You can say what you want to about this sweet sixteen match-up between two instate teams. Buckeye Nation, I hope you still feel great about putting senior William Buford on blast.
To be honest, I was so upset with how you handled this game that I didn’t want to finish writing this recap. What ever happened to rooting for and pulling for those in the Scarlet and Grey? Are we at a time in sports fandom where that doesn’t matter anymore?
In a game that the Buckeyes WON, Ohio State fans wiped their pride right off their sleeves. Instead, they took to every social media provider possible to rip one of the most celebrated players in school history.
Well Buckeye Nation, when it comes down to it – I hope you don’t choke on your words when the Buckeyes move onto the elite 8. Hopefully you swallow them down the stretch and think about what it means to say that a player is not part of Buckeye Nation.
After all, the game of basketball — especially in the NCAA Tournament is a game of runs. Runs which often encapsulate the worst play of teams. The worst of individuals.
But at the end of the day, it’s about which TEAM has the will and ability to win.
After a 20-6 run in the second half, to cut a 13 point deficit, everyone from Aaron Craft to Thad Matta was thrown under the bus. When the Buckeyes responded with a 17-1 run to seal the ballgame, it was like nothing ever happened.
Despite the hate, the Buckeyes are heading to the Elite 8 on the great play of Aaron Craft, Deshaun Thomas, and Jared Sullinger. All picked their battles in this one and had their moments.
It all started in the first, when the Buckeyes went on a 13-2 run to start the ballgame.
Deshaun Thomas would get the first roll of the ball game for Ohio State to make it 5-2 early. Lenzelle smith would then answer on the following possession with a beautiful drive to the baseline, where he was pushed out of bounds, and still able put up the one hander. Lenzelle would drain the first three pointer of the game from the corner. Aaron Craft would pick pocket on the help d and get swatted on his layup attempt on the other end. As the early tempo set the pace for the whole ballgame
Great D inside early forcing perimeter shots. Leading to open three point oppurtunities as Deshaun Thomas would nail a three to make it 13- 7.
The Buckeyes would continue going to work though on the offensive side of the floor. After a Deshaun Thomas three from the corner fell short, Jared Sullinger was able to create space and grab a nice offensive rebound just off the far elbow. After driving to the hoop on the opposite side and pump faking, the big man found a streaming Deshaun Thomas on the baseline and into the low post for two.
At the midway point of the first, William Buford skied to get the rebound on the Lenzelle Smith miss. After Buford fell short, Jared Sullinger tipped his miss in to make it 17-13. Buford would then get up the floor and find Deshaun Thomas in the paint for a nice one-hander.
Sullinger would get space on the next possession and put up a nice two handed layup to give Ohio State the six point lead.
Deshaun Thomas would get another one hander up and good to keep it at six.
The Buckeyes would get their biggest lead of the first half with just over 6 minutes to go in the half. After grabbing a loose ball, Shannon Scott got up the floor and went for the open layup. Justin Jackson swatted his attempt away, but the freshman had the wherewithal to recover out of bounds on the baseline — grab the ball from the rebounding Cheikh Mbodj and dish it off to Deshaun Thomas for two.
Ohio State would control the final minutes of the half, led by Deshaun Thomas, who went 8/11 from the field in the first half. After a three from the wing sent Mick Cronin and the Bearcats into a timeout with two minutes to go, Shannon Scott would hit an open shot off the inbound. Cashmere Wright would respond with a big three in the corner to cut it to ten.
Then Sullinger and Thomas went to work inside, both draining highly contested shots inside as the Bucks went into the locker room in control at 37-25.
To open the second, it wasn’t pretty for Ohio State. Mistake after mistake on the floor, combined with superior transition offense from the Bearcats created a competitive game. A 24-8run made it 49-48 with nearly half of the second in the books. Sean Kilpatrick hit back to back threes to open up the frame, and it was off to the races from there. Jaquon Parker would nag a steal and seal a layup, followed by a nice jumper to tie it up at 41- on the next possession. Cashmere Wright would find his way from downtown twice, while Yance Gates did what he does best. Bully opposing guards, while creating frustration and extra scoring attempts for his team.
No matter how rocky the waters got, the Buckeyes weathered the storm.
Lenzelle Smith Jr had arguably his best game since his onslaught against Indiana, found the bottom of the cup on from long range for three of his 15 points, to give the Buckeyes the 5 point lead with 8 minutes to go. From there, it was all hard work and effort that separated these two teams, as Aaron Craft, Smith Jr, and Jared Sullinger went to work on the defensive side of the ball. That led to a 26-9 run to end the game.
Jared Sullinger had a monster game overall. Almost coming away with a double double in the first, he finished with 23 points, 11 rebounds and 3 assists. Deshaun Thomas, who started hot, finished shooting 10-17 from the floor for 26 points and also brought down 4 of Ohio State’s 9 offensive boards.
Aaron Craft only scored 11 and shot 2/7 from the floor, but was lights out in the final stretch of the game. He had a total of 4 rebounds, 5 assists, and 6 steals. There is no doubt he was the X factor.