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Buckeyes hope they're ready for Big Ten start

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Buckeyes hope they're ready for Big Ten start

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) Ohio State's Deshaun Thomas talks of the impending conference season as if it's a series of hand-to-hand battles.

In a way, maybe it is.

``Right now it's just all about the Big Ten,'' said the Buckeyes' and league's leading scorer after his team's 87-44 win over Chicago State on Saturday. ``Every night is going to be a fight night and everybody is going to compete.''

It's time for Ohio State to open play in the rough, rugged - and talented - Big Ten.

The Buckeyes (10-2) host Nebraska (9-4) on Wednesday night. There will be little time to take a breath until they close the regular season with a home game on March 10 against Illinois.

It's also the dawn of a new segment of the season for the Cornhuskers and first-year coach Tim Miles. He inherits a team that went 4-14 in league play last season former coach Doc Sadler.

Ohio State, co-champs of the Big Ten last year, is a prohibitive favorite.

``We're the underdog, so we've got nothing to lose,'' Miles said. ``Let's go figure it out and try to win the game.''

Despite being a three-time defending Big Ten champion, Buckeyes coach Thad Matta takes nothing for granted.

``You're going into 18 straight games that are going to be brutal, there's no doubt about that,'' he said. ``We've (played) some pretty good basketball. There's still a lot of areas we have to clean up.''

The principal areas of concern are the post position and shooting.

Matta has juggled his only senior, Evan Ravenel, 6-foot-11 sophomore Amir Williams, who is limited offensively, and Trey McDonald, with very little experience.

Combined, they're averaging 12 points and 10.2 rebounds a game. Still, they have been erratic against a non-conference schedule that was weak except for the two losses - against No. 1 Duke and No. 6 Kansas.

Also, keep in mind that's a considerable drop-off from two-time All-American Jared Sullinger, who averaged 17.6 points and 9.1 rebounds by himself last season before leaving early for the NBA.

More troubling is Ohio State's shooting woes. In their only losses (73-68 at Duke, 74-66 at home against Kansas), the Buckeyes shot 33 and 31 percent, respectively, from the field.

Thomas, who is averaging just under 20 points a game, can only do so much.

Aaron Craft, the reigning Big Ten defensive player of the year, has struggled with his shot. He and his teammates have put in extra time on shooting in practice. They're confident they've worked out the kinks and are ready for the rigors of the Big Ten.

``I really hope so. If not, we're in for a rude awakening,'' he said. ``Going 10-2 in non-conference, we've played some pretty good teams that have set us up to be competitive in the Big Ten. (We have the) understanding that every team is a great team and every team has the potential to win each game. We have to find a way to get better each and every day and understand that every game is vitally important and every game we need to bring it.''

Three times the Buckeyes will play back-to-back road games; only once will they have two home games in a row. In a fortunate turn, they'll play second-tier teams Purdue and Penn State only on the road, and get toughies Minnesota and Wisconsin just at home.

Everybody's steeling for what's ahead. This could be a vintage year for the conference - ranked No. 1 in the RPI - with four teams currently in the Associated Press' top nine and six among the top 18.

``We just need to put together 40 minutes,'' Nebraska big man Brandon Ubel said. ``We've done that this season. We get up 10 (points) or down 10, but the game's not over. You just kind of have to have that mentality.''

Matta is looking forward to getting going against the rest of the conference. But he also knows that it's no time for mediocre play. Bad teams can be revealed quickly.

``It's exciting,'' he said. ``But you're also, like, `Strap it on. Here we go.'''

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Follow Rusty Miller on Twitter:http://www.twitter.com/rustymillerap

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We're still amazed by Michael Jordan's historic scoring night vs. New Jersey, days after turning 40-years-old

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We're still amazed by Michael Jordan's historic scoring night vs. New Jersey, days after turning 40-years-old

Sixteen years ago Michael Jordan delivered one of the most memorable performances of his two-year stint with the Washington Wizards. 

On February 21, 2003, Jordan dropped 43 points four days after his 40th birthday. The mark made the Jordan the first player older than 40 to record 40 points or more in a contest. 

It was also the fifth-most points he ever scored in a Wizards uniform. 

The record was made against the then-New Jersey Nets. Throughout the entire game the two teams went back-and-forth with 13 ties and 17 lead changes. That was until the Hall of Famer put the game away for Washington with the final go-ahead basket with 34 seconds to go. 

The Wizards won 89-86. 

"We hadn't really been playing well and coach has been really disappointed in the way we play and I had to take the leadership. I had to do everything I had to do to get this team to understand what winning is all about," Jordan said.

The 43 points was scored on 18-for-30 shooting, all within the 3pt arc. In the third quarter alone he scored 14 of the team's 25 points. He also grabbed 10 rebounds for the double-double in the contest with four steals, three assists and a block.

All 13 seasons of Jordan's career he had incredible feats. The season prior he recorded his final 50-point game at 38 years of age, which is also the oldest anyone's ever been to reach 50 points. And that came two months after he returned from retirement. 

The 2002-03 season was his last and this display was an attempt for Jordan to return to the postseason one final time. He had not been there since he was with the Chicago Bulls in 1998. 

"I've only got 28 games left in my career. I do whatever I've got to do to get into the playoffs."

Ultimately the Wizards did not make it to the playoffs with Jordan, but he sure left his mark on the organization. 

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Zion Williamson blows out his shoe, leaves Duke vs. UNC with knee injury

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Zion Williamson blows out his shoe, leaves Duke vs. UNC with knee injury

Nothing and no one had been able to stop Zion Williamson in his freshman season with the Duke Blue Devils. That is except for his left shoe. 

Like everything the 6-7 forward has done this season, ripping out of his shoe was impressive.

Shoes don't do that. But of course things are not normal when it comes to Williamson.

After one comprehends what happened to the foot accessory, there is the result of the play that happened in the opening moment of Duke vs. UNC. Williamson grabbed the back of his right knee and had a serious concerned look.

The projected No. 1 pick of the 2019 NBA draft immediately left the contest only 33 seconds into the game. Not too long after he was ruled out for the contest. The initial reaction though is not good. 

As the overwhelming top prospect in the college game, this injury could have huge ramifications on the NBA Draft. Of course it is too early to assume anything on his injury status, but this is right on the heels of the national conversation on if Williamson should shut down the remainder of the Blue Devils' 2019 season. 

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