Saturday, March 20, 2004

It's not exactly home, but it's close for the Buckeyes

The Associated Press

COLUMBUS - Coach Jim Foster draws the distinction that although Ohio State may be playing in its hometown, it is not playing on its home court in this week's NCAA women's Mideast subregional.

"I don't feel the least bit comfortable other than I'll drive home tonight and have a pretty good idea where I'm going," Foster said Friday on the eve of his team's first-round game against West Virginia. "We played two games over here (at St. John Arena) and we practiced here about five times this year. So I would not say that this is where we live."

The Buckeyes play their home games at Value City Arena, but this weekend that facility is hosting the Ohio girls high school tournament.

In order to get one of the NCAA's 16 women's subregionals, Ohio State had to dust off the 48-year-old St. John Arena.

The dingy concrete-and-aluminum structure has been used primarily by the volleyball, gymnastics and wrestling teams since the men's and women's basketball squads moved across Olentangy River Road after the 1997-98 season.

Even though the Buckeyes say they have to adapt to the old arena just like West Virginia, Boston College and Eastern Michigan have to, there is still no doubt that Ohio State gets an edge by playing in its own backyard.

"Mentally for them it is an advantage," West Virginia coach Mike Carey said. "They're thinking, 'We're in our home arena. We'll have a lot of fans here.' But the game is played on the floor and we need to not make any excuses."

No. 6-seeded Ohio State (20-9) meets 11th-seeded West Virginia (21-10) this morning at St. John Arena, followed by third-seeded Big East tournament champion Boston College (25-6) taking on Eastern Michigan (22-7). The 14th-seeded Eagles are making their first NCAA appearance after winning the Mid-American Conference Tournament.

When the Mountaineers first heard that they were bound for an adjoining state for their first NCAA Tournament in 12 years, they were ecstatic.

"We were excited because it was close to West Virginia and we could have our fans come out," West Virginia guard Kate Bulger said. "Then we realized it was their home court."

The NCAA is trying to steer games away from home-court sites in the Tournament and hopes to go to eight-team regionals next year with most of the games at neutral sites.

Despite the fact that OSU usually has a big following and the games are in fan-friendly St. John Arena, only about 6,000 tickets have been sold, according to tournament manager Mike Penner.

NCAA TOURNAMENT (Special section)
XU: Musketeers fight back to advance
Patient Sato picks his spots, hits his shots
UC: Bobbitt hits game-winner
Daugherty: Little guy not so little in Tourney
ETSU's Smith plays big
Hicks gets job done as Bearcats' stealth sub
UK: 'Cats pull away in 2nd half to win
Hayes just misses triple-double
Murray St. gets taste of Illini's Big Ten
Cowboys get Sutton's angry halftime message
Wolfpack uses defense to subdue Ragin' Cajuns
Pacific waves goodbye to 5th seed Providence
Maryland sets sights on 'Cuse's sharpshooter
Calhoun could do without matchup
NCAA Tournament at a glance
It's not exactly home, but it's close for the Buckeyes
Tournament chase is all about class
Team by team in the women's field
WNIT: Scoring drought ends MU's season
Victory sends Wilmington to title game

Reds pitcher lost for season
2003 Reds finances may have finished in the black
Inside Reds camp
Lidle in Opening Day hunt
Aching Nixon, Garciaparra out of action for Red Sox

Bengals, Sapp close in on deal
It's official: Keyshawn, Parcells reunited

MND plays nation's top-ranked team for state title
C-J storms into Division I title game
Colonels discover that the 3 is king
Royals win one for the ages
Mason Co. pushed to the 3-OT brink
Prep sports results, schedules

Silver Minister, Bejarano aim to play spoiler

Maruyama moves ahead
Sports digest
Sports this weekend on TV, radio