A new study estimates that 83 percent of gay male youth athletes in the United States are keeping their sexual orientation hidden from some or all of their teammates. Lesbian athletes in the same age group (under 22 years old) were more willing to be public about it — 63 percent said they were hiding their orientation.The reason for the secrecy — even in an age when polls show that acceptance has been increasing — is often fear. Nearly half of gay men and 44 percent of lesbians around the world who kept their sexual orientation hidden said they did so in order not to be bullied. In addition, fear of discrimination from coaches or officials was mentioned by 32 percent of gay men and 28 percent of lesbians.The survey found that 80 percent of the respondents, both gay and heterosexual, had witnessed or experienced homophobia in sports.Titled “Out On The Fields,” the report was based on a survey of nearly 9,500 gay, bisexual and heterosexual people and claims to be the largest-ever study on homophobia in sports. (The questions only related to sexual orientation, not gender identity, so the study offers no information about transgender athletes.)After publicizing the anonymous online questionnaire through various media outlets,1 They included Outsports, Gay News Network, Star Observer, Same Same, Fairfax Media, The Guardian, ESPN, EILE Magazine Ireland, Gay NZ, GayStar News, Daily Xtra and Pink News UK. the researchers received answers from several English-speaking countries. The highest numbers of responses came from Australia (3,006), the United States (2,064), the United Kingdom (1,796), Canada (1,123), New Zealand (631) and Ireland (501).The United States received the lowest overall “inclusion score” of all the countries analyzed, with a high number of respondents saying the U.S. was not accepting of gay athletes. (Though because of the small sample sizes for respondents from New Zealand and Ireland, it isn’t necessarily fair to say that the U.S. ranks worst.)In a phone interview, the survey’s lead author, Erik Denison, said attitudes about privacy among athletes are often related to the perception of homophobia in sports.“I made that decision myself when I kept in the closet,” he said. “Implicitly it is about discrimination, though. The straight men can talk openly in conversations about what you did at the weekend, the women they met. If you’re gay though, you either have to make up stories or be excluded. It’s not the same.”The large scale of the survey, though, doesn’t mean that it is the definitive word on homophobia in sports. Even in countries that had a high number of respondents, it can be difficult to tease out more detailed trends because the subgroups are far too small. Responses were split into youth and adult sports (i.e. under age 22 and over age 22) but also broken out by sports played and the sexual orientation of the respondents.What’s more, not everyone even said they played sports — among U.S. respondents, for example, 81 percent of gay women and 75 percent of gay men said they participated in youth sports, while 63 percent of gay women and 42 percent of gay men said they participated in adult sports. As a result, the finding that 83 percent of gay male youth athletes keep their sexuality hidden from teammates is based on just 114 individuals.Denison and his co-author, Alistair Kitchen, both members of Australia’s first gay rugby team, said they were are aware of those limitations. Their international approach was partly informed by the fact that past smaller-scale studies on homophobia in sport have been dismissed for being too limited in scope. The final methodology and findings were reviewed by seven academic experts prior to publication.Overall, these results should be treated as estimates in an under-researched area filled with speculation, rather than definitive numbers about gay athletes.Gay respondents were more likely than heterosexual ones to say that homophobia was more common in team sporting environments than in general society. But LGB athletes also related positive reactions to revealing their orientation to their teammates. In its write-up of the report, the gay sports site Outsports.com acknowledged many of the issues cited by respondents but added that “people in sports behave very differently when an athlete actually comes out,” often welcoming the LGB athlete and apologizing for language used in the past.Denison also described what he called “the snowball effect” — the notion that the more LGB athletes there are who are open about their sexual orientation, the more accepted gay athletes will become in sports. As evidence for that, Denison pointed to the higher share of lesbian athletes in the U.S. who are open about their sexuality with their teammates and the fact that lesbian athletes around the world are more likely to say teams offer them a “supportive and safe environment.”Because of their visibility, LGB professional athletes are likely more influential than amateurs in getting the snowball effect rolling, but few seem comfortable speaking publicly. The survey allowed respondents to submit detailed stories about themselves — around 1,600 did so. Denison said that about three dozen of those who provided narrative accounts were professional athletes, including at least two on their respective countries’ national teams.Last year, after the professional football player Michael Sam told ESPN and The New York Times that he is gay, he said he received messages from many fellow athletes who “had the courage to tell me that they were also gay, but they do not have the same courage as I do to come out.”So far, Sam’s decision has not created a snowball effect in the U.S. — partly because there will need to be other outspoken gay athletes before the sport reaches what Denison describes as “a critical mass.”
The mother of Dallas Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant has told authorities that she does not wish to pursue criminal charges against her son, who last week was arrested for misdemeanor family assault for allegedly hitting her in the face with his cap.A Dallas County district attorney’s spokeswoman says the case DeSoto police filed against Bryant includes an affidavit of non-prosecution from the complainant. The affidavit means the complainant doesn’t want to proceed.Police in the southern Dallas suburb arrested Bryant last week after a July 14 incident in which he allegedly hit his mother, Angela Bryant, across the face with a ball cap. A police affidavit says Bryant grabbed his mother by her T-shirt, causing her bra to tear.Prosecutors haven’t said whether they will pursue the case. Bryant is accused of misdemeanor family violence.According to the incident report, Bryant became angry when his mother asked him to leave her home during an argument Saturday afternoon. Initially, DeSoto police captain Ron Smith said Bryant slapped his mother in the face. But the police report, which was released later, clarified that Bryant allegedly grabbed her by her T-shirt and hair and “hit her across the face with his ball cap.”Angela Bryant, whose T-shirt and bra were allegedly torn during the incident, indicated on the 911 call that this was not the first time she was assaulted by her son.“I can’t keep letting him do this,” said Angela Bryant, who made the call from the nearby home of family friend and adviser David Wells. “I can’t keep letting him do me like this. I’m tired. I’m going to put an end to it today. I’m going to put an end to it today. I’m tired.”Officers who responded to the 911 call from Bryant’s mother did not observe any injuries and she did not complain of pain at the time, according to the report. On Monday, after officers contacted Bryant’s mother at her home, the report states that she said she had pain in her wrists, hands and arms. Officers observed swelling around her wrists at that time, according to the report.After being transported to the DeSoto police department, Angela Bryant, 37, provided a written statement detailing the alleged assault. According to the report, she stated that Dez Bryant repeatedly struck her in the hands and wrists. Officers observed bruising on both arms. She also complained that her chest was sore from Bryant pushing her.Bryant was charged with a Class A misdemeanor for assaulting a female family member.“It’s pretty straightforward,” Smith said. “Him and his mom got in an argument. She had some injuries. We made an arrest.”
Houston Rockets’ Dwight Howard apparently called police to take action against a fan who threw a basketball and hit him in the head. The incident occurred near the bleachers as Howard was walking back to the locker room after Monday night’s loss to the Los Angeles Clippers in L.A.TMZ reported the details:“The Houston Rockets star was walking toward the tunnel to the locker room at Staples Center after losing to the Clippers Monday night when a basketball came out of the stands and smacked him in the head.“We’re told Dwight was furious … believing whoever had the ball hurled it at him on purpose. Dwight immediately went to stadium security to report the incident and pushed for the offender to be arrested.“Sources say security found the person who had the ball — a 22-year-old man — and detained him inside the stadium to conduct an investigation. We’re told the LAPD was also involved.Come to find out the fan just wanted Dwight’s autograph and the ball accidentally slipped out of his hands. The video footage in the arena backed up his story and he was released by security.”Howard was boo’ed heavily from the moment he stepped on the court in his first game back in L.A., likely in protest of him abandoning the Lakers for the Rockets earlier this year.
4. Washington (6-5-1) vs. Philadelphia (5-7) — 81 total ‘swing’ points Detroit9091893– CHANCE OF MAKING PLAYOFFS AFFECTED TEAMCURRENTIF WSH WINSIF PHI WINSSWING Atlanta8684874– Tennessee1142825– CHANCE OF MAKING PLAYOFFS Detroit9088913– Denver70%82%43%39– Only teams with a playoff swing of at least 2 percentage points based on the game outcome shown Baltimore3937436– Buffalo1061710– Only teams with a playoff swing of at least 2 percentage points based on the game outcome shown Denver7065716– Tampa Bay55%24%70%46– Only teams with a playoff swing of at least 2 percentage points based on the game outcome shown CHANCE OF MAKING PLAYOFFS Atlanta8688853– Pittsburgh67497223– New Orleans512112– Indianapolis3941347– Miami15122412– 3. New Orleans (5-7) vs. Tampa Bay (7-5) — 95 total ‘swing’ points Minnesota2833258– The Raiders, Chiefs and Broncos all won last week, and we now think it’s pretty likely that the West will take both AFC wild card slots. Tennessee has had a commendable bounceback season, but they’re in a tough playoff situation. The AFC West’s success means that even if the Titans run the table to end the season at 10-6, that might not be enough to make it as a wild card, and their 0-3 record against the Texans and Colts makes it unlikely that they’d win a division tiebreaker. We give them just an 11 percent chance of making the playoffs, much lower than the chances of Green Bay, Minnesota, Indianapolis and Houston, who all share the same 6-6 record. Tampa Bay is playing meaningful December football! The Buccaneers haven’t had a winning season since 2010, and they’ve come in last in the NFC South for five straight years. But a four-game win streak with upsets against the Chiefs and Seahawks has sent their Elo rating skyrocketing, and they’re now contenders for both the division title (25 percent chance of winning) and an NFC wild card (30 percent chance). 5. Baltimore (7-5) vs. New England (10-2) — 77 total ‘swing’ points Washington3943376– Green Bay2225213– AFFECTED TEAMCURRENTIF HOU WINSIF IND WINSSWING Pittsburgh6766693– Green Bay2220255– Indianapolis3945955– N.Y. Giants6571638– Houston52554312– CHANCE OF MAKING PLAYOFFS Washington39%61%21%40– Only teams with a playoff swing of at least 2 percentage points based on the game outcome shown N.Y. Giants6562697– The NFL has its first playoff team! While the 11-1 Cowboys don’t quite have a lock on the NFC East title, they will at least make it as a wild card. They’ll now be playing for a bye and home-field advantage while the rest of the league fights for the remaining playoff spots.For the last couple weeks, we’ve been using the model behind our 2016 NFL predictions to calculate how much each team’s playoff chances “swing” depending on the outcome of each game. For example, we currently give the Pittsburgh Steelers a 67 percent chance of making the playoffs. If they beat Buffalo this week, we project those chances will increase to 84 percent (independent of other games). If they lose, their chances drop to 53 percent.1Our NFL predictions are based on 100,000 simulations of the rest of the season and are updated after every game ends. In the simulations in which Pittsburgh beats Buffalo, they make the playoffs 84 percent of the time. In simulations where they lose, they make the playoffs 53 percent of the time. But it’s unlikely that Pittsburgh’s playoff probabilities will be exactly 84 percent or exactly 53 percent at the end of Week 14, because the team’s chances depend on the outcome of several games (most notably Baltimore’s), not just their own. That’s a 31 percentage point swing! By doing this same math for every matchup and factoring in how each team’s resulting record will affect others’ playoff odds, we can find out which games are the most impactful.Here are the top five for Week 14: As straightforward as it gets. Whichever team wins takes control of the AFC South and gets a big playoff boost. The Titans have an outside chance at the division but don’t really care who wins here. Arizona8792– AFFECTED TEAMCURRENTIF NO WINSIF TB WINSSWING Baltimore39%66%32%35– Only teams with a playoff swing of at least 2 percentage points based on the game outcome shown Tampa Bay5551587– Minnesota2825306– AFFECTED TEAMCURRENTIF DEN WINSIF TEN WINSSWING Houston52%87%32%55– AFFECTED TEAMCURRENTIF BAL WINSIF NE WINSSWING Miami1517152– Philadelphia has blown a promising season and now has just a 2 percent chance of making the playoffs. Washington is in danger of similar collapse, narrowly falling the last two weeks in winnable games against the Cowboys and Cardinals. They’d be out of the playoffs if the season ended today, and this week Philadelphia has the opportunity to play spoiler and knock another 18 percentage points or so off their rival’s chances. 1. Denver (8-4) vs. Tennessee (6-6) — 119 total ‘swing’ points CHANCE OF MAKING PLAYOFFS Philadelphia2<144– 2. Houston (6-6) vs. Indianapolis (6-6) — 117 total ‘swing’ points One of the NFL’s best rivalries is heating up again! The Ravens and Steelers both won last week to improve to 7-5. With the AFC West bogarting the wild cards, it’s looking like only one of the two will make the playoffs as AFC North champ. So why do we give the Ravens, who would make the playoffs if the season ended today, just a 39 percent chance of advancing? For one, we have them as nine-point underdogs in Foxborough this week. For another the Steelers still have a game to play against the lowly Browns, plus an opportunity to tie up the season series at home against the Ravens in Week 16.Check out our latest NFL predictions.
Norris Cole5.0-1.8-1.4 WINSLOSSES Kyle Singler10.0-2.5-0.3 Nick Collison4.0-3.10.7 Enes Kanter25.00.5-1.2 Paul George35.02.40.4 Terrance Ferguson5.0-1.6-0.1 Alex Abrines15.00.0-1.8 The top-5 of Westbrook, George, Enes Kanter, Steven Adams and Andre Roberson are worth 53 wins all on their own. But CARMELO thinks so little of the Thunder bench that the rest of the roster is worth -2 wins. That bench was bad this past season, but young players like Alex Abrines and Doug McDermott may improve with an additional season with the team, and this season’s first-round draft pick Terrance Ferguson has potential as a spot-up shooter on the wing, which the team desperately needed last season. Still, with Taj Gibson likely leaving in free agency, the Thunder will be thin. But while their projection doesn’t put the team nearly at the level of the Golden State Warriors, or even the newly minted Chris Paul Houston Rockets, acquiring George should have an outsize effect on the Thunder.It’s hard to overstate how perfect a fit this is for Oklahoma City. George isn’t Kevin Durant — he doesn’t rebound as well, and isn’t quite the playmaker that Durant can be when called upon — but he replaces a lot of what the former MVP took with him when he departed for Golden State. The most obvious way he helps is by giving Westbrook a legitimate partner in the offense. George is a very good shooter: He shot 39.3 percent from 3 last season, and has floated between 36 and 40 percent the past several years despite taking some of the most difficult shots in the league. George shouldn’t have to take on the world quite the same way in Oklahoma City.George may actually end up fitting slightly better with Westbrook than Durant did — in practice if not in terms of absolute skill. Durant dominated the ball late in games for the Thunder; Westbrook would defer, often to a fault. This left Westbrook, an average at best shooter, on the perimeter, largely wasted. With George new to OKC, where Westbrook is the reigning MVP and undisputed team leader, the Thunder should be able to default to more sensible sets in crucial moments, with the ball in Westbrook’s hands but George actively involved.That said, George’s ability to get his own shot should also be key for the Thunder. In the team’s first-round loss to the Houston Rockets, the bench units led by Oladipo were overwhelmed, often unable even to get a shot without their star. In Game 5 of that series, Westbrook played 42 minutes, scored 47 points and had a plus-minus of +12. The Thunder lost by six. George can be streaky, but his ability to carry an offense means the Thunder can survive spells without Westbrook.But it’s George’s defensive ability and versatility that may unlock the Thunder’s potential. Oklahoma City had been constructed with a lopsided allotment of talents. They had more than enough rebounders and interior defenders, but few perimeter scorers or players who could perform the basic three-and-D role so crucial to successful teams. George is one of the best three-and-D players in the league, good enough to compensate for limited defensive players around him when the Thunder need offense.Lineups featuring both George and Andre Roberson — a converted power forward who plays shooting guard for the Thunder despite being one of the worst shooters in the league — would seem to not only cover Westbrook’s defensive shortcomings, but possibly those of other players, such as Abrines or Kanter. Roberson is restricted free agent and reportedly declined a four-year, $48 million extension last fall, so he may be too expensive to re-sign, but given the Thunder’s lack of depth they may not have much choice. (And in a twist, George actually earns less than Oladipo this season, giving the Thunder a little extra breathing room under the luxury tax.) Giving Roberson’s projected minutes to Abrines results in the team’s CARMELO rating dropping from 51 wins to 47.The Thunder were a deeply but narrowly flawed team last season. That happens when a Kevin Durant-sized hole is left in the depth chart. Paul George may not fill the whole thing, and he may not do it for very long, but for as long as he and Westbrook are in town, the Thunder are back. Team total3.70.6 PLAYERMIN. PER GAMEOFF. PLUS/MINUSDEF. PLUS/MINUS Thunder’s projected record50.831.2 Jerami Grant20.0-2.00.1 Andre Roberson25.0-1.21.8 Paul George is headed to Oklahoma City, according to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne, and the Thunder may be back to being title contenders — or at least in the mix to be the West’s second-best team behind Golden State.Just hours before the NBA’s free agency period begins, the Indiana Pacers have traded George to the Thunder for former No. 2 overall pick Victor Oladipo and rising sophomore Domantas Sabonis. Oklahoma City had acquired Oladipo and the draft pick that became Sabonis from Orlando in a trade for Serge Ibaka last offseason.George is a free agent after this coming season, and it’s believed that he has not agreed to sign a contract extension. The assumption around the league has been that the Lakers are his preferred long-term destination, which is a large part of why the Pacers couldn’t even secure a draft pick for their outgoing star. So this is certainly a calculated risk for OKC, but MVP Russell Westbrook can also become a free agent after the 2017-18 season thanks to a player-option. And while he hasn’t been as forthright as George, his hometown Lakers have long been a rumored destination for him as well. So the Thunder are on the clock to sell themselves as a place where Westbrook can contend, or alternatively, to take their last, best shot at winning a title while they still have him. The George trade should accomplish both.According to FiveThirtyEight’s CARMELO projection system, adding George to the Thunder and subtracting Oladipo and Sabonis should put the team at 51 wins: Russell Westbrook35.07.60.7 Replacement level player11-1.7-0.3 Semaj Christon5.0-3.0-1.5 Steven Adams30.0-0.62.0 Doug McDermott15.0-0.6-2.7 The Thunder are backCARMELO projections for the 2017-18 Oklahoma City Thunder
Toledo24244328%<1%<1% UCLA2321225%1%<1% Wisconsin—18245%<1%<1% USC—20530%4%1% Iowa9122925%7%<1% Utah12152118%6%<1% Stanford1161346%19%3% Michigan1722187%6%<1% Oklahoma1516315%14%5% Clemson17756%51%12% Alabama42614%41%11% Mississippi18171020%8%2% Florida1091241%18%4% TCU84237%31%11% Read more: Our preview of this week’s college football games Oregon—2532<1%<1%<1% Penn State—2741<1%<1%<1% Oklahoma St.14111415%6%1% The first College Football Playoff rankings are out, and the selection committee ranked Clemson, LSU, Ohio State and Alabama as the top four teams, in that order, worthy of the playoff were it held today. But we at FiveThirtyEight want to look into the future. Our model (outlined in the table below) simulates the rest of the season to project which teams the committee will let into the playoff when it releases its final selections on Dec. 6. It expects that Ohio State, Clemson, Alabama and TCU, in that order, are most likely to make the cut. If you want to read more about how the model works, here’s Nate Silver’s explanation of its methodology. If you just want to get to the rankings, here they are: Memphis13143621%6%<1% Florida State16131513%5%<1% Notre Dame589—25%5% Michigan State731915%22%3% Houston25233330%2%<1% LSU25822%30%8% North Carolina—262323%<1%<1% Baylor610132%31%13% TeamCFPEloFPIConf. TitlePlayoffNat. Title Northwestern214257<1%<1%<1% RankingProbability of … Texas A&M193016<1%<1%<1% Temple22324541%<1%<1% Ohio State31447%61%16% Mississippi St.201917<1%3%<1% Arkansas—3926<1%<1%<1%
Most reporters flocked to players like sophomore foward Jared Sullinger and senior guard William Buford during the men’s basketball team’s media day Thursday, Oct. 13. But some players were left alone, with only the occasional reporter stepping forward to ask questions. The man behind the Jordan Sibert name tag was one of the loners until finally, one reporter came up. “Hey Jordan,” the reporter said. “You mind if I ask you a few questions?” The man smiled. “Um, I’m actually J.D.,” he said. The name tag was wrong and the man who was sitting behind it was actually sophomore forward J.D. Weatherspoon, not sophomore guard Jordan Sibert. Weatherspoon hasn’t been the most recognizable face on the OSU basketball team. He joined the team last year, but was declared academically ineligible for Winter Quarter and missed much of the season. It was an experience Weatherspoon said was difficult to deal with, but his teammates never abandoned him. “They showed me so much love and they were always there to support me so that really helped,” he said. Weatherspoon was reinstated for Spring Quarter and was able to travel to OSU’s 62-60 loss to Kentucky in the Sweet 16 of the Men’s NCAA tournament. He’s been a full-time member of the team ever since. “It feels good being back with the team,” Weatherspoon said. “Just a minor setback for a major comeback. That’s my mindset.” This year, Weatherspoon hopes his “major comeback” will find him a spot in OSU’s rotation. Although he lost almost a year of game experience, Weatherspoon is confident he can fit in with the chemistry of the team. He’s been playing with some of his teammates since grade school. “(Sullinger and I have) been playing with each other since we were in fifth grade,” Weatherspoon said. “And then me, (sophomore guard Aaron Craft) and Jordan Sibert played AAU together with Sully, so, I mean, the chemistry was still there.” Former OSU guard David Lighty, who is now playing professional basketball in Italy, has been talking to Weatherspoon on a regular basis about the role he can play for OSU this season. Weatherspoon tries to model his game after Lighty and said he thinks he can help replace Lighty on the defensive end of the floor. “I’ve been talking to (Lighty) a lot,” Weatherspoon said. “He’s been a big brother to me as soon as I came here. We are both athletic. We play the same position, built similar. So it really helped out a lot.” Coach Thad Matta has noticed a change in Weatherspoon. He said Weatherspoon has come a long way in the past year and could definitely play a role for the team. “I think J.D. has learned maturity,” Matta said. “He’s got a very good work ethic about him. His maturity level has improved. He’s a very, very good athlete and from that perspective, he’s understanding what his role is going to be on this team. “What he needs to do is defend and rebound for us.” Who knows, maybe if Weatherspoon fills his role, they’ll give him his own name tag for media day in 2012.
How would you like to earn more than $100,000 for sitting on the bench? That’s the position Cleveland Browns’ rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden found himself in for the team’s final preseason game. Coach Pat Shurmur decided that the rookie starting quarterback was too valuable to risk him getting injured before the regular season starts. Huh? I had to rewind the show I was watching to make sure I had heard that correctly. Even after watching it again, I still didn’t believe it. While it’s not unheard of for NFL players to sit out the final preseason game, especially quarterbacks, sitting a rookie quarterback who has yet to throw a single touchdown pass in his career is beyond ridiculous. Tom Brady and Peyton Manning did not play in their teams’ final exhibition games either, but they are both future Hall of Famers with years of NFL experience and Super Bowl rings. Weeden hasn’t even attempted 50 passes in the NFL preseason. So a rookie with no touchdown passes, a completion percentage below 50 percent, and less than two full preseason games under his belt is too valuable to risk getting injured? Are you kidding me? It’s not as if Weeden will have a long career to learn how to be an NFL quarterback. Being drafted at age 28, he will have six fewer years than the average signal caller to master his craft. He’s already missed one-third of a career. He simply doesn’t have the time to waste sitting on the bench. So if Weeden is already starting behind the curve, why pass up an opportunity to help him catch up? Weeden doesn’t have a huge contract to worry about. He wasn’t the team’s top pick in the draft. He wasn’t even the first quarterback taken, or the second, or even the third. He was the fourth quarterback taken in the 2012 NFL draft. He is also the only quarterback taken in the first round who hasn’t thrown a touchdown pass in the preseason. Sitting a rookie quarterback who hasn’t proven himself yet isn’t protecting an asset, it’s robbing him of an opportunity to gain valuable experience before the games actually count. Weeden has a four-year contract worth $8.1 million. Spread over 80 regular and preseason games that is an average of $101,250 per game. That’s an expensive benchwarmer.
It didn’t take long for Deshaun Thomas to point out the reason behind the Ohio State men’s basketball team’s 71-45 victory against Minnesota. The junior forward, known for his prowess on offense, credited the Buckeyes’ tenacious effort on the defensive end of the court. “We played great defense,” Thomas said after Wednesday night’s game. “That’s what Ohio State basketball is all about.” “Great” might be a fair way to describe the Buckeyes’ defensive performance against the Gophers. In all, OSU held Minnesota to 29 percent shooting, as the Gophers limped to their second-lowest scoring output of the season. The Buckeyes’ energized defense looked completely different from the lethargic one that was annihilated by Wisconsin the game before. In OSU’s 71-49 loss to the Badgers on Feb. 17, the Buckeyes were picked apart on the defensive end, looking unprepared and even disinterested at times. “I think against Wisconsin we were just out there, we weren’t doing our job,” said sophomore guard Shannon Scott. “This game we came out with a lot of energy and enthusiasm, and we were able to feed off that.” The phrase “defense wins championships” is an age-old idiom. Whether OSU is a championship-caliber squad has yet to be determined. But one thing seems to have become clear in recent weeks, and it was confirmed against Minnesota: giving a great effort on defense helps OSU stop opponents, but such an effort also affects the Buckeyes’ ability to score. Part of OSU’s need for strong defensive efforts can be attributed to its deficiencies on offense. Though the Buckeyes have Thomas, the Big Ten’s leading scorer averaging 20.1 points per game, no other player averages double figures. So when the Buckeyes are forced to execute their offense in the half court – where defenses are able to key in on Thomas – OSU sometimes produces fairly ugly results. “They are talented, but they don’t shoot the ball well,” said former Buckeye Jerry Lucas, who was honored as one of the top 75 players in NCAA Tournament history on Wednesday. “That seems to be the thing that lacks the most in this team, they just aren’t consistent shooters.” The Buckeyes might not have the most proficient shooters, but players like Scott and sophomore forward Sam Thompson appear to thrive in fast-paced games when they can race up and down the court. Fast break opportunities seldom happen when a team is taking the ball out of the net after their opponent scores. But when a defense can get stops and steals, then they will likely also receive a chance to run. OSU did just that against Minnesota, forcing 21 turnovers and scoring 20 points in transition. “I think when our defense is really rolling, it helps our offense get going,” said Scott, whose three steals proved to be a catalyst in OSU’s ability to turn defense into offense against the Gophers. “We knew we wanted to pressure them the whole game, but we didn’t want our defense to speak for itself,” he said. “If they turned the ball over, we were going to execute off of that.” The Buckeyes will now turn their attention to a bout with No. 4 Michigan State on Sunday at 4 p.m. The Spartans (22-5, 11-3 Big Ten) beat OSU by three points earlier in the year and are a game behind Indiana for the top spot in the Big Ten standings. No. 18 OSU (19-7, 9-5 Big Ten) is in fifth place, trailing Indiana by three games. The top four teams in the conference receive a bye in the Big Ten tournament, which tips off on March 14. Despite the gravity of the upcoming game against Michigan State, Scott said the team will treat it like any other. If the Buckeyes are to pull off the upset, they will likely need to treat the Spartans with the defensive effort seen against Minnesota.
OSU junior H-back Curtis Samuel (4) rushes upfield with his teammates during their game against Michigan on Nov. 26 at Ohio Stadium. The Buckeyes won 27-30. Credit: Mason Swires | Assistant Photo EditorThe chain-link between an orange, black-striped marker at the 25-yard line and an orange, black-striped marker at the 15-yard line was what everyone was watching. That and the spot of the football on which the game between No. 2 Ohio State and No. 3 Michigan rested.One of the greatest rivalries in sports came down to the position of a ball that is 11 inches in length and 22 inches in circumference. Ohio State needed just one of those inches to reach the marker.It did. First down.All anyone can remember is that fourth-down play and Curtis Samuel’s 15-yard touchdown run on the next play to clinch the Buckeyes’ 30-27 double-overtime victory, which cemented him as the hero in the greatest game ever played in the 113th meeting of the rivalry.It will torment every Michigan fan, coach and player for an eternity — because Michigan was the better team that day and everyone knew it. It was obvious.The Wolverines dominated Ohio State for three quarters, but when it mattered most, all of a sudden Jim Harbaugh’s defense couldn’t stop the Buckeyes.After kicker Tyler Durbin missed a 21-yard field goal that would have tied the game with 7:01 remaining, it should have been over. All Michigan had to do was gain a couple of first downs and run the clock out and it would have headed to the Big Ten championship game.It couldn’t and Ohio State got the ball back.The Buckeyes had a third-and-7 in their own territory. Michigan was called for pass interference on a ball that sailed over Samuel’s head and the drive continued.With the game on the line, Ohio State had third-and-goal from the 16 with a shaky Durbin on the sideline. Michigan allowed a 10-yard completion and Durbin connected on his 23-yard field goal instead of being forced to attempt a 33-yarder.Hysteria had set into Ohio Stadium well before the first overtime began and it lasted all the way through the moment when a sea of scarlet sang Neil Diamond’s timeless hit “Sweet Caroline.” By then, Urban Meyer was back on his feet after falling to the turf as Samuel was hoisted into the air by center Pat Elflein.One play made that scene, but there were many plays before it that turned the game into a classic.The reality of last year’s game will continue to torment Michigan fans and elate Ohio State fans as Fox replays Samuel’s touchdown over and over on Saturday’s broadcast. The rivalry will probably never have another game like 2016.You’d need a book thicker than the King James Bible to write down every moment that mattered in that edition of the Ohio State-Michigan game. Parents will tell their children about how Ohio State was counted out and still beat the Wolverines. Michigan fans will pass down the story of how Harbaugh and the Wolverines were screwed over on that fourth-down play.How do you capture a game that will live forever?It’s simple. You play it again.