During the 3-point era, only offensive rebounding has experienced a larger percentage change, with the rate of boards offensive teams have grabbed off their own misses falling from 33.5 percent 40 years ago all the way to 22.9 percent this season. Oliver pegged turnover rate as being responsible for 25 percent of the variance in offensive efficiency and offensive rebounding for 20 percent, though subsequent detailed analyses have typically settled somewhere around 22 percent or 23 percent for turnovers and 15 to 18 percent for rebounds. So given that avoiding a turnover is considered more valuable than grabbing an offensive rebound, it could be argued that the change in turnover rate has fully canceled out the decline in offensive rebound rate. We can see this more clearly when we weight each percentage change by the amount ascribed to each of the Four Factors by Evan Zamir’s 2010 analysis that updated the weight each factor had been assigned by Oliver. We’re in a golden age for NBA offense. Teams are scoring 110.1 points per 100 possessions during the 2018-19 season, according to Basketball-Reference.com — a full 1.3 points per 100 possessions more than the previous high of 108.8, which was set two years ago.This is largely — and rightly — credited to the boom in 3-point attempts. While the 3-point line was instituted all the way back in 1979, it took the league nearly four decades to realize that 3 was worth more than 2.1Just four years ago, the league as a whole scored 105.6 points per 100 possessions, nearly the same figure as was recorded during the first year of the 3-point era, when teams scored 105.3 points per 100 possessions. The threes have also been complemented by other leaguewide changes, all of which have been widely recognized as contributing factors in the age of offense: a dramatic shift toward “Moreyball” shot distribution that limits inefficient shots like long twos; several waves of rule changes that opened up the floor and allowed for more freedom of movement; the increase in pace; and the sheer unstoppability of the league’s very best offenses.In all those explanations, though, one factor has gone wildly underdiscussed: Teams just don’t turn the ball over all that much anymore. In addition to being the best overall shooting season of the 3-point era, the 2018-19 campaign also has seen teams commit turnovers at the lowest rate they ever have, as just 12.6 percent of possessions leaguewide have ended with the offense giving the ball away to the defense in one manner or another. This is down from a high of 15.8 percent during the 1982-83 season.But while the genesis of the other offensive changes can be neatly traced, the decline in turnovers is a bit more puzzling. In my search for an explanation, I figured it was best to ask a person whose teams have mastered the art of avoiding turnovers: Gregg Popovich, whose San Antonio Spurs own the lowest turnover rate in the NBA this season (which doubles as the fifth-lowest rate since the league began tracking turnovers) and have finished with a better-than-average turnover rate in 14 of the past 15 seasons — a time during which they have the league’s fourth-lowest turnover rate overall. Popovich, though, was also stumped (or perhaps just characteristically cagey). He didn’t really have any idea why his teams have avoided turnovers so consistently, nor why the league has done a better job in recent seasons.“I’m not even sure I know the answer to that, to tell you the truth,” Popovich said. “We don’t do any ‘don’t turn it over’ drills or anything like that. We talk a lot about decision-making and time and score on the clock, understanding your role, staying within your abilities, all those sorts of things. So, I think over time people realize how valuable the basketball is, and we just go from there.”There are many potential explanations for the drop in turnover rate, all of which may be working in concert. The increasing prevalence of pull-up three-pointers limits opportunities for players to cough up the ball — if the ball never passes the three-point line, a turnover is far less likely as most turnovers tend to happen in more crowded areas of the floor. Switch-heavy defenses have resulted in more isolation plays, and isolations are often the play-call of choice in close and late situations because they are less likely to result in turnovers.Regardless of why, the impact of turnovers cannot be undersold. Popovich is onto something when it comes to the value of the basketball. It makes intuitive sense: You can’t score if you don’t have the ball.To gauge the impact of turnover rate on NBA offense, let’s look at how it’s changed compared to the other so-called Four Factors of Basketball Success popularized by noted basketball statistician Dean Oliver in his seminal book, “Basketball on Paper”: effective field-goal percentage, offensive rebound rate and free-throw rate. When looking at each of the Four Factors year over year, we can see just how stark the drop-off in turnovers has been over the years and how it compares with the changes in the other factors, all of which have followed similarly consistent trend lines. Percentage change+7.6%-18.7%-31.3%-14.9% EFF. FG %turnover %OFF. REB. %FT % Turnover decline is even bigger than it seemsThe percentage change of Dean Oliver’s Four Factors weighted by their impact on the game, 1980-2019 The respective declines in turnovers and offensive rebounding are nearly even, while the bump in shooting efficiency far outweighs the decline in free-throw rate. Add it all up, and you’ve got a leaguewide offensive rating that is 4.6 percent better in 2018-19 than it was during the 1979-80 season (110.1 points per 100 possessions compared with 105.3 per 100).Shooting (and shot distribution) have been talked about ad nauseam over the years, while numerous observers have noted that teams are increasingly prioritizing getting back in transition defense over chasing offensive rebounds. As ESPN’s Zach Lowe explained in 2016, the Spurs were among the first teams to deprioritize offensive rebounds, with former Spurs assistant and current 76ers head coach Brett Brown once noting that Popovich did not care if a player didn’t grab a single offensive rebound during his entire career. Pop’s lead was followed by coaches like Doc Rivers, Erik Spoelstra, Stan Van Gundy and Rick Carlisle, and with those coaches’ assistants now all over the league like Popovich’s are, it’s perhaps not surprising that offensive rebounding is down all over the place. Without the decline in turnovers offsetting that prioritization, though, we likely would not be living in the best offensive environment in the modern history of the NBA.Check out our latest NBA predictions. Weighted+4.1-4.1-4.7-1.5 The weights represent the amount of variance in offensive efficiency each stat explains based on Evan Zamir’s variation on Oliver’s analysis; field-goal percentage at 54 percent, turnover rate at 22 percent, offensive rebounding rate at 15 percent and free-throw rate at 10 percent.Source: basketball-reference.com
After a disappointing start to their season, the Portland Trail Blazers caught fire after the All-Star Break. Resembling their old selves, when they were one of the NBA’s more enjoyable teams to watch during a surprising 2015-16 campaign, they finished this season on an 18-8 run, just enough to get them into the playoffs.Then the Golden State Warriors happened, and now, four games later, Portland finds itself on vacation.The Warriors, with or without Kevin Durant, can bring any team to its knees. But the nature of the sweep also underscored the problem the Blazers need to address: Their offense — led by Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum — too often looks like a modern-day version of NBA Jam, where two players are scoring in dazzling fashion but aren’t doing much else.The notion of two guys taking over an offense isn’t unusual; especially in the playoffs. Everyone knows Lillard and McCollum can score. They combined for 50 points per game during the regular season, and exceeded that output against Golden State in the first round. Lillard and McCollum exit ranked ninth and 13th in usage rate this postseason, respectively, and make up one of four duos whose players are both among the top 20.But the other pairings who have this big a combined role in their offenses (LeBron James and Kyrie Irving in Cleveland; John Wall and Bradley Beal in Washington; and Dennis Schröder and Paul Millsap in Atlanta) are more versatile. With McCollum and Lillard each standing only 6 feet 3 inches tall, defending is often a challenge, regardless of how much effort they put forth. And perhaps their most eye-opening problem was on display against the Warriors, when Lillard and McCollum struggled to find ways to involve their teammates.They combined for just 4.3 assists a game this series, an alarmingly low total for players who combined to take 58 percent of the team’s shots when they were on the court together. McCollum’s one assist per game in the series is the lowest rate in NBA postseason history by a guard who averaged at least 20 points per game,1Among players who played at least three playoff games according to Basketball-Reference.com’s Play Index.Lillard had more success sharing the ball but could also end up making history. Prior to this postseason, no pure point guard2By that, I mean a player listed solely as a point guard on Basketball-Reference, as opposed to being considered a combo guard. had ever averaged 20 points per game in the playoffs while finishing with so few assists.3Lillard may get bailed out here: Irving is currently averaging just three assists per game. But he also has the luxury of potentially increasing his average, since the Cavs have advanced to the second round.Some of this stems from Portland’s style of play. Whereas many teams have sought to replicate Golden State’s and San Antonio’s quick-ball-movement styles, the Blazers’ guards are often content to dribble the air out of the ball. As such, opponents are able to load up on Portland’s star scorers and try hounding them into poor shots or hurried passes4Even worse than McCollum’s four assists in this series were his 15 turnovers. without fear of the other players hurting them.All things considered, Portland was solid offensively in one-on-one situations during the Golden State series. But the frequency with which they relied on isolations — a whopping 49 percent of Lillard’s shot attempts came after he’d possessed the ball for more than 6 seconds, up from 39 percent during the regular season — wasn’t ideal and made for too much standing around.This isn’t to say that Portland’s cornerstones deserve all the blame. Jusuf Nurkic’s injury, which happened right before the playoffs, largely prevented them from taking advantage of another option on offense, one who also would’ve protected the rim for their 21st-ranked defense5The Blazers managed to lead the NBA in rim protection, limiting opponents to 58 percent shooting from within three feet of the basket. But that statistic was watered down by the fact that they sent opponents to the line at the third highest rate.. And forward Evan Turner was signed to help relieve the ballhandling burden Lillard and McCollum face, yet he can’t adequately draw help defenders and get teammates open by shooting 36 percent, like he did in the first round.Yet Turner is part of the team’s biggest issue: Portland may be stuck with this roster for the time being, given how much money it committed to free agents last season. Aside from Turner’s shocking $70 million deal, the team also agreed to a $75 million pact with wing Allen Crabbe and a $41 million one with big Meyers Leonard — deals that may ultimately prove to be too rich for the production the club is getting in return6Crabbe, Leonard and Turner ranked eighth, 11th and 13th on the team, respectively, in win shares per 48 minutes this season.. The Blazers now own the third-biggest payroll in the league, without a clear way to join the West’s elite.7Aside from any upside Nurkic may have, the Blazers are still a young team relative to the rest of the NBA. McCollum is 25; Lillard is 26.As for Lillard, he said on Monday that he’d love for his team to be able to play with the same sort of belief Golden State does. “For us, we look at them and you don’t want to say, ‘Do what they do,’ but you want to have that cohesiveness and that understanding and that effortless flow to the game,” Lillard told reporters shortly after his club was eliminated. “You want to have that and that trust that they have with each other. You want to have that with your team.”Trust or not, the issues in Portland are clear: Lillard and McCollum are extremely talented but have gaps in their game, and Portland has too much salary on the books to easily retool the way its roster looks. Without resolving one of those things, it’s hard to see how the Blazers join the Western Conference’s elite, let alone become the next version of the Warriors.
OSU sophomore forward Keita Bates-Diop (33) during a game against Rutgers on Jan. 13 at the Schottenstein Center. Credit: Samantha Hollingshead | Photo EditorSitting at the podium in the bowels of the Schottenstein Center addressing the media Wednesday afternoon, Thad Matta pretended to flip a coin. The Ohio State men’s basketball coach looked upward, watching the imaginary disk rotate, before acting as if he caught it in the palm of his right hand.Completing the action, Matta slapped his right hand onto the backside of his left one, as he then showed the media what the result of the phantom flip was. He grinned. “That’s what it is sometimes,” he said. What spurred Matta to put on the routine was a question about the toughness of his youthful Buckeyes. His response showed just how hit-or-miss his team’s performances have been this season. The effort is there one night then gone the next, with seemingly no rhyme or reason, as if it’s up to chance — like flipping a coin.“That’s got to be where we get that constant,” Matta said of his team’s toughness. “I think we’re making strides in that regard. What I’m trying to avoid the best I can is any setbacks. That’s something that continues to be preached.” Likely prompted by a shift in the starting lineup, the Buckeyes’ toughness was visible Monday night in their 66-46 victory over Penn State. Freshmen A.J. Harris and Daniel Giddens cracked the starting lineup and helped provide OSU (13-8, 5-3) with the edge in the 20-point win. The question now, like it has been all season long, is which team will show up in the next game, which is scheduled to be Thursday night on the road against Illinois (10-10, 2-5). Will the starting five once again contain Harris and Giddens, meaning freshman guard JaQuan Lyle and redshirt sophomore center Trevor Thompson will come off the bench for the second consecutive night? “It could,” Matta said. “I just want to see guys fight.” That fight he is looking for in his players comes not only during live action but in practice, too. Matta said Harris and Giddens looked “noticeably different” leading up to the Penn State game, which explains the variation in the starting lineup. At the time of Matta speaking to the media, practice had yet to take place for the day, but the coach said he thinks Harris and Giddens understand how important it is for “what they do.” Giddens, who missed practice Tuesday because of illness, insisted that he doesn’t know what the starting lineup will look like against the Fighting Illini. “He just wants five guys to be prepared to go on the floor,” Giddens said. “Consistency has been an issue.” Although still searching for it on a more regular basis, sophomore forward Keita Bates-Diop, who had a team-high 22 points against the Nittany Lions, said he felt that the team displayed a performance consistent both offensively and defensively on Monday. Matta agreed, saying that what transpired on the floor was just what he hoped for when he made the move to change the lineups. “That’s what I’m after,” he said. “Give me the constant, in terms of the effort, the toughness we need, both physically and mentally.” As for the result of the pretend coin flip, was it heads or tails? Will the toughness Matta has been searching for — and maybe found with the lineup switch — be there once the ball goes up? “I’ll tell you tomorrow at 9 p.m.,” he said, laughing. “Or 9:02 p.m.” A glimpse at Illinois The Fighting Illini have dropped five of their last seven games, but they head into Thursday’s matchup with a five-point win over Minnesota fresh in their minds. In that game on Saturday in Minneapolis, Illinois got a 28-point performance from junior guard Malcolm Hill to help carry his team to the victory. It was the 10th time this season that Hill led his team in scoring. Overall, he averages a team-leading 18.3 points per contest. The 6-foot-6 guard has good size for a backcourt player, and the Buckeyes know that he can fill it up despite holding him to 4-of-13 shooting and 14 points when the two teams met on Jan. 3. Along with Hill, fellow junior guard Kendrick Nunn has been excelling since returning from an early-season injury to provide coach John Groce with a formidable backcourt duo. The Chicago native averages just over 17 points a game on 45 percent shooting, while also scooping up 5.4 rebounds per contest. Matta acknowledged the recent play of the duo, describing its performance as “high-level.” Building off the strength of these two guards, the Fighting Illini have a tendency to play small, sometimes using four backcourt players at the same time. Typically, this could be a wrinkle in the gameplan for a team that has effective post players, like OSU, but Giddens said he sees “no problems” for the Buckeyes. “As long as we come in focused and ready to go, we’ll be fine,” he said. Up next After Thursday’s game, OSU will return to Columbus to prepare for its shot to avenge a 35-point loss to Maryland earlier in the month. The Buckeyes and the eighth-ranked Terrapins are scheduled to hit the hardwood Sunday. Tipoff is set for 1 p.m. at the Schottenstein Center.
OSU coach Urban Meyer looks on after facing Michigan State on Nov. 21, 2015. OSU lost, 17-14. Credit: Lantern file photoSince the end of last season, OSU coach Urban Meyer has been waiting for his team to step up and replace those who departed for the NFL. While some Buckeyes have fulfilled that request and claimed spots on the depth chart, Meyer is still searching for improvement on all nine units ahead of the first game on Sept. 3.“We’re not there yet,” Meyer said.Ohio State is a little more than two weeks into practice and has fewer than two weeks until its first game against one of Meyer’s former teams, the Bowling Green Falcons. Fall camp has officially ended, and Meyer has begun to narrow down his personnel.On Monday, he named redshirt sophomore defensive end Sam Hubbard as a starter and said that if junior weak-side linebacker Dante Booker and redshirt freshman running back Mike Weber each have another week showing progress, both will get the call as starters.But Meyer made it clear that some guys need to elevate their own performances, specifically mentioning the offensive line. He said that the two-deep on the unit would not be prepared to enter a game situation.“It’s all about getting game-ready and that’s what this week is all about,” Meyer said. “Because next week you’re installing gameplans.”At practice, each coach has his own chart of players with criteria to determine if each one is game ready. The chart documents the amount of reps each player takes and the number of practices in which the player has been involved.Before each practice, Meyer sits down with his coaches to go over the players at the top and near the top of the depth chart. When a player is deemed game ready, that player receives a green check next to his name. Meyer said that none of his guys will see playing time until the player receives that distinction.Wide receivers coach Zach Smith said that the skills necessary to be game ready are different for every member of the team. Smith wants to have six receivers available at all times, so the pressure is on his crew to be game ready.“I can’t stamp everybody as game-ready but there are a couple guys that are really close,” Smith said. “They’re really responding to coaching and playing at a high level right now.”Meyer said that he has had situations with past teams in which players were just not good enough to play at the season’s beginning. For the 2016 Buckeyes, Meyer said that’s not the case. He’s confident in the talent his team possesses. It just comes down to reps, scheme and other factors.“(Being game-ready) is going to be so critical this year — more than ever with a young team,” Meyer said. “It’s got to be clear to them what you got to do to get ready.”
1.Who will play quarterback for Penn State? True freshman Rob Bolden has started much of the season and started last week’s game against Northwestern, but was pulled after fumbling on the team’s second series. Redshirt sophomore Matt McGloin, who had previously filled in for an injured Bolden, is now listed atop the depth chart, and will start Saturday. McGloin, who has led the team to three straight victories, including two in relief of Bolden, started slow last week against Northwestern but eventually tossed four touchdown passes to lead PSU back from a 21-0 deficit. McGloin has seven touchdowns and one interception, but hasn’t faced an elite defense like Ohio State’s. 2. Will the Nittany Lions be able to move the ball? The Blue and White enter the game ninth in the Big Ten in three key offensive categories: total offense, rushing yards per game and points per game. That spells doom against an OSU defense allowing just 14 points a game, good for third in the nation. Running back Evan Royster became PSU’s all-time leading rusher two weeks ago against Michigan, but in three career games against OSU, Royster has rushed 36 times for only a 3.6-yard average. 3. Which Terrelle Pryor will show up? As a freshman in 2008, Pryor passed for 226 yards in a defensive struggle against Penn State at Ohio Stadium. But his fumble early in the fourth quarter on a third-and-1 quarterback sneak led to what would be the deciding points in a 13-6 Nittany Lion victory. Last season, Pryor played well in his home state of Pennsylvania, passing for two scores and running for another in a 24-7 Buckeye romp. In reference to Pryor’s fumble in 2008, Tressel said it’s not a big deal to him or Pryor anymore. “It was a great lesson learned,” Tressel said. “We just needed a yard and he’s the first to admit he understands that and we haven’t had to harp on it.” 4. Should OSU fans expect a healthier defense? The defense will get linebackers Ross Homan and Dorian Bell back from injury Saturday. Homan had been a favorite for first team all-Big Ten before his foot injury while Bell played mostly special teams. Defensive backs Christian Bryant, Corey Brown, C.J. Barnett and Tyler Moeller remain out for at least the regular season and most likely the bowl game as well. Luckily for OSU, PSU hasn’t had success throwing the ball in the Horseshoe. In eight games at Ohio Stadium since joining the Big Ten, the Nittany Lions have not thrown a touchdown pass. 5. Another November to remember for OSU? Under Jim Tressel, the Scarlet and Gray are 26-4 in November, including 15-1 in the last 16 games. OSU hasn’t lost to a ranked team in November since a loss against Michigan on Nov. 23, 2003, nearly seven years ago. Tressel said the key to OSU’s November success has been the players’ philosophy of sustained improvement. “I think our guys do believe that you have to get better as the year goes on and hopefully we don’t get too high or too low,” Tressel said. “I think they’ve done a pretty good job of believing you have to keep working to get better and if you keep working to get better, you probably will.”
Urban Meyer is taking hardly any time filling the voids in his coaching staff.According to a report by SI.com Tuesday, Ohio State has hired Arkansas defensive coordinator Chris Ash to be the team’s next co-defensive coordinator and secondary coach. Ash would replace the departed Everett Withers, who was announced as the next head coach at James Madison University Dec. 20.Despite the report, an OSU spokesman did not confirm or deny the move.“I don’t have any information I can share at this time,” the spokesman told The Lantern in an email Tuesday.Current Arkansas coach Bret Bielema offered a statement about coaching changes on the football staff on Twitter, but did not name anyone specific.“Have always felt transition on my staff has allowed us to get even better. Have had success hiring right people and will again. #woopig #1-0,” Bielema’s first tweet read, which was sent at 1 p.m Tuesday.“Very happy for former coaches that decide to move to new challenges, the respect our staff gets nationally will continue to grow. #woopig,” Bielema said in a second tweet, sent approximately 12 minutes later.The supposed move comes hours after a report that the Buckeyes had hired former Penn State defensive line coach Larry Johnson to the same position.Prior to spending last season at Arkansas, Ash was a part of a Wisconsin coaching staff that helped lead the Badgers to three straight Rose Bowls from 2011-13. He is looked to bring stability to OSU’s defensive secondary, which finished ranked 112th in the nation last season giving up 268 yards per game.OSU is set to open the 2014 season Aug. 30 against Navy at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore.
Sophomore running back Ezekiel Elliott (15) breaks away on an 81-yard touchdown run during the Big Ten Championship Game against Wisconsin on Dec. 6 in Indianapolis. OSU won, 59-0.Credit: Mark Batke / Photo editorThe Ohio State football team found out it was playoff-bound when the final College Football Playoff rankings were announced Sunday afternoon, but the Buckeyes wouldn’t have earned that spot without their drubbing of Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game a day earlier.OSU (12-1, 8-0) topped the Badgers, 59-0, locking up its 35th Big Ten title. With a new quarterback in the lineup and having recently learned of the death of walk-on defensive lineman Kosta Karageorge, the Buckeyes’ dominating performance came as a surprise to many.But surprise or not, The Lantern sports editors picked five key takeaways from the win that booked OSU’s ticket to the playoffs. 1. Redshirt-sophomore quarterback Cardale Jones didn’t miss a stepJones — starting in place of injured redshirt-freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett — completed an eight-yard pass to redshirt-sophomore wide receiver Michael Thomas on the first play of the game. Then five plays later, he heaved the ball downfield and found the hands of senior wide receiver Devin Smith for a 39-yard touchdown.Less than two minutes is all it took for Jones to show everyone at Lucas Oil Stadium — and anyone watching on TV — that he did, in fact, go to Indianapolis to play football.Throughout the game, the Glenville High School product showed off his world-class arm strength and surprisingly reliable accuracy and decision-making skills on his way to MVP honors.Jones totaled 257 yards and three touchdowns as he completed 12 of 17 pass attempts in the game without turning the ball over. Anyone who predicted those numbers likely also predicated on OSU win, but with almost nothing to go off of, not many could have expected Jones to have the success he did.It was a near flawless performance, and had he struggled, a win alone might not have been enough to get the Buckeyes to the playoffs.2. Senior defensive lineman Michael Bennett might be the Buckeyes’ most important playerBefore Saturday, the argument could have been made that Barrett had been the main key to OSU’s success. But with the way Jones performed, a quick look to the defensive line shows who the Buckeyes’ true leader from a physical and emotional standpoint is.Bennett donned No. 53 in honor of Karageorge, and played with a chip on his shoulder from start to finish. He tallied a career-high four tackles for loss to go along with two sacks, and forced a fumble that was recovered and returned for a touchdown by sophomore defensive lineman Joey Bosa.Bennett had made mid-game speeches to spark the Buckeyes more than once this season, but it was clear that his play on the field — and leadership on the sidelines — helped key OSU to arguably its most important win since the 2002 National Championship Game.3. Sophomore running back Ezekiel Elliott simply outplayed Wisconsin’s Heisman candidateWisconsin redshirt-junior running back Melvin Gordon is likely going to be a Heisman Trophy finalist as the nation’s top rusher, but on Saturday he wasn’t even the best player at his position on the field.OSU’s Elliott broke Gordon’s own Big Ten title game record with 220 rushing yards, and he did it on just 20 carries. Gordon managed just 76 yards on his 26 attempts and couldn’t help the Badgers put points on the board, while Elliott scored 12 points on his own.Through 13 games, Elliott has tallied 1,402 rushing yards on 217 carries with 12 touchdowns while adding 26 receptions for another 208 yards through the air.Elliott’s play of late has drawn comparisons to former Buckeye Carlos Hyde, and if he keeps improving, he could easily end up having an even better collegiate career.4. The Buckeye defense answered the Bell and then someSophomore safety Vonn Bell, along with the rest of the Buckeye defense, lived up to their “Silver Bullet” mantra Saturday night. Bell, who tied for the team lead in tackles against Wisconsin with seven, recorded his fifth interception for the season late in the first quarter to set the tone for the Buckeye defense. The Buckeyes not only held Wisconsin redshirt-junior quarterback Joel Stave to 187 yards passing on 17 of 43 through the air, but they also shut down potential Heisman finalist Gordon all night long. For an OSU defense to perform like they did on the biggest stage in the Big Ten conference showed that the Buckeyes are…5. Deserving of the No. 4 seed in the College Football PlayoffThe Buckeyes leapfrogged Texas Christian to get into the inaugural College Football Playoff and they deserve it. OSU put up a 59 spot on the second-best defense in the country and held the nation’s leading rusher to a 2.9 yards per carry average. The Horned Frogs did indeed dominate the Iowa State Cyclones, but it doesn’t help that the Cyclones entered that game 2-9 on the season. It also hurt the Big 12 in that they no longer have a conference championship game. Do not be surprised if the Big 12 isn’t actively looking for two new members before the start of next season.The Buckeyes put on a clinic in the conference title game and will now get a shot at the No. 1 team in the country in Alabama. Nick Saban versus Urban Meyer is must-see TV and you can bet all eyes will be on the Superdome on Jan. 1 for the Sugar Bowl. Kickoff in New Orleans is set for 8:30 p.m.
Ohio State sophomore defensive end Nick Bosa sacks Michigan State quarterback Brian Lewerke during the first quarter of the Buckeyes’ victory against the Spartans on Nov. 11. Credit: Jack Westerheide | Photo EditorWith its College Football Playoff hopes likely dashed due to last week’s 55-24 loss to Iowa, many people wondered how No. 13 Ohio State would respond. The Buckeyes rebounded with a resounding 48-3 victory against No. 12 Michigan State, taking sole possession of first-place in the Big Ten East Saturday afternoon at Ohio Stadium.The Buckeyes (8-2, 6-1 Big Ten) dominated in all facets of the game, leading 524-195 in total yardage and 25-15 in first downs. They converted seven-of-12 third downs, while the Spartans (7-3, 5-2 Big Ten) extended four-of-17 drives on third down.Against Michigan State’s third-ranked run defense, the Buckeyes continuously handed the ball to running backs J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber, who combined for 27 carries for 286 yards. Head coach Urban Meyer said he made a “mandate” to run the ball more. In last week’s loss, No. 13 Ohio State handed to ball to the backfield duo just 11 times. “I feel like after a loss you want to get back to what you’re good at and establishing the run game,” redshirt senior quarterback J.T. Barrett said. “It definitely helps out with who we are in play-action pass and making our shots downfield. So just getting back to who you are, whether it be fundamentals or even when it comes to offensively and defensively making calls and things like that.”The Spartans could not stop Weber, who took his first carry 47 yards for a touchdown and broke a career-long 82-yard touchdown rush in the middle of the second quarter. He finished with nine rushes for a career-best 162 yards and two touchdowns. Dobbins had 18 carries for 124 yards and caught four passes for 20 yards, including an eight-yard touchdown in the second quarter. During the third quarter, Dobbins joined Weber as the fourth Ohio State freshman in program history to rush for 1,000 yards in a single season.Ohio State established the run early. The Buckeyes finished the first quarter with an 11-play, 73-yard drive and ran the ball on eight plays. Barrett also was involved in the ground game. He had nine rushes for 55 yards and two touchdowns. He also went 14-for-21 for 183 yards and two touchdowns and two interceptions.“The game planning was very good, but that secondary compared to the execution of the offensive line — and I thought the running backs ran really, really hard,” Meyer said. “Even when they got hit, it was a plus-two. So you’re in that second-and-four mentality as opposed to — and when you face a team that’s that committed to the run, you have to have that kind of physicality of running backs. I thought our two backs played fantastic.”Sophomore wide receiver Binjimen Victor snagged a deep pass, shrugged off a defender and strode into the end zone for a 48-yard touchdown in the third quarter. Redshirt junior H-back Parris Campbell returned from missing last week’s game with a head injury and had three receptions for 49 yards.Sophomore linebacker Malik Harrison, who made his career first start due to injuries to starters Jerome Baker and Dante Booker, set the defensive tone for Ohio State when he sacked quarterback Brian Lewerke on the Spartans’ fourth offensive play. The Buckeyes’ defensive front made Lewerke uncomfortable the entire game. He finished 18-for-36 for 131 yards with two interceptions.“He decided to hold onto it a little in the beginning and then he smartened up and got rid of it,” said sophomore defensive end Nick Bosa, who also picked up a first-quarter sack.Redshirt cornerback Damon Arnette picked off Lewerke late in the second quarter, but was injured on the following drive and did not return to the game. Meyer said he had a thigh bruise and does not have any structural damage. Safety Damon Webb also intercepted Lewerke. The Buckeyes had not forced a turnover since cornerback Amir Riep picked off a pass late in their win against Nebraska.“We work on it multiple times every week and we had a drought there,” redshirt junior defensive end Sam Hubbard said. “We told ourselves, [defensive coordinator Greg] Schiano said, ‘Keep doing what you’re doing. They’re going to come, they’re going to come.’ And they did today.”The Spartans got off to a good start on the ground when running back L.J. Scott took his team’s first carry of the game for 20 yards. But other than a couple instances in which Lewerke scrambled and picked up yards, Ohio State stymied the Michigan State run game. The Spartans finished with 34 rushes for 64 yards. Scott had 30 yards on eight carries.Redshirt freshman quarterback Dwayne Haskins entered the game with 12:07 remaining in the game and went 1-for-2 for six yards. Ohio State will be back in action Saturday when it plays host to Illinois.
In just 10 days, a team led by senior conservator Paul Ackroyd has restored the painting and the damage is not visible to the naked eye. Larry Keith, head of conservation at the gallery, said: “There were two long scratches that went through the paint, but luckily the damage didn’t go through the canvas and lining.”It was about consolidating the loose paint around the edges of the damage, doing very careful filling to get the surface texture, then using synthetic retouching paint. The key with this kind of damage is to make the sure texture is as evenly matched as you can. Once the retouching is accomplished there is an application of light varnish over the whole thing to even the saturation and to make sure the gloss is the same everywhere.” A Thomas Gainsborough masterpiece that was slashed with a screwdriver has been restored and returned to its spot in the National Gallery.An attacker entered the gallery on a busy Saturday afternoon earlier this month and defaced The Morning Walk, a 1785 portrait of William Hallet and Elizabeth Stephens.Two slashes were made in the lower half of the painting in the rough shape of a cross, the longest measuring around a metre.The National Gallery’s East Wing was evacuated and closed for two hours following the incident, which took place at a spot featured in the 2012 James Bond film Skyfall.The painting is now back on display in room 34, which is also home to two of the gallery’s most famous paintings: The Haywain by John Constable and Whistlejacket by George Stubbs. Although the damage is visible under ultra-violet light, “nonetheless if you were in the gallery looking at this picture you can appreciate it at least as well as before, and there is no evidence of damage.”The team began evaluating the painting within an hour of it being damaged, and Ackroyd worked “long days and very late at weekends” to restore it. Dr Finaldi said conservation staff were working to repair the painting and promised “it will immediately go back on display in the same place”.Questions were raised over whether staffing cuts, or the outsourcing of security to a private company, had made the collection more vulnerable, but Dr Finaldi said he disagreed with the suggestion.He added: “It is very difficult to protect yourself against that sort of situation. It is always difficult to understand why anyone should want to damage a picture, particularly one that belongs to the public and is there for all to see.“All our security protocols worked exactly as they should have.” Joseph Wright of Derby’s painting An Experiment on a Bird in an Air Pump is adjacent to The Morning WalkCredit:Warren Allott/Telegraph Keith Gregory, 63, of no fixed abode, has since appeared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court charged with causing criminal damage. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. Conservation experts at the National Gallery have restored the painting, back on view in Room 34Credit:Geoff Pugh The Morning Walk, which sold for £30,000 in 1954 thanks in part to a £5,000 Art Fund grant, will return to its spot immediately adjacent to An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump, a 1768 work by Joseph Wright of Derby, and opposite Joseph Turner’s The Fighting Temeraire (1839).Staff and gallery-goers rushed to detail the man, who was restrained until members of the police arrived at the scene on the second floor of the museum.“The public is tremendously helpful in these situations. Visitors get very upset when somebody does something of this kind and immediately come to assist,” said the gallery’s director, Dr Gabriele Finaldi.“It was a very busy day in one of the busiest parts of the gallery. The man was initially approached by a member of the public after he had done this. Then the gallery assistant came up, the man was held and taken over to the other side of the room.”The masterpiece, which was acquired for the nation from Lord Rothschild in 1954, was removed from display while conservation experts assessed the damage, after it suffered two long gouges which penetrated the paintwork.
The owners of a cottage which became famous for its wisteria say the plant has been poisoned by a jealous rival after it mysteriously died. The cottage owned by Noel Cleave, 78, and wife Rosemary, 76, became famous in 2015 after images of the wisteria, which had grown to 250 feet, were published in the press. But just weeks later the plant, which the couple had planted almost 50 years earlier, suddenly died in the middle of the summer. Noel Cleave and his wife Rosemary outside their house in CrudwellCredit:Caters News Agency/Laura Dale Mr Cleave believes the mystery vandal used syn chemical brush killer, which is normally used to kill weeds, after noticing an “odd smell” at the roots.He said: “SBK doesn’t normally smell so perhaps an excessive amount was used.”That was the only slight hint of the cause for the wisteria’s deterioration.” Mr Cleave, a retired RAF flight lieutenant and navigator, claimed that the plant could only have been killed by poison because the only natural killer of wisteria is frost. He said: “For one act of vandalism to destroy something I planted 45 years ago which meant so much to us and others is horrendous.”I cannot think why anyone would do such a thing.””It was a gorgeous plant which people visiting the area would always pull over to admire but now it’s turned into people asking what happened and where it’s gone.”Mr and Mrs Cleave bought the property in Crudwell village, near Malmesbury, Wiltshire, in 1968.The couple transformed two derelict farm cottages dating from around 1800 into a family home for their children and planted wisteria seeds which bloomed every spring. He added: “Right after photos of it were published online, about three weeks later all of a sudden the leaves curled and by August it had died completely.”Obviously, nobody’s died but we were heartbroken to find it had just stopped growing, it’s devastating.”I spoke to everyone in the horticultural world who I could get hold of to ask what in the world could have possibly stopped the wisteria growing.”The answer was nothing and all the natural causes that are generally the case simply could not have happened during the summer.”The couple hoped the plant would recover but it did not bloom in spring last year or this year, and Mr Cleave has now removed the branches from the walls. The cottage as it now appearsCredit:Laura Jane Dale/Caters News Agency Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings.