Ravenel’s Experience Helpful for Young Buckeyes
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — With or without Jared Sullinger in the lineup, the Buckeyes know Saturday’s game at Kansas will be the biggest one they have played this season.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Ohio State already has two convincing victories over top-10 teams at home this year, but their trip to Lawrence will be the first road test of the season for the No. 2-ranked Buckeyes.
With Sullinger in the lineup, the Buckeyes (8-0) handled No. 8 Florida and No. 3 Duke in Columbus, but playing on the road presents a entirely different degree of difficulty; especially playing in a tough environment like historic “Phog” Allen Fieldhouse.
“You see who comes ready to play and who prepares themselves before the game mentally,” said junior Evan Ravenel, a transfer from Boston College.
“This is actually my first road trip as an Ohio State Buckeye, so I’m going to learn a lot about myself as a player and some of my teammates as well.”
The Jayhawks have a history of dominance at home. Both of their losses this season have come to top-10 opponents on a neutral court. The were 17-1 a year ago in their home gym, with their only loss coming at the hands of No. 11-ranked Texas.
Thad Matta and his Buckeyes were pretty good on the road last season, securing big victories at Florida, Florida State, Michigan and Illinois. A big part of that was having an excellent group of veteran leaders who helped show the way for youngsters like Sullinger and Aaron Craft.
“My first game was at Florida, so it’s not the level of Kansas but Florida was pretty hostile as well,” Craft said Thursday.
“All I can remember is how confident and ‘even keel’ our upper classmen were. They didn’t bat an eye. It was like we were playing at home. They didn’t get any more worked up about playing away as they did when we were playing here.”
Guys like David Lighty, Jon Diebler and Dallas Lauderdale had played enough hostile environments to understand what it takes to play on the road. They remembered losing at Butler without Evan Turner in Dec. 2009, and they also remembered Turner being heckled by the rowdy fans at West Virginia more than a month later.
While Craft and Sullinger both went through the rigors of playing on the road last season, Ohio State’s only senior on this team is William Buford. He was there at Butler in 2009 and in Morgantown that December. He knows what it takes to win in hostile environments, but so does Ravenel, who spent two seasons at Boston College before transferring to Ohio State.
“I played in the ACC in tough places like at (North) Carolina, at Duke and at Clemson,” said Ravenel.
“Those are pretty tough places to play. Along with Duke, this (Kansas) is one of the places you want to play at growing up.”
A 6-8 forward out of Tampa, Fla., Ravenel was on the Boston College team that upset No. 1-ranked, and previously undefeated, North Carolina in Chapel Hill back in Jan. 2009.
Ravenel did not play in that game as a freshman, but he did contribute as a sophomore when the Eagles visited both Duke and Florida State. They lost both of those games, but Ravenel tallied eight points, six rebounds and a block in 18 minutes off the bench against the Seminoles.
He also gave them four points and two rebounds in their loss at Cameron Indoor Stadium down in Durham.
“There’s things you can pass on. There’s always something you can tell a young player, like what you can see, but there’s like getting that experience head-on,” Ravenel said.
“It’s how you handle it, though. Some people cave to it, which I hope we don’t. some people thrive in it, which I hope we do.”
Ohio State is a team that features just one senior and two sophomores who played meaningful minutes a year ago. Many of the players who take the court against Kansas have never played on the road, especially if Sullinger cannot go with the back injury.
Even Matta does not know what to expect from his young guys in a big road game like this, which is why he will rely on his ‘veterans’ to set the tone for the Buckeyes on Saturday.
“That’s just something we’re going to try to do with our younger guys. It is something, like Rav said, you have to experience for yourself,” Craft said.
“At the same time, understand that it is just a basketball game. We may be far away from home, but the court is still the same size. We need to go out there and play our game.”
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