Ravenel’s Sudden Spark Lifted Buckeyes to B1G Title
By Brandon Castel
EAST LANSING, Mich. — William Buford may have made “the shot” that gave Ohio State a share of the regular season title in the Big Ten, but it was Evan Ravenel who made “the stop.”
Photo by Dan Harker
It was his defense on Big Ten Player of the Year Draymond Green in the final seconds that gave Buford, and the Buckeyes, a chance to stun the soldout crowd at the Breslin Center in East Lansing, Mich.
“I put it in the hands of the guy that brought me to the dance,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said.
“I have no problem with that. He's made a million big plays; the last one didn't work out.”
Green probably has not made “a million” big plays in his four-year career at Michigan State (a million is a huge number), but he has made a lot of them. He might be the only 230-pound power forward in the country who also runs the offense like a point guard.
Green shot over 40 percent from behind the arc as a senior this season, leading the Spartans in scoring and the Big Ten in rebounding. He is a matchup nightmare in a sport that doesn’t have many of them, at least at the college level.
It was no surprise when Izzo called on No. 23 for the final shot, but Green must have been surprised to see Ravenel in his face when he turned toward the basket. He might have been surprised to see Ravenel at all.
The junior out of Tampa, Fla. has played in all 31 games for the Buckeyes this season. He even started three games back in December when Jared Sullinger was out with a back injury, but he averaged fewer than nine minutes a game in conference play.
He only played eight against the Spartans, but they might have been the biggest minutes of his life.
“You always have to be ready. You have to be in tune with the game, even from the sidelines,” said Ravenel, who scored seven points in the second half of Ohio State’s comeback.
“I try to use my defense to get into the flow of the game, and I think that’s what we did. Their bigs do a real good job of getting early position and scoring through contact, so I figured if I push them as far away from scoring position as I could.”
Ravenel also had a nice stop in transition against MSU point guard Keith Appling, but the one thing he didn’t do was settle for just being another body on the floor. With Sullinger on the bench, in foul trouble and frustrated by Izzo’s swarming defense, Ravenel proved to be the spark that put Ohio State over the top.
“That was the difference in the game,” Izzo said of Ravenel’s contribution off the bench.
Michigan State’s big men didn’t seem to know how to handle Ravenel after banging on Sullinger all game. He caught the ball away from the basket, drove the lane and finished through contact for a three-point play just moments after checking in.
He also made what was possibly the biggest pass of the game to give Ohio State a 64-63 lead with 3:40 to play in the second half.
“Coach Matta looked at me and said, ‘are you ready to go back in?’ Me being a team player, I told him to let Evan play,” Sullinger said.
“He had a big-time assist to Deshaun Thomas for the layup. He had a couple big rebounds, a couple defensive stops. Evan played a great game.”
Just as importantly, he hit his free throws. Ravenel was a perfect 3-for-3 from the stripe down the stretch, which made quite the difference in a 72-70 game that came down a game-winning shot in the final second.
“Rav was, I don't even know where to start,” Matta said with a smile afterward.
“I don't know what his stat line was, but he did a tremendous, tremendous job. You see a guy like that work hard and to see a guy like him go in and have the game he did.”
Now they just need a few more of those games in March.
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