As they say, “Sometimes the idea is better than the execution.”
Video of the post-event press conference after OSU-Marquette game is canceled
The men’s basketball teams from Ohio State and Marquette found that out Friday night as their scheduled season opener aboard the USS Yorktown in a bay near Charleston, S.C., was canceled due to condensation on the hardwood floor.
Officials for the Military Morale Foundation conferred with the game officials, coaches, players and athletic directors from each school in delaying the scheduled 7 p.m. tipoff. They waited for nearly an hour before determining there was no way to play the game under those conditions.
An announcement was made that the game had been declared “no contest.” The game will not be made up, either, it seems. Ohio State will now open the season Sunday at home against Albany (2 p.m., BTN.com). It’s unclear if OSU may be able to pick up another opponent to replace that game. (Check out video of the press conference above.)
The men’s game was the second half of a doubleheader that featured the OSU women against sixth-ranked Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish won that game 57-51. A crowd estimated at 4,000 aboard the Yorktown attended the event, which was also televised nationally by NBC Sports Network.
“It was kind of a disappointing day,” said Mike Whalen of the Morale Foundation. “We had a good women’s game. The court started developing condensation. It was our decision – my decision – that it wasn’t safe to have student-athletes play. Obviously, it’s very disappointing.
“But I’m an old Marine and it’s a good day because nobody is shooting at my people.”
In the final analysis, the event was a fundraiser for the Wounded Warrior Project. Players from each of the men’s and women’s teams got to spend time with military personnel, veterans and wounded warriors over their two days in Charleston.
“It just didn’t work out,” said Marquette coach Buzz Williams. “We’ll play anywhere anytime for this type of event for this type of purpose. That doesn’t alter our thought of playing for something that is more meaningful than winning and losing.
Coaches Thad Matta and Buzz Williams confer with official John Cahill
“The game was secondary. We wanted to play. Everybody wants to play, but for this night on this stage I think the game was secondary. I think the lessons that were learned in the time leading up to this, that’s what it’s all about.”
The teams completed about 45 minutes of warmups and the starting lineups had been introduced when the officials asked the game personnel to first wipe moisture off the floor. Eventually, players from both teams joined in the fruitless endeavor.
“This was going to be a big-time basketball game,” said OSU coach Thad Matta. “Given the circumstances, we tried to give it as much time as we could. It did not seem to go away. As Buzz and I would talk, we could take care of it for a minute. But we had to play for two hours.”
OSU point guard Aaron Craft, speaking for his teammates, said the Buckeyes enjoyed their time in Charleston and on the aircraft carrier. But it would have been even more special had they been able to play.
“We are definitely disappointed we didn’t get to play,” said Craft, whose brother Brandon is nearing the end of a military deployment to Afghanistan. “We were pretty geared up about it and it was fine during warmups. We got those juices flowing. It’s just very unfortunate.
“But we got to spend some time with the people we came here to serve in the first place and thank them for what they do for our country. We can’t be too disappointed. We were blessed.
“We want to enjoy this experience and then get back to work when we get back to Columbus.”
Matta added, “This guy next to me (Craft), you don’t think his mind has been other places with his brother coming home in seven days. This meant a lot to him. You saw him out there on the court. He didn’t want to leave the court because we were playing for something bigger.”
Everything was fine through warmups and then ...
Marquette’s Williams said it only made sense to cancel.
“I think it’s the responsibility of all the parties involved,” Williams said. “The health of our players is monumental. As parents, I think we made the right decision.”
Williams was asked if the coaches had anything in mind to reschedule the game to one of the campus sites later on this season. He did not sound too eager to do that.
“I have it in mind – because that’s how I make a living – no,” Williams said.
Morale Foundation sponsored the first Carrier Classic last year in San Diego as Michigan State played North Carolina. There was a threat of rain for that game, but it came off without a hitch.
“We dodged a bullet last year, but couldn’t do it this year,” Whalen said.
Whalen was asked if Morale had a contingency plan for the weather. It was suggested the game could have been moved inside to The Citadel or College of Charleston.
“We couldn’t transpose it that quick,” Whalen said. “The women’s game was fine. The Citadel was our rain contingency. But there was zero percent chance of rain and the wind was blowing five miles per hour … If you can predict the weather, you’re better than me.”
* Matta said OSU brought down nine servicepeople from Columbus, including a wounded warrior. He said they sat in for the team’s film session Thursday night.
“I can’t explain what that meeting was like for them sitting in there and taking pictures with the players and meeting the players,” Matta said. “Yeah, we didn’t play tonight. But I know this: The purpose was served.”
* Matta was ready to start a different lineup than he started in the exhibition against Walsh. Craft, shooting guard Lenzelle Smith Jr. and power forward Deshaun Thomas were all set to start again. But Matta had replaced LaQuinton Ross with Sam Thompson on the wing and Evan Ravenel with Amir Williams at center.
He said that group could start as well against Albany.
“I was going with the five most experienced players we had for this opener,” Matta said. “Rav has started before. Sam had never started before, but he had played.”
* The OSU women’s team hung with Notre Dame for the entire game but could not pull it out at the end.
Tayler Hill led OSU with 18 points and seven steals, although she was just 2 of 9 on threes. Ashley Adams added 10 points and 11 rebounds, while Amber Stokes had 10 points. OSU shot 36.4 percent, while ND shot 33.3 percent. OSU had 21 turnovers to 20 for ND and was outrebounded 43-32.
* Two Big Ten men’s teams went down to defeat Friday. Purdue fell to Bucknell 70-65, while No. 14 Michigan State lost to Connecticut 66-62 in a game played at Ramstein, Germany.
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