Randy Moss Making Strong Impression With 49ers

Randy Moss, the sometimes indifferent receiver, will make a difference for the San Francisco 49ers, he teammates believe.Going off what the 14-year veteran has done in training camp – on and off the field – the Niners see Moss as a difference-maker.“I find myself saying, ‘Wow!’ a couple of times,” star tight end Vernon Davis said. “He’s been in the league, what? Fourteen years? Yet he can still do some of the things he’s done in the past.”“I watched him on film the other day, then I tapped Delanie [Walker, another tight end] and said, ‘Man, he’s moving.’ He ran a ‘go’ route, and he left the corner behind. I looked at Delanie and said, ‘Wow, he’s moving. I can’t believe he can still run.’“But he runs well. You can tell he’s getting older and that he doesn’t have some of the attributes he did when he was younger. But he can still get it done.”Moss, apparently, is driving by one thing.“All he wants,” one GM told cbssports.com, “is a ring. The guy loves the game and wants a Super Bowl ring.”He is on a squad that could do just that. The 49ers had one of the top defenses last year and every starter from that unit remains on the team. And they bolster their offensive skill-position players. San Francisco signed Moss for one year at $2.5 million, not knowing what to expect from the future Hall of Famer.But Moss has been the ideal teammate – so far. He has been among the first to arrive to team meetings and practice. He shares his knowledge with younger teammates.“Randy can still stretch the defense,” linebacker Patrick Willis said. “He can still create a mindset with a defense where it’s ‘OK, where’s Randy? We have to know where Randy is at all times.’ And that’s going to allow other guys to be able to be free.”“He’s going to be an asset,” said quarterback Alex Smith. “For a guy his size to play the ball in the air the way he does and to run like he does is a unique ability. Anytime you get in the red zone, if you want to load the box and play one-on-one with him that’s a gamble — and that makes him a real threat.“Second, I just think the attitude and the professionalism he’s brought to the receiving corps is going to do nothing but contribute to us. The guy’s been in a lot of offenses and won a lot of games. I’ve learned a lot from him. He’s a great communicator as a receiver, and that’s good for our receivers to see.” read more

Cowboys Defense Brings Desperately Needed Win Over Redskins

The Dallas Cowboys defense rebounded to deliver a win to the team in Sunday’s game against the Washington Redskins.The Cowboy’s defense was blamed for last week’s loss to the Denver Broncos, but this week it was the cause of the desperately needed 31-16 victory.“Huge, huge win for us,” middle linebacker Sean Lee said late Sunday night as he stood outside the Cowboys locker room. “We knew we needed to uphold our end of the bargain.”Last week, the Cowboys lost their lead in the NFC East and owner Jerry Jones called the loss a moral victory and described how import this win was for the team.“I don’t want to call it pressure, but there was a lot riding on it,”  Jones said. “We did not need to lose this ball game. This was a moral victory.”As a note to the improvement of the Cowboys defense, they sacked Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III three times after getting just one sack combined in the past two games against Philip Rivers and Peyton Manning.The Cowboys are hoping for their first chance at consecutive wins this season as they take on the Philadelphia Eagles on their home field next week. read more

How Derrick Rose Drills His Ugly Midrange Jumpers

For everything Derrick Rose has accomplished in his decorated NBA career — No. 1 overall draft pick, three-time All-Star, youngest player to ever win league MVP — no one would ever accuse him of being a good 3-point shooter. After shooting 28 percent from deep two years ago and 29 percent last year, Rose is hitting just 22 percent1The league-average mark this season is 36 percent. of his shots from 3-point range this season, the third-worst mark in the league among the 267 players who’ve attempted at least 50 3-pointers so far.But for all his struggles from three, something extraordinary happens when Rose steps just inside the arc: The New York Knicks guard somehow manages to hit midrange jumpers at an above-average clip despite shooting line-drive bullets that barely make it over the rim. Sometimes the ends excuse the means.When an average NBA player shoots from 15 feet or more, his shot arc peaks at 15.1 feet. Rose is not average. His shots from that distance peak at just 14 feet, the lowest average shot arc of any NBA guard or small forward, according to a query run by SportVU data analyst Brittni Donaldson at FiveThirtyEight’s request.This shouldn’t work out for him. Research shows that loftier arcs improve a shot’s chances of finding the bottom of the net. “I’ve always felt you had to be even more accurate than normal to be able to make a shot when you’re using a low arc like that,” says Jeff Hornacek, Rose’s coach with the Knicks, and one of the league’s best shooters during his playing days.Yet Rose, with almost no arc whatsoever, hits better than 45 percent of his 2-pointers from outside 15 feet, according to NBA.com. For context, the rest of the NBA has shot 40.5 percent from that range this year, according to ESPN Stats & Information Group.Video Playerhttps://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/rosemake.mp400:0000:0000:00Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.Video Playerhttps://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/roseagain.mp400:0000:0000:00Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.“I’ve tried practicing [my shot] with more arc. But this is just more comfortable. I really can’t describe [why],” Rose told me after shooting 6-for-6 on long 2-pointers in a loss to Milwaukee Wednesday night. “I’ve been a midrange player my entire life. [I] have never really been a 3-point shooter.” The emergence of a solid midrange jumper, combined with his lengthy injury history, will make the 28-year-old an intriguing free agent this coming summer.Still, none of this is meant to suggest that Rose — who, for a long time, was talented and athletic enough to get by without being able to shoot jumpers — is on the cusp of morphing into Steph Curry.2Rose himself seems to accept this fact. Threes have accounted for just 7 percent of his shots this season, down from 14 percent last season and almost 33 percent in 2014-15. His shooting form can occasionally go awry as he lunges with his upper half instead of connecting his entire body through one fluid motion. And Rose sometimes doesn’t let go of the ball until he’s on the way back down,3NBA 2K players likely know this problem all too well thanks to the game’s shot meter. limiting the arc he can get on a given shot. “With Derrick, I always emphasize finishing at 11 o’clock instead of 9 o’clock, which means releasing at the peak of his jump instead of doing it on the way down,” says trainer Rob McClanaghan, who has worked with Rose since he was 18.Video Playerhttps://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/roselaterelease1.mp400:0000:0000:00Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.To compensate for his lower delivery, Rose goes for bank shots more often than his peers do. Rose began using bank shots far more often last season, saying they helped him deal with the blurred vision and lack of depth perception he experienced after breaking his orbital bone during training camp. He ranked second in in the league in bank-shot frequency last season,4Among players with at least 30 such attempts. when he took 76 shots off the glass. And while that number is down this season (24 attempts), banked shots still account for almost 6 percent of his jumpers.Video Playerhttps://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/roselinedriveshot3.mp400:0000:0000:00Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.Video Playerhttps://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/roselinedrive1.mp400:0000:0000:00Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.Using the glass allows players to aim a bit lower than they otherwise would for a jumper. And it’s likely not a coincidence that Rose’s shot-arc numbers (14 feet this season and 14.2 last season) are nearly identical to those of ex-Spurs great Tim Duncan (13.9 feet in 2015-16 and 14.2 in 2014-15, per SportVU), who perennially took a greater share of bank shots than any other player during his time in the league, according to NBA Savant, a site tracks and compiles the specific types of shots each player takes.So while Rose may not be a good perimeter shooter in a traditional sense, he’s actually become pretty solid in another regard. We simply don’t notice because his technique doesn’t look like it should work.Check out our latest NBA predictions. read more

LeBron May Already Be The Greatest Laker Of AllTime

CelticsBird • Pierce • Parish1,21363% 1James+11.1Mikan28.5Chamberlain.248 You can make the case that Jabbar — and maybe also Chamberlain and Karl Malone, who had a cup of coffee with the Lakers when he was 40 — generated more total value in their careers than James has to date. So his case as the greatest player to ever wear a Lakers uniform is not totally open and shut. But the fact that James can even enter the argument, a day into his tenure with one of the most decorated franchises in pro sports history, is telling about his stature among NBA legends.It remains to be seen if James will be the Lakers’ lone surefire future Hall of Famer next season; whether he gets big-name help will likely determine L.A.’s viability as a true threat to the Golden State Warriors’ supremacy right away. Whatever happens, though, James has finally restored to the Lakers the one resource they’ve scarcely been able to live without over the years: legendary talent. Thunder/SonicsPayton • Durant • Westbrook56636 PistonsLanier • Thomas • Hill56239 LeBron James in a Los Angeles Lakers uniform used to be the stuff of fan photoshops and NBA 2K’s franchise mode.1Usually accomplished by switching off the game’s trading AI. But now it has become reality, after the announcement Sunday night that James is signing a four-year, $153 million free-agent contract with L.A. It might be jarring at first to see James in Lakers gear this fall — but he’ll fit right in with a franchise whose destiny has always been determined by Hall of Fame talent. In fact, even among the Lakers’ many, many historical stars, James could be the best player who ever suited up for the team the first second that he steps onto a court wearing Forum blue and gold.In their 70-year history, the Lakers have won 16 NBA championships, one behind their archrival Boston Celtics for the most by any franchise in the league. And most of that success has been due to the team’s immense star power: players such as Magic Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, George Mikan, Wilt Chamberlain, Kobe Bryant, Jerry West, Elgin Baylor … the list goes on and on. If we measure player value using a mixture of Basketball-Reference.com’s Player Efficiency Rating and Win Shares, and look back in history to 1963,2For accounting purposes, this was the first season for which we know exactly how many minutes a player split between teams if he switched teams midseason. Los Angeles has gotten nearly 1,200 total wins above replacement3Using the same replacement-level threshold as in Daniel Myers’s VORP metric. from players who either eventually ended up in the Hall of Fame or are likely to be there someday — a number that represents roughly 60 percent of the team’s total wins above replacement over that period. In each regard, only the Celtics have gotten more out of their Hall members, and the Lakers might have surpassed even Boston if we could have also included the contributions of Mikan and Vern Mikkelsen (who played before we have a precise accounting of a player’s minutes spent with each team during a season). KnicksEwing • Frazier • Reed56339 5Horry+4.8Jabbar23.0West.213 4O’Neal+5.3West23.1Johnson.225 BPM is calculated since 1974. PER and WS/48 are calculated since 1952.Source: Basketball-Reference.com JazzMalone • Stockton • Dantley55841 * Weighting active players’ WAR by their Hall of Fame probability.WAR is calculated using a mixture of Win Shares and Player Efficiency Rating.Source: Basketball-Reference.com 3Jabbar+5.4O’Neal26.1Jabbar.228 WarriorsCurry • Barry • Mullin53939 10Harper+3.8Baylor21.8Bryant.171 9Grant+4.0Howard22.3Howard.172 RocketsOlajuwon • Harden • Malone68845 6Bryant+4.4Johnson23.0O’Neal.208 8Russell+4.1Bryant22.4Dantley.189 SpursDuncan • Robinson • Gervin73939 LakersBryant • Jabbar • Johnson1,16558 Top 10 in BPMTop 10 in PERTop 10 in WS/48 Which teams have relied on Hall of Famers?The franchises with the most wins above replacement (WAR) from players who are currently in, or are likely to be in,* the Hall of Fame, 1963-2018 7Gasol+4.4Chamberlain22.8Malone.205 The Lakers’ greatest players, by the numbersWhere LeBron James ranks in career Box Plus/Minus, Player Efficiency Rating and Win Shares per 48 minutes relative to other Lakers 76ersBarkley • Erving • Chamberlain71350 2Johnson+7.4James28.3James.238 From 1997 through 2013, the Lakers had picked up double-digit WAR from Hall of Fame players in 16 of 17 seasons, almost always managing to pair Bryant with an all-time great like an O’Neal or a Pau Gasol (who, perhaps surprisingly, has a 93 percent Hall probability according to Basketball-Reference). It was part of a pipeline that had flowed nearly uninterrupted since the days of Mikan in the 1950s. But since 2014, Los Angeles has gotten a mere 2.4 WAR from future Hall of Famers, almost all of it belonging to Gasol before he departed for the Bulls. (Apologies to Lou Williams and Jordan Hill, but they’ll probably have to pay to visit Springfield like the rest of us.)Even granting that we don’t know what the future will ultimately hold for younger prospects such as Julius Randle, Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram, the Lakers had never gotten fewer than 7 WAR from Hall of Famers in any five-year span since 1963 — and that dark period came from 1992 to 1996, right after Johnson abruptly retired after contracting HIV. The franchise really was never forced to confront life without an NBA legend for so long until very recently.And thanks to James, it won’t have to anymore. Our CARMELO projection system thinks LeBron will add about 12 wins to the Lakers’ tally next season. Depending on whether L.A. can also trade for Kawhi Leonard (or sign another star to pair with James), the team could see its Hall of Fame contributions be rebuilt even further. Either way, the Lakers’ pipeline of all-time talent is gushing again.Moreover, by the historical metrics, LeBron might instantly be the best player who has ever suited up for the Lakers (in terms of stats produced across a player’s entire career, not just with the Lakers). James is the NBA’s all-time career leader in Box Plus/Minus (which can be calculated going back to 1974), easily outpacing Johnson. Among fellow Lakers, he trails only Mikan in Player Efficiency Rating (ranking one slot ahead of O’Neal), and he trails only Chamberlain in Win Shares per 48 minutes (coming in one spot better than Jabbar): FranchiseTop three HOF players by WARWAR By all HOFHOF % of total WAR read more

Geno Smith Wasnt Better Than His Backup

In the most surreal bit of sports news to hit Tuesday’s wires, Geno Smith, the incumbent starting quarterback for the New York Jets, is going to miss six to 10 weeks with an injury. And it wasn’t just any kind of injury; it was the kind you get when a teammate punches you and breaks your jaw.According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, now-cut linebacker IK Enemkpali slugged Smith because he failed to reimburse Enemkpali for a $600 plane ticket. Jets fans — at least, Jets fans in the FiveThirtyEight office — rejoiced. But coming into the preseason, this Jets team showed at least a vague sense of promise. Are the Jets really better off without Smith? Last year, New York went 4-12 (3-10 under Smith) with one of the NFL’s worst passing offenses, and Smith was pretty bad for the second straight season. In fact, his career has gotten off to one of the worst starts of any QB since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger. Although Hall of Famers Troy Aikman and Terry Bradshaw kicked off their careers with equally bad passing efficiency numbers, it’s far more likely that Smith is a talent on par with, say, Kyle Boller than that he’s harboring hidden star potential.And while Smith will be 25 this season, an age at which QBs still show a decent amount of improvement, the typical aging curve wouldn’t even carry Smith to league-average status at his peak.Meanwhile, the Jets’ backup quarterback isn’t a bad one. Longtime Buffalo Bills starter Ryan Fitzpatrick occupied the seat behind Smith and — statistically speaking — he’s probably a better QB than the man slated for the huddle, at least in the short term. Over the past two seasons (when he was with the Houston Texans and the Tennessee Titans), Fitzpatrick’s Total QBR1ESPN’s play-by-play-based measurement of quarterbacking performance, which grades on a 0-100 scale. of 54.1 was better than Smith’s 41.2 mark during that span, and Fitzpatrick’s cumulative ProFootballFocus grade of +11.3 vastly outpaced Smith’s total of -37.3. By the numbers, the Jets are better off with the glass-jawed Smith out of the game, holding a clipboard on the sidelines.Of course, these kinds of assessments always come with the caveat that individual football statistics are obscured by countless interactions, coaching decisions and other contextual factors. And the Jets did add a good receiver over the offseason, Brandon Marshall, so it’s possible Smith would have improved significantly in 2015 had he not run afoul of Enemkpali’s fist. But Jets fans shouldn’t worry too much about what might have been: The team’s offense will probably be better with Fitzpatrick under center than it would have been with Smith. read more

Evan Turner injured taken to medical center

Junior guard Evan Turner was injured Saturday after falling to the floor after an attempted dunk in the first half of Ohio State’s game against Eastern Michigan. Turner left the floor under his own power, but was taken to the OSU Medical Center for precautionary x-rays on his lower back.Turner leads the Buckeyes in points, rebounds and assists per game.Stay tuned to www.thelantern.com for more information and coverage of the game.

Experts differ on Buckeyes chances at BCS bowl berth

Following Saturday’s 38-14 win over Penn State, No. 9 Ohio State was stagnant in the BCS ranks, along with the rest of the top 10. But that doesn’t mean things didn’t change. Rece Davis of ESPN is a strong believer of the same “chaos” theory that brought the Buckeyes to the national title game in 2007. He thinks it could happen again, and the first step was Utah falling to Notre Dame 28-3 last Saturday. TCU, ranked No. 3 in the BCS, beat Utah 47-7 one week earlier. “I think that people have re-evaluated TCU’s resume,” Davis said in a phone interview with The Lantern. “So what that’s done, I think, is it’s opened the door for some of the one-loss teams. “It’s not a high percentage of a chance, but I think there is a chance. Should (TCU and No. 4 Boise State) lose, then you have complete and utter chaos that would be in line with what happened in 2007.” That year, a series of upsets propelled OSU from No. 7 in the BCS to No. 1 in a span of three weeks. For Davis’ theory to come to fruition, three of the four remaining undefeated teams — Oregon, Auburn, TCU and Boise State — would likely have to lose. OSU would have to win impressively this weekend in Iowa, and Wisconsin would have to falter in one of its two final games against Northwestern or Michigan. It would then be up to the BCS to jump the Buckeyes ahead of No. 5 LSU, No. 6 Stanford and No. 8 Nebraska. Davis said he would give the Buckeyes the nod over other one-loss teams because they had been ranked No. 1 before losing to Wisconsin. He said he expects No. 2 Auburn to struggle with Alabama and then South Carolina in the SEC Championship game. He also said Oregon State could give Oregon a run for its money in the annual “Civil War” game, and said a Boise State loss to No. 18 Nevada is a “possibility.” Jerry Palm of CBS Sports said the only way the Buckeyes would go to the National Championship game is if every team ahead of them lost. “I never really thought Ohio State was going to get a lot of juice from (beating) Iowa anyway,” he said. “But giving (the Hawkeyes) their fourth loss instead of their third loss diminishes that,” he said, referring to Iowa’s third loss of the season last week, which came against Northwestern. In his weekly bowl projections, Palm has OSU playing in the Capital One Bowl, Michigan State playing in the Rose Bowl and Wisconsin playing in the Sugar Bowl. If the Buckeyes win the rest of their games, they are guaranteed at least a share of the Big Ten Title — an honor that could help their case for a BCS game. Coach Jim Tressel doesn’t quite buy into what goes into the BCS’ evaluation of teams. “If style points are important with what we have ahead, we’re in trouble, because there’s not going to be much style going into the ball game we’re getting ready to play,” Tressel said of Saturday’s game in Iowa City. Another bizarre twist to the Big Ten race this year is that OSU and Michigan State do not play each other. “Typically, if you miss Ohio State on your schedule, you’ll be jumping up and down,” Davis said. “Preseason, I’m sure Michigan State said, ‘Well, OK, we missed the Buckeyes.’ Now the shoe is on the other foot for both teams. They sort of needed each other and they’re not playing.” Davis said he expects the Sugar Bowl to be “all over Ohio State” if the Buckeyes win out and do not earn a spot in the Rose Bowl. read more

Buckeyes focused on dualthreat quarterback Denard Robinson

As quarterback Denard Robinson goes, so goes Michigan’s offense. Robinson has accounted for 67 percent of his team’s total yards through 11 games this season. Limiting the Heisman contender will be the challenge for the Ohio State defense Saturday. “It’s going to be tough to game plan for him,” senior defensive end Cameron Heyward said. “I don’t know if there really is a weakness.” The difficulty comes from Robinson’s ability to beat you with his legs and his arm. The quarterback is the first player in NCAA history to have more than 1,500 yards passing and 1,500 yards rushing in the same season. The evolution of his passing game is what has OSU defenders worried this season. “You’ve got to watch out because he has turned out as a good passer,” defensive tackle Dexter Larimore said. “He has been able to throw down field like he hasn’t quite been able to in the past couple years.” That improvement has come from more repetitions and more thorough preparation by the sophomore signal caller. “You’ve got to be able to read everything and know where everybody is supposed to be at on the offense,” Robinson said at Michigan’s weekly press conference Monday. “I think that is pretty much what I learned this year.” The fact that Robinson has been able to put both facets of the game together makes him hard to duplicate on the scout team in practice. The Buckeyes have to use more than one player to mimic the Wolverine quarterback. “I’m sure we’ll get some of the wide outs in there doing part of it (and) the running backs,” coach Jim Tressel said. “It’s a tremendous challenge because it gives you all of the problems that a wildcat offense gives you with a great running back … (but) it has all the passing problems.” The Buckeyes will use different scout players to work on Robinson’s running and passing threats separately because it is “impossible to simulate him” in any other way, Tressel said. Unfortunately for OSU, the two skill sets will be combined this Saturday. To slow down Robinson’s dual-threat capabilities, the Buckeyes will have to stay disciplined. “We just have to play assignment football,” senior safety Jermale Hines said. If “guys stay home and guys do their job, everything should take care of itself.” Teammates agreed that a team approach will be essential this weekend. “I think the biggest thing is to be able to play as a team and be able to play a team defense because he’s probably going to make one guy miss or two guys miss,” Larimore said. Discipline aside, Buckeye players realize that completely stopping Robinson is not an option. “He is one of the best players in college football, so it is going to be a huge challenge for our defense,” senior linebacker Ross Homan said. “We know that he’s going to get yards on us, but we just can’t quit.” The ability to dictate how he gets those yards might be the key to beating the Wolverines. In Michigan’s four losses, Robinson has 185 yards rushing a game. That number falls to 138 yards a game in the team’s seven victories. Given this disparity, limiting the passing attack might be more important for the Silver Bullet defense. The players realize that to do so, they can’t let Robinson get off to a quick start. “He gets very hot very quick,” Heyward said. “We have to be ready for both the pass and the run, and he’s got so many different options on the team, it’s going to be tough to stop him.” No matter how they go about slowing down Robinson, OSU players know doing so is the only way to stop the Wolverine attack. “He is definitely what makes their offense go,” Homan said. read more

Football Tight end Kierre Hawkins departing from Ohio State

After two years in Ohio State’s program, redshirt freshman tight end Kierre Hawkins is leaving.An Ohio State spokesman confirmed Hawkins’ is “departing,” but said he did not know the tight end’s destination. Ryan Donnelly, a recruiting analyst for Rivals, tweeted a screenshot of a post from Hawkins’ Instagram in which he is wearing a Youngstown State jersey with the caption, “New beginnings. Everyone’s journey is different. In God’s hands.” Hawkins’ Instagram account is protected.Per his Instagram post, it looks like Ohio State tight end and former Maple Heights (Ohio) four-star Kierre Hawkins will be transferring to Youngstown State pic.twitter.com/J5u6VLxJ8g— Ryan Donnelly (@RivalsRyan) December 12, 2017A former four-star recruit, Hawkins has not taken a snap in his two years at Ohio State. He entered the program in a class with three tight ends, including Luke Farrell and Jake Hausmann. Hawkins fell behind both Farrell and Hausman on the depth chart, as well as redshirt senior Marcus Baugh and redshirt sophomore Rashod Berry. The Buckeyes hold a commitment from Jeremy Ruckert, the top-ranked tight end in the 2018 recruiting cycle. Also, redshirt sophomore tight end A.J. Alexander, who missed the 2017 season with a knee injury, will return next season.Hawkins, a Maple Heights, Ohio, native, was the 329th-best overall prospect and the 13th-ranked tight end in the 2016 class, according to 247Sports composite rankings. read more

Mens Hockey Ohio State beats Michigan State 62 in first game of

Ohio State junior forward Mason Jobst (26) and redshirt sophomore defenseman Wyatt Ege (7) fight for possession of the puck in the first period of the game against Wisconsin on Feb. 23 in the Schottenstein Centern. Credit: Jack Westerheide | Photo EditorOhio State head coach Steve Rohlik always talks about how tough it is to win college hockey games. It would be tough to come away with that impression watching Ohio State with 21 wins in 34 regular-season games this season.The No. 6 Ohio State men’s hockey team (22-8-5, 15-8-2-1 Big Ten) added another win Friday, using a strong special teams performance to push the team to a 6-2 win against Michigan State (12-21-2, 6-17-2-1 Big Ten) at the Schottenstein Center in the first game of the Big Ten tournament matchup.Rohlik knows the win is huge for his team, but that it will feel even bigger if his team earns another victory on Saturday.“It’s very difficult to win at this level, especially against teams like [Michigan State], with our league, Rohlik said. “You know it’s a best two out of three, to get that first win, basically it just gives you the one-up, but that just means you are going to get their best effort tomorrow.” The Buckeyes had three points from junior forward Mason Jobst, as well as two points from sophomore forward Tanner Laczynski and redshirt sophomore defenseman Wyatt Ege. Redshirt junior goalie Sean Romeo added 18 saves on 20 shots in the win.Special teams were key for the Buckeyes. The nation’s best penalty kill went 2-for-2, while the Buckeye power play took advantage of a Spartan penalty kill that is fourth-worst in the NCAA at 76 percent, going 3-for-5 on the night.“I think it’s just executing and I think the guys just decided-we just don’t want to sit back, we kind of got to take it to them, and whoever you play,” Rohlik said. “I think that was the attitude right now, tonight, with our power play. I think that translated into the game.” Two of the three Buckeye power-play goals came early after the penalty was called, each coming just 10 and eight seconds into the power play chances.  “The key is just giving it to our forwards,” Ege said. “As you can tell like, [ Laczynski] and [Jobst], they’re good, just give them and they’re gonna make some stuff happen.”   Laczynski benefited from a lethal Buckeye power play and now has four points in his past three games. The Buckeyes’ top scorer is finding his game in a crucial part of the year.“This is the time you need to be playing your best hockey,” Laczynski said. “Even though I had that slump, like you said, I’m happy to be playing some of my best hockey here and come playoffs. It’s a big game and a big win”  The first period began with a lethargic stalemate, but the intensity and physicality picked up, resulting with a roughing call to Spartan senior defenseman Carson Gatt. That gave Ohio State its first power play chance on the night with 1:28 remaining in the period. On the power-play chance, Laczynski fired a shot from the top of the right circle through a maze of players and past sophomore goaltender John Lethemon for the game’s opening score.The Spartans got on the board just 3:12 into the second period when sophomore forward Patrick Khodorenko gathered a bouncing puck in the slot, firing it over the right shoulder of Romeo to even the score.The Buckeyes took another shot on the power play and converted. Laczynski threw the puck to the goal and senior forward Matthew Weis directed it past Lethemon to regain the lead with 3:28 remaining in the period.The Buckeyes added goals from Jobst and junior defenseman Sasha Larocque in the third, chasing Lethemon from the net.Spartan senior goaltender Ed Minney came in relief of Lethemon, but couldn’t stop two more Buckeye goals. The Spartans and Buckeyes traded late goals for the final of 6-2.Shots were 40-20 in favor of Ohio State. Lethemon made 25 saves on 29 shots and Minney made nine saves on 11 shots in a losing effort. The Buckeyes have a chance to advance to the Big Ten semifinal game if they beat the Spartans in the second contest of the three-game series at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Schottenstein Center. read more