Mark Znidar
Mark Znidar

Mark Znidar comes to Press Pros Magazine after 33 ½ years at The Columbus Dispatch. From 1996 until September 2018, he staffed high school sports, Ohio colleges that included the Mid-American Conference, Ohio State’s upcoming opponents in football and Ohio State baseball. In the previous three seasons he covered the Columbus Clippers triple-A baseball team. His other beats were Ohio State basketball (1985-88), Clippers (1985-86 and 1989-93), Cincinnati Bengals (1993-95) and NASCAR (1994-2008). He subbed on the Columbus Blue Jackets and Ohio State women’s basketball beats. In March 2017, Znidar was inducted into the Ohio Prep Sportswriters Association Hall of Fame.  Znidar was born in Cleveland and raised in Richmond Heights. He graduated from Cleveland St. Joseph High School and the University of Dayton. He also worked for The Atlantic City Press, Lake County News-Herald and Baltimore News-American. He has a daughter, Amanda, son-in-law Josh and four grandchildren.

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The Buckeyes got double figures scoring from five players, led by Washington (pictured) with 14 points on four three-pointers.The game was, well, a slam dunk. Ohio State had six of them.

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Columbus – The crowd of 16,419 that saw fit to not think about Ohio State football for at least a couple hours exploded with wall-to-wall noise after Duane Washington swished a three-pointer from the baseline 23 seconds into the game.

After a missed shot by Villanova, Washington did it again, only this time the trey came from the side. It was nothing but net.

Next up, point guard C.J. Walker noticed his defender sagging as he dribbled the basketball up court, and he made him pay with a three from the top of the key.

Villanova coach Jay Wright had seen enough, and he called timeout to pick up the pieces.

At the other end of the scorer’s table, Buckeyes coach Chris Holtmann knew that too many words or the wrong ones could make all this excellent karma go poof in the night.

“Honestly, in those situations and it has happened only two or three times in my career, your players are so laser focused that you try not to over-coach at that point and get in the way,’’ he said. “That’s what I was trying to do.’’

Bowlerstore.com, in Versailles, Ohio, is a proud sponsor of Buckeyes baseball on Press Pros Magazine.com.

Holtmann’s players kept doing the same things again and again, and the only people getting in each other’s way were the spectators scrambling to their feet to applaud yet another great play.

The Buckeyes got double figures scoring from five players, led by Washington with 14 points on four three-pointers, and the defense held the Wildcats to 30.6 percent shooting in a 76-51 rout in The Gavitt Tip-off Games on Wednesday in The Schott.

One of many, Kaleb Wesson blocks a Villanova shot attempt.

The game was, well, a slam dunk. Ohio State had six of them.

Washington relayed that Holtmann didn’t have to worry about getting in the way. He credited the staff for getting the players ready for such a high leverage game.

“We’re going to bring everything we’ve got every time we step on the floor, especially our home floor,’’ he said. “We’re going to protect and house and Buckeye Nation and we’re going to do what we do.’’

A national television audience on Fox Sports 1 turned what was supposed to be something of a mystery game between developing teams into an Ohio State (3-0) infomercial.

“I feel like we’re very hungry,’’ freshman point guard D.J. Carton said. “I think we have some things to prove. I think we’ve got a lot of things to learn and a lot of things to build on, but we think we’re playing pretty good basketball right now. I’m having a great time on the floor with my teammates.’’

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There were players stepping up all over the place:

Center Kaleb Wesson scored just 10 points, but he dominated inside and outside with 11 rebounds, three assists and four blocked shots.

The two-headed point guard of Walker and Carton was dynamic. Walker totaled 10 points, seven assists and two steals and Carton 11 points, five assists and one steal.

Luther Muhammad takes serious possession of this first half rebound.

Forward Kyle Young kept up his high-wire act with eight points, seven rebounds, one block, one steal and one outrageous lob to Carton for an emphatic dunk.

The Buckeyes were so plugged in to an electric outlet that the Wildcats (1-1) showed life only during the final 1-minute, 50 seconds of the first half when they scored nine straight points.

The deficit, though, was 40-22, and coming back would be a difficult proposition even for a veteran team. Villanova started two true freshmen and one sophomore.

“It started in practice, not rushing and making the right plays at the right time and the right spaces,’’ Walker said. “It was one of those nights where we were just flowing.’’

Wright confided in an Ohio State official the day before the game that Villanova might not be worthy of its No. 10 ranking. A lot of that probably had to do with the team’s reputation and a freshman class that is ranked fifth nationally.

The Wildcats looked confused and more than a little shocked.

“Ohio State was well prepared for that game,’’ Wright said. “I thought Chris had those guys dialed in right from the start. We didn’t do as good a job as getting our guys ready and prepared. We had a lot of guys playing major minutes for the first time, and that was a great lesson for them. That was a well-drilled, very disciplined team that knows their roles. I like their team a lot.’’

The fast start took the Buckeyes to a 21-5 lead after a 10-foot hook shot from the baseline by Wesson with 14:41 left in the first half.

The lead grew to 36-10 on a drive by Walker with 8:50 left and to 40-13 after two free throws by Wesson with 2:26 left.

Villanova’s lone surge came when Collin Gillespie drove the lane three straight times and Cole Swider hit a three from the side to cut the deficit to 18.

Assistant coach Ryan Pedon had an idea to get Ohio State jump-started for the second half when he diagrammed a lob from Wesson out top to Young flying to the basket for a dunk.

Young came back with a baseline drive and Wesson had a dunk to make it 46-25 2½ minutes into the second half.

Chris Holtmann agrees with the referee .  It’s a Buckeyes possession.

It was bye-bye, Wildcats.

“We really came out and stuck with the game plan,’’ Carton said. “We had to have a good start because we’ve been starting games slow. (Our young) guys just relied on the leaders and (the leaders) did their thing.’’

How tuned in were the Buckeyes?

They were 30-for-50 from the floor for 60 percent and 9-for-16 from three-point range.

What got lost in the shuffle was Villanova being unable to do much of anything offensively, particularly getting to the hoop, because of Ohio State’s defense.

Too many times the Wildcats were left with uncomfortable shots from the perimeter.

“They can shoot the ball at a high level and during our preparation we worked on getting in on the catch to take away that catch and shoot,’’ Washington said. “We made them take a tough shot.’’

CJ Walker totaled 10 points, seven assists, two steals …….

Ever the cautious one, Holtmann said so much can happen between now and March. He was so grounded after the game that he said his wife probably would get all over him for not celebrating.

His satisfaction was seeing the smiles on the players’ faces and hearing their screams.

“As I’ve always said players win games, and I told them that in the locker room,’’ he said. “Their preparation and their play were the reasons why we won. They were really, really ready for tonight’s game. It has probably been on two or three times when I’ve been a part of a game as a head coach where almost everything goes your way. You rarely have games like that. We were in a really good rhythm.’’

Then, like a grade school kid worried about what is hiding underneath his bed, Holtmann talked about the uncertainty that is college basketball.

All he needs to do is remind the players about last season’s 12-1 start that was followed by five straight losses.

“I understand the question and it’s a valid one,’’ Holtmann said of great expectations. “But I shouldn’t need to pump the brakes on people who understand basketball and how long the season is. You are not guaranteed anything. There are oddities in college basketball. People who understand the game realize there is a lot between now and March.’’

…And D.J. Carton totaled 11 points, five assists and one steal in the win against Villanova Wednesday night.

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