Buckeyes, Bobcats, Rare but Familiar Foes
By Rob Ogden
The majority of Ohio State's roster was in diapers the last time Ohio State and Ohio met on the hardwood, but one person on the Buckeyes' bench remembers the game well.
"I had two points at halftime, and coach (Larry) Hunter said if you're not gonna shoot the ball, we're gonna sit you down, so I started shooting every time I got the ball and scored 12 points in the second half," said Ohio State assistant Jeff Boals, who had 14 points and eight rebounds off the bench to help Ohio earn a 78-67 win over the Buckeyes on Nov. 16, 1994.
Fast forward 19 years, and the Buckeyes (1-0) and Bobcats (1-0) will meet again in Columbus Tuesday night.
Boals, entering his fifth season with Ohio State, was a four-year letterwinner at forward for the Bobcats from 1992-to-1995 and a two-year captain.
An Ohio-native who wasn't recruited by Ohio State, Boals said that game sticks out in his memory.
"Playing on the other side and coaching on the other side (against Ohio State), it's a huge game," he said. "When I came in here I was an Ohio kid, and like everyone in Ohio, I wanted to come here, but I wasn't good enough to play at Ohio State."
Though the schools haven't met since 1994, there will be no shortage of familiarity between the teams Tuesday night.
Ohio features three players from the Central-Ohio area on its roster, including senior guard Nick Kellogg (Westerville) and junior guard Stevie Taylor (Gahanna).
Both guys were Ohio State recruits at one time, and frequently play pickup games in Columbus during the offseason.
"You see each other a lot on the AAU circuits and we've played a couple open gyms when they're back in the summer and we're here," Ohio State senior Aaron Craft said about the two Columbus Bobcats. "Kellogg comes from a great family and same with Stevie. They're great kids, they're competitive, and they wanna win just as much as we do. They're always welcome."
Taylor, a point guard, said he'll know what to expect when matching up against Craft.
"I've known Craft my whole life," he said. "We've been playing against each other since we were young, so we're going to go out there and play hard and may the best team win."
Kellogg is the son of Ohio State great Clark Kellogg. But Nick said come Tuesday night, Clark will be Bobcat dad, not Buckeye great.
"He'll definitely be wearing green," Kellogg said.
Kellogg won't be the only Bobcat with family in attendance.
“We all have family members coming,” Taylor said. “We all grew up right down the street so we’ve been going to Ohio State games since we were younger."
In 1994, it was another Central-Ohio native that wreaked havoc on the Buckeyes. Forward Gary Trent (Hamilton Township) had 26 points and 15 rebounds to lead the Bobcats.
That game meant something to Boals, but tomorrow's contest, he said, is "just another game."
"My first year at Marshall it was nerve-wracking because it was the first time on the visitors' bench," said Boals, who also had a stop at Akron before joining Thad Matta's staff. "You see a lot of familiar faces, people that were there when you played. I've since played OU a lot."
Matta has never faced Ohio as a head coach, but did face the Bobcats twice during a short stint with Miami University during that same 1994-95 season.
Matta was an assistant under coach Herb Sendek. Ohio coach Jim Christian joined the staff for the 1995-96 season, and Matta and Christian shared an office for about a month before Matta moved on to Butler.
"We had some great battles against them," Matta said. "Our guys have a great respect for Ohio University and what they've been able to accomplish and their personnel. They've got a lot of guys that have been in the program for a long time and guys that have won a lot of basketball games so that's exciting for us in terms of what we're going to be going up against."
The Bobcats have lost four starters from the team that went to the Sweet 16 in 2012 and won a Mid-American Conference championship a year ago. However Ohio still has a large group of upperclassmen, a luxury Matta rarely experiences. That experience is one of Ohio's greatest assets in a game like Tuesday night's against a top-10 opponent, Boals said.
"The thing you realize from this year's team is they have a lot of upperclassmen," said Boals, who called himself a big Bobcat supporter and said he still follows every Ohio game. "Four seniors, two juniors, all who have played in big games. Coming into the Schott tomorrow for them is … They've played in the big games, they've won NCAA Tournament games, obviously with the three kids from Central Ohio coming back there will be even more to it."
Kellogg, a DeSales graduate, is trying to approach Tuesday's clash the same way he approaches every game.
"It's the next game on our schedule so it's the most important game," he said. "The fact that it's against Ohio State adds a little something to it since I'm from Columbus. But at the end of the day it's 40 minutes, two hoops. We're just trying to compete and play hard, play together and come out on top."
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