Sunday, March 21, 1999
OHIO STATE NOTEBOOK
Guards point to success
BY MICHAEL PERRY
The Cincinnati Enquirer
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. The common thread among the six teams remaining in the NCAA Tournament field: A solid point guard.
The floor leaders whose teams are still in the hunt for a national championship are Scoonie Penn (Ohio State), Khalid El-Amin (Connecticut), William Avery (Duke), Pepe Sanchez (Temple), Wayne Turner (Kentucky) and Mateen Cleaves (Michigan State).
Penn, Ohio State's 5-foot-10 junior, was named Most Outstanding Player of the South Regional after leading the Buckeyes to a 77-74 victory over St.John's on Saturday night.
The All-South Region team: Penn (OSU), Michael Redd (OSU), Ken Johnson (OSU), Erick Barkley (St.John's) and Lavor Postell (St.John's).
In two games in Knoxville, Penn averaged 24 points and totaled 12 assists and three turnovers. He was 16-of-29 from the field and 7-of-13 from three-point range.
It was back in the 1960s that Ohio State was a dominant team on the national landscape.
The Buckeyes won the NCAA championship in 1960, then lost in the finals the next two years to the University of Cincinnati. OSU was also runner-up in 1939.
This is its first Final Four since 1968.
Ohio State's records the last five seasons leading to this one: 8-22 (1997-98), 10-17 (1996-97), 10-17 (1995-96), 6-22 (1994-95), 13-16 (1993-94).
No "I' in team
It's not just the chemistry between Penn and Redd the team's two top scorers that's helped Ohio State have such a successful season.
All the Buckeyes get along well.
I don't think I've ever been part of a team that's been so close, said Penn, who played his first two college seasons at Boston College. All we do is joke around and play around all day, but we know when it's time to focus we become focused enough.
It helps us. We know on the court, there are times that we may fall apart, but we're so close that nothing's going to take us away from each other.
Penn said he had not enjoyed a postgame celebration so much since he helped Boston College win the Big East Tournament as a sophomore.
On Saturday night, he did the same thing with the piece of net he cut down as he did in 1997: He gave it to his mother.
She's the most important person in my life, he said. I'm just happy she was here to experience this journey to the Final Four with us.
In the house
Ohio State football coach John Cooper and his wife were in attendance Saturday night. Cooper was not at the regional semifinal victory against Auburn but came down to support the Buckeyes against St. John's.
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