearing the scarlet and gray.“It feels so good,” she said. “For a lot of these girls it’s their first trip to the Big Ten (tournament), only the senior class has been there. I’m just so happy to bring back that tradition … of going to the tournament.”OSU’s quarterfinal matchup against the Badgers is scheduled to kick off at 1 p.m. on Sunday in Madison, Wisconsin. read more

Ohio State defense quiets critics Spartans attack

EAST LANSING, Mich. – For about five weeks, the Ohio State football defense heard almost nothing but criticism. For the majority of OSU’s game Saturday against Michigan State, the Buckeyes’ defense heard almost nothing at all. Playing against an MSU team that features one of the nation’s most prolific running backs, OSU, time after time, sent the Spartans’ offense back to its sideline and the bulk of the 76,000-plus screaming fans at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing, Mich., into their seats with not much to cheer for. A week removed from giving up 403 yards of offense to a now 0-4 Alabama-Birmingham team, the Buckeyes allowed just 303 yards. The Spartans were 4-for-15 on third down, averaged a mere 1.5 yards per carry, and completed only 52 percent of their passes. The stat the Buckeyes are likely most proud of, though, is the 45 yards MSU junior tailback Le’Veon Bell totaled on the ground. Coming into Saturday’s contest, Bell was the nation’s third leading rusher, averaging 153 yards per game. “That’s a good back. He won’t be held to (such low yardage). I’m venturing to say that won’t happen again to that guy. He’s a good player,” said OSU first-year coach Urban Meyer. OSU players agreed with their coach. “It’s amazing, ain’t it?” said OSU redshirt senior defensive end Nathan Williams of the Buckeyes’ bottling up Bell. “It’s incredible. We played our butts off up front.” Saturday’s defensive performance was needed by OSU, and not just to pave the way for a win against a Big Ten foe. Coming into its game against the Spartans, OSU ranked at the bottom of the Big Ten in defense, and it was something that shocked Buckeye players. “Somebody sent us a text last week showing us we were last in defense, and we were just like, ‘Dang,’” said redshirt sophomore cornerback Bradley Roby. Williams said he took the criticism aimed at OSU’s defense to heart. “We take things personal, and we showed it (Saturday),” Williams said. Prior to kickoff Saturday, MSU’s defense ranked best in the Big Ten. But by 7:40 p.m., it was the Buckeyes’ defense that looked better, as now No. 12-ranked OSU (5-0, 1-0 Big Ten) held on for a 17-16 victory against then No. 20-ranked Spartans (3-2, 0-1 Big Ten). “We have a lot of confidence in this defense. I have a lot of confidence in this defense. I think (Saturday) we finally played to our potential,” said senior linebacker Etienne Sabino, who all but sealed the win with a third-down hit on MSU junior quarterback Andrew Maxwell late in the fourth quarter that stalled a possible game-winning drive. The potential for the defense, according to OSU players, is to be the best in the conference and one of the best in the country. “Michigan State’s supposed to have one of the best defenses in the Big Ten, so we just wanted to come out here (Saturday) and show that we’re the best defense in the Big Ten,” Roby said. The players the OSU defense employed Saturday are mostly the same players that have been playing, and struggling, throughout the first month of the season. Those players’ muscles were not any bigger and their legs were not any quicker Saturday against the Spartans. The difference between OSU’s defensive performance against MSU versus its output during the first month of the season was, according to Buckeye players, the game plan. OSU had nine players in the box most of the game and had its defensive backs play one-on-one coverage. They forced Maxwell to throw and did not let Bell, a 6-foot-2, 244-pound bruiser, gain yards up the middle. Williams, who has been a part of the OSU program since 2008, said the game plan was the best he’s ever been a part of in his career as a Buckeye. “We’ve seen (Bell) get going on tape, and it’s all bad news once he gets running downhill. So we didn’t give him the opportunity to get going downhill. We closed the gaps, and played great defense,” Williams said. As bad as OSU had been on defense heading into its game against MSU, Meyer said he was confident the Buckeyes were capable of the performance they turned in Saturday. “Absolutely I thought (we were good enough to win). I thought our defense was good enough to play better the first four games; that’s how much confidence I’ve got in our players and coaches,” Meyer said. Meyer and his players said they know the strong defensive outings will have to continue for the remainder of the season. This upcoming Saturday, OSU faces No. 21 Nebraska. The Huskers average 44.8 points per game and more than 300 yards per game on the ground. It will be another major test for the Buckeyes’ defense, but Williams said he hopes OSU’s performance against MSU will give OSU a leg up. “I hope Nebraska looks at this tape and realizes they can’t run on us,” Williams said. Whether or not the Huskers hear Williams warning will be proven Saturday, as OSU takes on Nebraska at 8:00 p.m. in Ohio Stadium. read more

Ohio State backup quarterback battle Cardale Jones with early edge on JT

Then-redshirt-freshman Cardale Jones (12) rushes the ball during a game against Florida A&M Sept. 21 at Ohio Stadiun. OSU won, 76-0.Credit: Shelby Lum / Photo editorThe starting quarterback position at Ohio State is set in stone.Senior Braxton Miller ­— and his two, back-to-back Chicago Tribune Silver Footballs for Big Ten Most Valuable Player honors — has that spot locked up.But with fan favorite and coach-on-the-field Kenny Guiton out of eligibility and looking to get a shot in the NFL, the player who will fill the backup slot behind Miller is a glaring question mark during spring practice.OSU coach Urban Meyer said last week the competition has picked up between redshirt-sophomore Cardale Jones and redshirt-freshman J.T. Barrett, but said Jones has the early edge and has been running with the first team offense while Miller rehabs from shoulder surgery.Offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Tom Herman echoed that sentiment Tuesday after practice.“Cardale’s done a great job,” Herman said. “He’s playing like a quarterback at Ohio State should, but through the nine practices, we just need for those guys to play to their strengths.”Barrett and Jones carry entirely different body types — Barrett is just 6 feet 1 inches tall and is listed at 225 pounds, while Jones towers above the other quarterbacks on roster at 6 feet 5 inches and is a solid 250 pounds. Jones’ strong arm is his identity, while Barrett is more a finesse player who focuses on getting the ball to his receivers on time. Getting each player to understand that, Herman said, is half the battle.“I tell those two guys a lot of the time, ‘Just be you.’ Their strengths are so different,” Herman said. “I tell J.T., you get paid — and he gets paid a scholarship, that’s what I’m talking about — to make great decisions, to get the ball out of your hands and be accurate. You’re not going to grow (physically) … Cardale is 6 foot 5 and 250 pounds and can throw it through that wall.”The only quarterback on the roster with game experience other than Miller is Jones, who played in three games of mop-up duty last season after the outcome of those games had already been decided in favor of the Buckeyes.Barrett redshirted last season while recovering from a torn ACL and meniscus that ended his senior season at Rider High School in Wichita Falls, Texas.The opportunity to further develop each player with Miller out is both a good and bad thing, Herman said. The good: each young guy gets an opportunity to get snaps with the first team offense. The bad: Miller is missing out on vital practice time in his own progression as a player.“Is it frustrating? Yes,” Herman said of not being able to fully work with Miller. “But I think if you dwell on what you can’t do with him, you forget or maybe you don’t do justice to the things that we’re trying to do with him.”Among those things are having a camera on his hat as Miller watches plays unfold in practice, and reviewing them with Herman and Meyer at the end of the day to learn more about what the defensive unit is doing.“Braxton stands behind (the other quarterbacks) and gets all the mental reps like Kenny Guiton used to last year,” Meyer said after practice March 18.That’s as important a step as any, Herman said.“Right now I can tell in the meetings he’s more engaged,” Herman said of Miller. “And I’ll say this again. Braxton, in my opinion, has always been very football smart. You don’t get to do the things you do on a football field without understanding what’s going on.”But with how injury-prone OSU’s starter was last year — Miller sprained his MCL early in OSU’s 42-7 win against San Diego State Sept. 7 and missed the next two games, and also missed time in the team’s Orange Bowl loss to Clemson — having a solid backup like Guiton is vital.While Jones has impressed enough to earn the majority of the first-team reps, he was inaccurate Saturday in the first team scrimmage of the spring — one the defense won.“It was a ‘This is my first scrimmage on a winner-loser day, running as quarterback with the first offense at the Ohio State University and I’m nervous as hell,’” Herman said on Jones’ performance. “And it showed.”But a day like that is all part of the maturation process, Herman said, and isn’t symbolic of what either man has done so far in spring practice.“What they showed on Saturday was not indicative of the previous four practices or (Tuesday’s) practice,” Herman said. “Everything about spring ball is a learning experience. And these guys are doing that each and every rep they take.”The Buckeyes are set to take on Navy in their first game of the season Aug. 30 at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore. Kickoff is set for noon. read more

Ohio State mens hockey swept at home by NebraskaOmaha

Master Sgt. James Finfrock, a senior military instructor with the OSU ROTC, rappels down to center ice to deliver the puck Nov. 7 before a game between OSU and Nebraska-Omaha at the Schottenstein Center. OSU lost, 4-1. Credit: Michael Griggs / For The LanternDespite wearing camouflage jerseys in honor of Veterans Day, the Ohio State men’s hockey team did not blend into its environment over the weekend. The Buckeyes stood out; they were the team unable to score goals on Friday and unable to stop the opposition the following night.The University of Nebraska-Omaha beat OSU (2-5-1) 4-1 on Friday and 4-3 on Saturday at the Schottenstein Center.“Same result,” OSU coach Steve Rohlik said of Saturday’s loss. “You have to play a little smarter with the lead. I thought we gave up a couple of easy goals on some breakdowns.”The Buckeyes squandered a 3-1 lead in the first period of Saturday’s game, then couldn’t score on the power play during the waning moments of their eventual 4-3 loss.With the Buckeyes’ net empty and extra attacker on, Nebraska-Omaha took a penalty with 1:21 remaining in regulation. The penalty put OSU on a two-man advantage.Down 4-3 at the time, OSU couldn’t convert as Maverick sophomore goalie Kirk Thompson kicked aside the Buckeyes’ last-second shot and sealed Nebraska-Omaha’s road sweep.The Buckeyes’ power play went one-for-nine on the weekend and has gone one-for-18 in its past four games.OSU senior forward Darik Angeli scored the Buckeyes’ lone power play goal of the series on Saturday, but the goal, which gave OSU its 3-1 lead, was irrelevant by the end of the night.Goals came early on Saturday as the Buckeyes and Mavericks combined for three goals on the first four shots of the game.OSU’s offense showed good signs in the first period, but OSU sophomore forward Nick Schilkey said the team’s success was lost in the final score.“Obviously a couple went in early on, but it kind of goes by the wayside by the end of the game when we can’t capitalize,” Schilkey said. “It wasn’t our best.”OSU notched the first goal of the night at the 4:05 mark when Schilkey connected with senior forward Tanner Fritz to give Fritz his third goal of the season.Less than a minute later Nebraska-Omaha freshman forward Avery Peterson scored his second of the series and first of the night. Peterson’s wrist shot from the left circle was nearly identical to the shot he beat OSU sophomore goalie Matt Tomkins with on Friday.The Buckeyes regained the lead one-minute later when senior forward Chad Niddery put a backhander behind Thompson.After scoring at nearly a goal-per-minute pace, the teams slowed until the 16:11 mark of period when Angeli and Peterson swapped goals within a two-minute span.Angeli’s goal was OSU’s final cause for celebration. Nebraska-Omaha notched goals in the second and third periods to complete their two-goal comeback.“We weren’t happy with the amount of times that their forwards got behind us,” OSU junior defenseman Sam Jardine said. “That’s just something they were trying to do, stretch us out once we got the lead.”The Mavericks’ game-tying goal came after the Buckeyes had a couple good scoring chances and marked a turning point in the game, Rohlik said.“Sometimes when you start pressing, instead of getting better you start to find yourself maybe not making those fluent plays,” Rohlik said. “That’s almost how we looked.”Buckeye sophomore goalie Christian Frey finished with 26 saves including 12 in the third period.Friday’s result brought a different type of frustration to the Buckeyes. OSU outshot Nebraska-Omaha 26-19 and led 40-22 in the faceoff circle.“Our guys didn’t have a lot of zip tonight,” Nebraska-Omaha coach Dean Blais said on Friday. “Ohio State had the better chances.”The Buckeyes’ possession wasn’t enough to solve Maverick senior goalie Ryan Massa who made 25 saves for the Mavericks. OSU Senior forward Matt Johnson’s goal in the third period ruined what would have otherwise been a well-earned shutout.Tomkins made 15 saves for the Buckeyes on Friday.Loose Pucks-Fritz went 25-12 in the face-off circle against Nebraska-Omaha-OSU is having its worst start to its season since it went 2-5-1 to open the 2009-2010 season.-The last time the Buckeyes were swept at home was Feb. 22-23, 2013 vs. Michigan read more

Ohio State field hockey improves to 20 in Big Ten play in

Sophomore midfielder Morgan Kile (8) battles for the ball in a game against Saint Louis on Aug. 28 at Buckeye Varsity Field. OSU won the season opener 5-0.Credit: Kevin Stankiewicz / Asst. Sports EditorThe Ohio State field hockey team brought home its second Big Ten win of the season Sunday afternoon on the road against Penn State, 2-1. Sophomore midfielder and Mountain Top, Pennsylvania, native Morgan Kile won the game when she scored her first goal of the season nine minutes into the double-overtime period off a fast break. In addition to scoring, Kile has tallied up three assists on the year for the Buckeyes, who now sit at 6-3 overall and 2-0 for Big Ten games.  OSU’s first goal of the game was scored by junior forward Brooke Hiltz nine minutes into the second half, which tied the score 1-1.Looking back, October 2011 was the last time the Buckeyes defeated Penn State (4-5, 1-2). With its first two conference games ending in wins, OSU is having its most successful start in the Big Ten since 2010.The first half of the game was mostly controlled by an offensively driven Penn State, with 14 shots and nine penalty corners in its favor. The Nittany Lions scored the first goal of the game 23 minutes in when junior forward/midfielder Brooke Birosik shot successfully off a penalty stroke.OSU’s defense, including sophomore goalie Liz Tamburro and her 11 saves, kept Penn State from advancing anymore on the scoreboard. Freshman back Hannah Pany and sophomore midfielder/back Carolina Vergroesen also assisted the defense with one save each. The score was tied in the 47th minute thanks to Hiltz’s goal shot from the short left side with an assist from freshman midfielder/forward Casey Cole. Despite the Buckeyes’ five shots, the offense was unable to score again, bringing the game into overtime.During the first overtime period, Penn State generated two shots, but the game swayed in OSU’s favor during the second. Including Kile’s game-winning goal, the Buckeyes had four total shots and took home the win with a final score of 2-1. The Buckeyes are set to return to the home field when they face off against Maryland on Friday at 3:30 p.m. at Buckeye Varsity Field. read more

Sam Hubbards journey The road from lacrosse commit to OSU defensive end

OSU redshirt freshman defensive end Sam Hubbard (6) defends during a game against Western Michigan on Sept. 26 at Ohio Stadium. OSU 38-12. Credit: Samantha Hollingshead / Photo EditorThe Ohio State defense has nearly been an impenetrable blockade for opposing offenses so far in 2015.Through four weeks, the Silver Bullet unit ranks sixth in the nation for total defense, having allowed opponents to cross the goal line just six times while holding them to an average of 253 yards per game.A considerable chunk of the defense’s early success can be traced to the transformation and emergence of redshirt freshman Sam Hubbard — whose road to becoming a key rotation piece at defensive end for the defending national champions has been long, winding and far from conventional.Before ColumbusPrior to arriving at OSU, Hubbard was a two-sport standout for Cincinnati’s Archbishop Moeller High School, playing safety on the gridiron and midfield on its lacrosse team. He was already planning on going to college for athletics, but neither at OSU nor for football. Rather, he had already given his verbal commitment to play lacrosse for Notre Dame.He might have stayed on that road had OSU coach Urban Meyer not waltzed through Hubbard’s gym class during his junior year in high school and seen him playing dodgeball.“We were all just playing like a normal day in class and he walked in with his leather jacket and everyone was like, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s Urban Meyer,’” Hubbard said.Meyer was there to see Moeller’s football coach, John Rodenberg, who is also the gym teacher.Hubbard admitted to giving extra effort, but said he didn’t think much of it until his coach introduced him to Meyer after class.From there, their relationship began, and by early April 2013, Hubbard decommitted from Notre Dame and pledged to play football in Ohio’s capital.After the football season, Hubbard decided to forgo his final year of lacrosse to spend the winter gaining an extra 15-20 pounds to prepare for enrolling in Columbus, as he would no longer be a safety.Redshirt seasonHubbard was recruited to be an outside linebacker, and he went through camp at the position. Shortly after, however, the coaches decided to try him at tight end to utilize the former lacrosse player’s athleticism. That experiment would only last a few weeks before he was back to working as a linebacker.Soon thereafter, his road took another turn when coaches told him he would be heading to defensive line coach Larry Johnson’s position room.“I just sat down in the back of the room and just had no idea what he was talking about for the first four or five weeks,” Hubbard said.Despite the lack of familiarity, Hubbard’s ability shined through during his first few weeks, impressing the coaching staff, including Meyer — who considered pulling Hubbard’s redshirt after a few weeks but deemed it “unfair” due to how late into the season it was.The strong finish to his redshirt campaign, combined with a spring practice effort that earned effusive praise from Meyer, resulted in high hopes for Hubbard’s regular season debut wearing scarlet and gray.Game reps at lastHubbard, who now tips the scale at 265 pounds, was just supposed to be in the rotation at defensive line for OSU, but junior Joey Bosa’s suspension for the season opener meant an increased role in his first live action.On just the game’s ninth play against Virginia Tech, he registered his first career sack before  corralling three more tackles and one quarterback hurry.OSU sophomore defensive end Sam Hubbard (6) and senior linebacker Joshua Perry (37) attempt to tackle Virginia Tech redshirt-junior tailback Trey Edmunds (14) during a game against Virginia Tech on September 7 in Blacksburg, Virginia. OSU won 42-24. Credit: Samantha Hollingshead / Photo EditorSince the win, Hubbard has continued to excel, which is a key reason for the Silver Bullets’ dominance. The redshirt freshman has amassed multiple tackles in each game — including 1.5 sacks against Northern Illinois — to bring his season tackle total to eight.After the three position switches, Hubbard said he finally feels like he belongs.“I didn’t feel like a defensive end until I got into the game and actually played against Virginia Tech,” he said. “After I saw those game reps I realized that I did belong where I was.”It must be noted that a certain portion of his early success stems from the fact that a consensus top-10 pick in the NFL draft plays on the opposite side of the defensive line in Bosa.Hubbard doesn’t refute that claim though, admitting that Bosa was seeing double and triple teams throughout the game. However, he won’t be complaining.“I’m thankful for it,” Hubbard said.Despite the additional blockers Bosa commands, Hubbard committed to the switch and worked hard to get this far down the road so swiftly.“He’s a hard worker,” sophomore linebacker and fellow class of 2014 recruit Raekwon McMillan said. “During the offseason he was working hard, showing the older guys that he can go out there and do it out on the field.”The season is young, with the Buckeyes having eight more regular season games still on the docket. But despite Hubbard’s immediate impact, his growth and development — which safeties and co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash called “off the charts” — still has a long way to go.But he knows that.“I haven’t even been at this position for a full year. I’m just gonna keep taking all the coaching in, knowledge and more experience I get the better,” Hubbard said. “It’s only up from here.” read more