February 27, 2013

Ravenel relishing reserve role

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Follow Noon | Givler | Axelrod | Birmingham

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Prior to this past December, you'd have to go back to the 2008-09 season to find a time that Thad Matta made a change in his starting lineup for a reason other than an injury to a player. So when the Buckeyes' head coach moved Evan Ravenel to the bench in favor of Amir Williams two months ago, it wasn't exactly a small deal.

After giving Ravenel the first 11 games of this season to replace Jared Sullinger as OSU's starting center, Matta turned to the sophomore Williams in hopes of sparking his team following its Dec. 22 loss to Kansas. Furthermore, Matta essentially called out the lone senior on his roster when explaining why the lineup change was made.

"Amir had practiced very well, and truth be told, Evan didn't practice well," Matta said. "We need that position to do their job and really, really be effective."

In his 16 games as a starter, Williams has averaged 4.2 points and 4.3 rebounds per game, but as the old adage goes, it's not about who starts, but who finishes, and more times than not- including the Buckeyes' 68-60 win over Michigan State on Sunday- that player has been Ravenel.

Since his return to the bench in OSU's out-of-conference finale win against Chicago State on Dec. 29, the 6-foot-8 bruiser has averaged 4.8 points and 4.4 rebounds per game. Playing a style of basketball that doesn't always lend itself to box scores, it's been apparent that Ravenel has been effective while coming off of the bench- a role that he occupied while playing behind his former roommate Sullinger, a season ago.

"That was kind of what we were looking for, a little bit more of what Evan had brought to the table last year when he would come in," Matta said. "I thought he was pretty effective, especially down the stretch of the Big Ten season."

Ravenel's contributions off of the bench were never more apparent than they were on Sunday, when he scored 10 points and five rebounds in the Buckeyes' win over the country's fourth-ranked team. Battling with the Spartans' talented duo of bigs in Derrick Nix and Adreian Payne, the Boston College transfer held his own in what was arguably his most impressive game in his two seasons at Ohio State.

"I wanted to win. I knew those two guys were pretty much the focal point of Michigan State's offense. They go inside and they finish," Ravenel said. "It was just my drive to want to win the game and play hard and be physical and just help my team do whatever I could to get the win."

Perhaps it's that type of team-first attitude that has allowed the Tampa, Fla. native to excel in his role as a reserve. Rather than pack it in and pout after what many would perceive to be a demotion, Ravenel has continued to embrace his status as one of his team's undisputed leaders, regardless of whether he starts the game on the court or on the bench wearing a warmup.

"The main goal is to get the win," Ravenel said.

For the Buckeyes' lone senior, that's meant sometimes playing a lesser role and sometimes playing fewer minutes. Since moving back to the bench, Ravenel has played as few as nine minutes in a game and as many as 29. Unlike the talented, albeit raw an inconsistent Williams, the OSU coaching staff knows what it can count on from its veteran player, and if Sunday was any indication, he appears to be ready to make the most of the remainder of his college career.

"It's not always going to be perfect, but if I play hard and play with energy, good things happen," Ravenel said. "Whatever you've got to do to get your team the win, that's what I want to do."


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