Friday, February 29, 2008

Ohio Hockey Seeks Title

Ohio Hockey has had a disappointing year for their standards, but finished the season on a hot, six-game, home winning streak. Good stuff. They leave today for Rochester, New York to compete for their first ACHA National Title since 2004.
I'll be honest with you, this team has surprised me so many times this year that they'll probably end up winning the whole thing.
Basically, going into the weekend, people close to the team were optimistic.
I talked to Head Coach Dan Morris and Captain Jim Roach this week.
Coach Morris said that he was most impressed by how his team was able to shut it down defensively. They were giving up gift goals off of rebounds early in the season, leaving their goaltenders save percentages high, but their goals against were also too high. He said that the team collectively has improved their defensive zone coverage and teams are having to shoot from the less "prime real estate" as he called it. "Marshall is able to see the shots coming from far out and having to make only one save, rather than 2 or more," Morris said.
A lot of the Bobcats' success late in the season has come from goaltender Paul Marshall's outstanding play. This past weekend against Central Oklahoma, Marshall recorded his sixth shutout of the season, tying an Ohio record.
Team Captain Jim Roach is also working on getting his team in gear for the playoffs. When I asked him about getting the guys motivated he said they didn't need any extra motivation because everyone was working on it on their own.
The entire time I was interviewing Roach, other guys on the team were banging sticks around getting themselves jacked up. It was kind of intense...
The team will play against some tough competition in the tournament this week, but if they continue to play to their strengths (physical in all three zones, stout defensive hockey) they will have a great shot in the ACHAs. And, since the game is being played at a neutral site, the Bobcats won't be at a disadvantage if they have to play against skilled teams like Lindenwood and undefeated Illinois.
It's playoff hockey season, baby, and I'm pumped.
More importantly, so are the Bobcats.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Bobcat Women Capture Another Crown

The Swimming and Diving team clinched the MAC Championship this past Saturday in Buffalo to continue a trend of strong performing women's athletics teams.

Two strong performers for the Bobcats were freshmen Stacy Huber and Amanda Cecere. Huber was victorious in the 1,650-yard freestyle and Cecere took home the win in the 200-yard butterfly. Coach Greg Werner saw talent in the two newcomers right away but watched them progress as the season went on.

When I spoke to Coach Greg Werner this week he also noted the improvements that the Bobcats have made to avenge a regular season loss to Toledo, who finished undefeated in the MAC. The team got better as the season went on and reached the pinnacle in winning the MAC Championship.

Coach Werner was named MAC Coach of the Year for the third time in his career. This is an honor he is proud of but said is an award that reflects the performance of his team.

Although the MAC season is over for the team, the swimmers and divers are not yet towelling off. NCAA Championships will be held in Columbus from March 20-22. The whole team will not be going but Werner is working with some swimmers who have chosen to go. The training is pretty continuous for the swimmers and Werner said that some may even be going to Olympic Quals.

Women's sports have flourished this year at Ohio. The Swimming and Diving team's victory gives the Bobcats their fourth women's MAC Championship this season. The Volleyball, Field Hockey and Cross Country teams have all taken titles in the MAC as well.

While these women's teams do not always get the most recognition, their accomplishments are extremely impressive and should be lauded.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Bobcats Pummel the Patriots

The men's basketball team made Ohio University proud Saturday afternoon with their stellar performance against George Mason University. ESPN televised the game, and viewers across the nation watched the Bobcats pummel the Patriots, 69-57.

The Bobcats started off slow, shooting 27% from the field, and were down 32-19 at the break. However, they rallied in the second half, making a 50 point come-back victory for Ohio.

Bert Whittington IV brought the Bobcats ahead for the first time in the game, 41-40 with a fast break lay-up with 10:45 left. Continuing the scoring streak, Bubba Walther put the Bobcats ahead 49-48 with 5:30 on the clock, keeping the Patriots trailing behind the rest of the game.

Leon Williams launched the ball with 2:26 to go, making his first ever attempted three-pointer.

"Honestly, I just threw it up...I didn't even think the shot clock was that low. I just threw it up, and it went in," Williams said.

Walther, Whittington,
and Michael Allen sunk 7 of 8 free-throw attempts, ending the game.

High scorer of the game, Walther racked up 21 points, shooting 7-of-14 from the floor and 5-of-11 outside the arc.

"Bubba probably had his best game in an Ohio uniform today. He was incredible. He did what seniors are supposed to do. He put us on his back and made big shots and big play after big play," Coach Tim O'Shea said.

scored 16 points and a game-high 11 rebounds, marking the 40th double-double of his career.

Whittington and Jerome Tillman scored in double-digits, with 12 and 10 points respectively.

The GMU Patriots scored only 25 points in the second half. Folarin Campbell led the Patriots with 18 points, and John Vaughn racked up 12 points.

William's and high school opponent, GMU's Will Thomas, seemed strikingly similar to one another entering the game, each averaging 16 points.

"We tried to disrupt what they wanted to do, and keep the ball out of his hands. That was our main objective, not letting [Thomas] be comfortable getting the ball," Williams said.

The Bobcat's strategy seemed to work, as Thomas finished the game with only 9 points and 9 rebounds.

Part of ESPN Bracketbuster Saturday, the victory marked the 500th game held at the Convocation center. The victory also marks the 20th non-conference win for the Bobcats at the Convo. The Bobcats hold a perfect home record (11-0) this season.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Cut Hocutt some slack

Yesterday I sat down with Kirby Hocutt, who just recently resigned as Director of Athletics at Ohio University to take the same position at the University of Miami. The resounding thing I took away from the interview is that Hocutt deserves the benefit of the doubt.

A very affable guy, Hocutt spoke proudly of the accomplishments in his tenure at Ohio. The Bobcats won the Jacoby Trophy for the best all-around women's athletics program in the MAC, reached their first bowl game in 38 years, gained revenue from multiple corporate agreements and have reaped the benefits of fundraising success from alumni.

I asked Hocutt about the importance of reinvigorating the football and basketball programs. This led him to speak of the importance of leadership through coaching. He spoke highly of the entire football coaching staff and said of coach Sylvia Crawley, "You would not meet a finer person." I have to agree with Hocutt on the importance of having good coaching in college athletics. I think Ohio has some of the best coaches in the MAC not only with coaches Solich, O'Shea and Crawley in the big name sports but also with coaches Macmillan, Greenlee, Werner, and Calkins in some of the less recognized sports. A good coach is vital to the consistency and vision of a team, which is why it is so disheartening to see Geoff Carlston, one of the best in the nation leave. It must be a main priority of the next athletic director to find a suitable replacement for Carlston, who can pick up where he left off with our volleyball team.

The most interesting parts of the interview for me were finding out a little about the interview process and Hocutt's thoughts on his legacy at Ohio.

First, the hiring process with Miami. For those who want to villify Hocutt for leaving Ohio, he was not actively pursuing other jobs. He was contacted by a search firm in Cleveland and asked if he had interest in the University of Miami job. Obviously he did. I really don't think many people would fault Hocutt for taking a job at a major ACC program but, quite frankly, those who do are not really thinking.

On his legacy here at Ohio, Hocutt sounded remorseful about the discontinuation of four varsity sports. Although I was not at the University when the situation happened it was evident to me that cutting the sports was not something Hocutt wanted to do; it was something he had to do. He said he's not going to make the easy decisions but the right ones. Some may disagree with the decision. However, I respect that fact that Hocutt had the pride to say he will be linked to the cutting of the four sports. Yes, it was surely painful for the athletes who played on the teams that were cut. But to villify Hocutt for making what was obviously a difficult decision is not fair.

I asked Hocutt what he would miss most about Athens and he said the good people here. Not all will agree but I think Kirby Hocutt will be missed. It's very easy to look at the negatives but let's not forget about the positives. Ohio is a mid-major school in the MAC, where there can be a lot of parity. During Hocutt's time here, we've seen improvement in football and women's basketball and have won six MAC Championships. And if he had done such a poor job, would a top-tier program like Miami have hired him?

Was he perfect? No. But let's cut Hocutt some slack and not only look back at the scandals or negatives but also the good that he has done.

Monday, February 11, 2008

MAC-et Buster?

ESPN has announced the times and television arrangements for its 2008 Bracket Buster games. It looks like the MAC has a very favorable lineup, with 4 games to be played before national audiences:

VCU vs Akron 11 am ESPN2
George Mason vs Ohio 1 pm ESPN2
Miami (Ohio) vs Valparaiso 6 pm ESPN Classic
Kent St. vs St. Mary's Midnight ESPN2

If the MAC wants to get 2 bids, Ohio & Kent St need to win these games. Akron & Miami victories will also help build the conference's resume as a whole...

Bobcats Return to ESPN

Word on the street is that Ohio's Bracketbuster game against George Mason will be on ESPN2 with a 1pm start... more on this as details become available.

Grading The Bobcats vs Western Michigan

Leon Williams: A++++

With the exception of his monster performance and late game heroics at the 2005 MAC Championship, this may have been Leon's greatest performance as a Bobcat. 26 points and 15 rebounds is insane on any night, let alone while going up against the best rebounding team in the conference and All-MAC Selection Joe Reitz. Just give Leon MAC Player of the Year award now.

Bubba Walther: A-

While some of my fellow reporters have dissed the Bubbalicious One for being "selfish," he was anything but on Saturday. It was evident that every time he touched the ball, the #1 priority was feeding the Beast. Couple that with a scoring burst at the end of the first half, and you have a great game. He may have had a few errant passes, but Walther didn't take a single bad shot. He's starting to look like the Senior leader we need.

Mike Allen: B-

I've been high on Mike all year. The Bobcats have desperately needed a PG the past two years, and Allen is it. His play has been a little inconsistent lately, but nothing scary. I love his unselfish attitude, but honestly wish he'd try to score little bit more. One thing he needs to work on is fouling... he had 4 on Saturday with about 4 minutes left; not usually what you'd expect from your PG. Still, a good effort.

Devaughn Washington: C+

Pretty much what we've come to expect from this talented freshman. A nice block, and a few key rebounds, but no points. He'll be an offensive threat soon enough. Like Allen, one consistent flaw in his game has been fouls. It seems like he quickly gets one or two right after coming off the bench in every game. I love the aggressiveness, though... he just needs to play with slightly more control.

Tommy Freeman: C

Ditto for the Bobcats' other talented freshman. Saturday was pretty much par for Tommy. Not a huge scoring threat, but ran the offense well. Nothing amazing on defense, but not a liability either. Another unspectacular, but solid game.

Bert Whittington, Allen Hester, KVK: C-

I literally wondered aloud late in the game if these guys had even played. After a string of amazing games, Bert has gone cold, and one has to wonder if the hip pointer injury has anything to do with it. Give Hester props for the big rejection on Western's last second shot, but that was really the only notable thing he did. Speaking of which, KVK has seemed to have slipped into the unnotable category for most of the conference season. I was really high on his improvements at the beginning of the year, but he hasn't really shown much in conference play. All these guys have shown flashes of brilliance, it's just a matter of getting consistency.

Jerome Tillman: D+

It absolutely pains me to give this grade to Big Tilly, but he was almost invisible out there on Saturday. Maybe I'm being hard on him... he did have 8 rebounds. But only getting 2 points, both of which from free throws, is hardly what we've come to expect from Rome. Fortunately, I doubt this is a trend and fully expect to see him back to form against Toledo. When Jerome and Leon both bring their A game, there isn't a team in the MAC that can beat the Bobcats.

Western Michigan: A-

The Broncos proved that there is good basketball to be found in the MAC West, and nearly handed the Bobcats their first home loss of the 07-08 season. Joe Reitz & David Kool are a formidable 1-2 punch, and leave Western as a virtual lock for the West championship. Earlier in the year I said that I'd rather be a 3 seed than a 1, because that would allow the Bobcats to play the West champs instead of an East team in the semis... I'm not so sure about that now. After Saturday, I have to say that it looks like Western is as good as anyone.


1) Kent 8-2
2) WMU 7-3 (MAC West leader)
3) Akron 7-3 (1-0 vs. Ohio)
4) Ohio 7-3 (0-1 vs. Akron)
5) BGSU 6-4 (1-0 vs. Miami)
6) Miami 6-4 (0-1 vs. BGSU)
7) CMU 5-5
8) EMU 4-6 (1-0 vs. Toledo)
9) Toledo 4-6 (0-1 vs. EMU)
10) Buffalo 2-8 (1-0 vs. NIU and BSU)
11) NIU 2-8 (1-1 vs. NIU and BSU)
12) Ball St. 2-8 (0-1 vs. Buffalo and NIU)

Right now the Bobcats are hanging on for a crucial bye in the first round... but wins against Toldeo and Kent in the next two games would most likely rocket them up to the #1 seed after the tiebreakers shake out... case in point: It's a big week for the Bobcats.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Hocutt Hits the Road, too.

Kirby Hocutt will no longer be the Athletic Director for our beloved Ohio University Athletics Department. And you know what?

Who cares?!

I'm not trying to be pessimistic or anything, but what has he done that is so special? I've seen several years of mediocrity on the Ohio Sports front and Kirby hasn't done much to help. I don't hold him accountable, it might just be a product of his environment, but he just didn't do much tangibly to help the department. It's not his fault that several sports needed to be cut last year, but it is somewhat of a legacy for him. Not much, outside of having a top 25 volleyball team and a football team make it to the MAC Championship game, has gone right for the former A.D.

Kirby leaves Ohio in a bit of a mess. The school has no Volleyball coach presently and students on the baseball team were recently accused of running an illegal gambling ring. Hocutt didn't handle those situations well, and now heads a school that draws controversy to itself like Chad Johnson or Terrell Owens.

I hate to say this about my own school, but the Athletic Department has been much less-than-stellar since I've been a student here.

Some advice for Hocutt when he leaves:
If you can't take the heat, good luck in Miami.

Abandon Ship?!

Of course, we're all disappointed that Volleyball Coach Geoff Carlston abandoned his team to take a presumably better job at Ohio State. I'm sure my good friend and house-mate Matt Noonan will takes more offense to this that most people. Sure, it's not a great situation for the Bobcats and it wasn't quite the classiest move for Carlston to leave this late in the offseason, but let's look at it from his point of view:
  • Ohio University has a certain stigma attached to it. Unfortunately, it's not an overly positive one. OSU, on the other hand, in spite of the "Evil Empire" tag, shows off a classier demeanor beginning with their coaches. Who wouldn't want to be associated with Jim Tressel?
  • Think about the recruiting potential at Ohio State compared to Ohio U. Potential recruits want to play for "THE" Ohio State University for the name recognition and tradition. Most recruits wouldn't even know OU existed if they aren't from around here or until they play against them.
  • How about the earning potential? He had to have gotten a huge pay increase.
  • Fans? If he starts winning in his first two years at OSU, can you imagine how many fans will pack the house? Here in Athens, fans almost never packed the Convo, even when it was publicized for weeks in advance! If you were a coach trying to fire up your team, where would you rather work?
Obviously, we don't want to trash a guy who made Ohio Volleyball a perennial national power, but the bottom line is that we have to say "Thank you, and goodbye." So Geoff, it's been a good run, but don't let the door hit you on the way out.


Welcome to the new Ohio Sports Zone blog site! Check back often as our reporters will write stories about Ohio Sports and other fun stuff throughout the year. GO BOBCATS!