Sunday, March 21, 1999

Big man plays big for Buckeyes




BY MICHAEL PERRY
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Ken Johnson said he has never come up bigger in a big game. That is perhaps why so many people said that Ohio State's 6-foot-11 junior was the difference in Saturday night's 77-74 victory over St. John's in the South Region final.

        Johnson finished with 12 points — just three off his all-time high — and tied a career-high with seven blocked shots. He was 6-of-9 from the field and added four rebounds.

        Basically, he controlled the inside.

        “He set the tone for the game on the very first possession,” Red Storm coach Mike Jarvis said.

        It was actually St. John's second possession. The Red Storm collected two offensive rebounds and got off three shots. The third, by guard “Bootsy” Thornton, was blocked by Johnson.

        He blocked another less than two minutes later and totaled four in the first half.

        “I just wanted to do my thing,” Johnson said. “After the third block, I knew I could step up and be a force today. It was just a hungry feeling. I had to be a man and take charge of the middle.”

        Which he did.

        At both ends of the floor.

        St. John's center Tyrone Grant (10.8 ppg) was held to just three points, and forward Ron Artest (14.6) nine.

        They also had a hard time stopping Johnson, who scored on dunks, short bank shots and little hooks.

        “We thought we had a little bit of an advantage inside because of the size,” OSU coach Jim O'Brien said. “After we went to Ken once, he looked real comfortable and real confident. So we kept going to him. I really thought they had a hard time guarding him.”

        OSU also got a lift from senior forward Jason Singleton, who scored 13 points on 6-of-7 shooting. That's the most he's scored since Feb. 6.

        Johnson, a Detroit native, had only scored in double figures three other times this season and not since Jan. 30.

        With all the pregame talk centering around the guards, Johnson said, “I just knew if I was a presence that I could make things happen.”

        He had averaged 6.7 points in the Buckeyes' first three NCAA Tournament games, but came through when it mattered most.

        “Ken's developed well as a player,” point guard Scoonie Penn said.

       



Ohio State Stories
OHIO STATE 77, ST. JOHN'S 74
Redd finds redemption on the floor
- Big man plays big for Buckeyes
OHIO STATE NOTEBOOK
MARCH MADNESS PAGE