Final Four Notebook
Buckeyes baffled by mystery of missing jersey
Posted: Saturday March 27, 1999 11:44 PM
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) -- Ohio State is still searching for No. 12.
No, Scoonie Penn wasn't missing during Saturday night's national semifinal between the Buckeyes and Connecticut. He scored 11 points and had four assists in 40 minutes, but had to do it in a new jersey.
The Big Ten co-player of the year wore a number other than 12 for the first time since transferring to Ohio State from Boston College. His usual red road jersey was either lost, stolen or inadvertently left at home.
The Buckeyes, a self-described superstitious bunch, aren't sure what happened.
"When he got to the arena, the red 12 was not in his bag," Ohio State sports information director Gerry Emig said. "We don't know if it didn't get back here from Columbus or whether packing his stuff to come to the game it fell out."
Asked if maybe the jersey had been stolen, Emig said: "That's a possibility."
Penn didn't buy the argument that changing numbers somehow may have played a role in a 3-for-13 shooting performance or the outcome of the game, which Connecticut won 64-58.
"That didn't have any impact," the Ohio State star said, adding he discovered the jersey was missing about 10 minutes before the game.
"I came back in here and I couldn't find it, so I had to wear No. 35," he said.
Teammate Neshaun Coleman said he was almost certain he saw the missing jersey before the Buckeyes went out on the floor for warmups about 25 minutes before tip-off.
"I'm ready to bet the house that I saw that jersey hanging up," Coleman said.
The jersey Penn wore is the Buckeyes' so-called "blood jersey." The NCAA requires every team to carry at least one extra jersey in case a player gets blood on his regular uniform.
The last time Penn wore a number other than 12 was when he was No. 11 at Boston College two years ago.
Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun said it wasn't difficult to decide who Ricky Moore, the Huskies' best defender, would guard. Michael Redd was Ohio State's leading scorer this season, but Penn made the Buckeyes go this season.
"Scoonie to me is all about what happens. ... After watching tape, it was clear to me that as Scoonie goes, so does Ohio State," Calhoun said, adding it would have been difficult to pick a most valuable player for the game between Moore and Richard Hamilton, who scored 24 points.
"Basically he cut the head of the dragon off," Calhoun said of Moore, who he described as the best defensive player he's ever coached.
With Duke's men's and women's team in the running for national titles this weekend, it's an extremely busy time for school president Dr. Nan Keohane and athletics director Joe Alleva, who are traveling between St. Petersburg and San Jose, site of the women's finals.
Keohane and Alleva flew to California from Florida on Friday to watch the women's team beat Georgia to advance to Sunday's championship game. They returned Saturday on a private chartered jet in time for the men's semifinal victory over Michigan State.
With both teams having one more game, they'll repeat the cross-country trek Sunday and Monday.
Slobodan Savovic, Ohio State's freshman guard, believes he is the first Serbian to play in the Final Four. His parents, who had only seen tapes of his college games, planned to watch the live telecast of the semifinals in Montenegro, Yugoslavia. Savovic said he spoke with his parents -- Nikola and Olivera -- during the week, but declined to answer reporters' questions about the NATO bombing of the Balkans. The 6-foot-6 guard, slowed late in the season by an Achilles injury, has a tattoo that reads: "When is it going to end?" Savovic finished with seven points and three rebounds.
Connecticut forward Kevin Freeman, who practiced only one time the past week because of an ear infection, started for the Huskies and had five points and seven rebounds in 22 minutes. He took antibiotics and rested early in the week before joining his teammates for practice on Friday.
No. 1 vs. No. 1
For the first time since 1993, when Michigan faced North Carolina, a pair of No. 1 seeds will play for the national title.
Attendance was announced as 41,340, the largest crowd to ever watch a basketball game in Florida. Last year's South Regional final drew 40,589 to Tropicana Field.
Low scoringThe combined point total of 122 in the Connecticut-Ohio State game was the lowest in a national semifinal since Villanova beat Memphis State 52-45 in 1985. Ohio State lost for only the second time this season when holding an opponent below 70. The Buckeyes were 25-2 in such games.
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