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Ohio State Comes Up Short


Turnovers and transition were the reasons Ohio State made it to the Final Four.

On Saturday night, they were the reasons they lost.

In a 64-58 semifinal loss to Connecticut, Ohio State's guard trio of Scoonie Penn, Michael Redd and Brian Brown weren't able to take care of the ball nor could they take the ball away from the Huskies.

They couldn't say coach Jim O'Brien didn't warn them.

"Before the game, he said if we make mistakes that they would punish us," backup guard Boban Savovic said. "He knew."

For a change, the Buckeyes ran into players who were just as fast and just as aggressive in the backcourt.

Richard Hamilton had 24 points, Khalid El-Amin 18 and Ricky Moore six points for UConn (33-2), while Redd had 15 points, Penn 11 and Brown five for the Buckeyes (27-9).

With its three guards, Ohio State made its run to the Final Four using quickness and speed. In victories over Murray State, Detroit, Auburn and St. John's, the Buckeyes never faced a team with a muscular front or a dominant big man.

And in those four wins, Ohio State had fewer turnovers than the opposition each game, totaling 38 and forcing 56. That difference more than offset a slight disadvantage in rebounding.

But the Buckeyes found out they didn't have an edge in quickness Saturday night.

"They just played a perfect game tonight and we didn't," forward Jason Singleton said. "They're a very good defensive team, very quick and very athletic and they matched up with us at every position."

Ohio State finished with 11 turnovers, nine in the first half. Even though they forced the Huskies into 14 turnovers, the Buckeyes seldom were able to capitalize.

"We made stupid, stupid mistakes," Savovic said. "They played such great defense and such great transition basketball."

On a night when UConn's offense wasn't in perfect synch, either, the Huskies took control by shutting the Buckeyes down.

With El-Amin and Moore in charge, UConn didn't pick up its first turnover until the second half was more than half over. But it did pick up points, off long passes, particularly to El-Amin, for easy layups.

"They have a way of making you uncomfortable," O'Brien said. "We gave up so many baskets in transition."

"Their transition game is the best we've seen," Penn said. "When we would make a mistake or miss a shot, they were leaking out. ... They got a lot of fast breaks."

Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun said defense was the difference.

O'Brien agreed.

"Tonight came down to their ability to guard us, particularly in the second half," O'Brien said. "And their explosiveness on offense every poor shot and turnover translated into easy baskets by them."

©1998 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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