BIG TEN OSU's simple plan: win out
They have three regular season games and the Big Ten tournament remaining.
COLUMBUS (AP) -- Unless Ohio State quickly discovers some leftover eligibility for Jimmy Jackson, Jerry Lucas, Clark Kellogg and Michael Redd, an NCAA tournament berth is out of the question.
So it only stands to reason that with three regular season games remaining the easy way out would be to pull down the blinds and close up shop on the 2003-2004 season.
Not yet, forward Terence Dials cautioned.
"We still have our hopes set on the NCAA tournament," said Dials, a graduate of Boardman High. "The Big Ten [tournament] is going to be our goal, to win that. We know we can do it. We won it in 2002. We've just got to go out and play hard in these last few games."
Those sentiments were laughable a week ago; now they are just mildly amusing, the product of an optimistic 20-year-old.
Two straight wins
Ohio State (13-13, 5-8 Big Ten) won its second straight road game on Wednesday night, blitzing last-place Minnesota 70-59. That followed on the heels of a last-minute win at Indiana.
The Buckeyes beat the Hoosiers by forcing the ball inside every trip down the floor. Velimir Radinovic and Dials were a combined 17-of-28 from the field for 39 points with 20 rebounds.
Minnesota adjusted to that and threw a defensive blanket over the paint -- but Ohio State's guards suddenly found the range. Perimeter players Tony Stockman (21 points), J.J. Sullinger (15) and Brandon Fuss-Cheatham combined for 48 points, eight steals, four assists and 13 rebounds.
Maybe Dials is on to something. Maybe the Buckeyes have turned a corner. Coach Jim O'Brien hinted that he was starting to think so.
"I think that they might be coming together a little bit," O'Brien said before the Minnesota game. "I hate to read into things, because I'm wrong most of the time."
Ohio State plays at Michigan (15-9, 6-7) on Sunday, then closes the schedule with home games against Penn State and Illinois next week. To qualify for the postseason -- in other words, the National Invitation Tournament unless they win the Big Ten tournament title and an automatic NCAA berth -- the Buckeyes must have at least a .500 record.