The Arizona Wildcats gave the Buckeyes a rude welcome to the Sweet 16 to start, but the Buckeyes put together an excellent run to reclaim the lead and put the game away 73-70 on a last second LaQuinton Ross three pointer to advance to the Elite Eight. Despite the rough start, the game developed into a back and forth battle that Arizona very nearly reclaimed. DeShaun Thomas led the Buckeyes with 20 points, and was joined in scoring by LaQuinton Ross (17), Aaron Craft (15), and Sam Thompson (11). Arizona was led by Mark Lyons’ 20 points, along with Solomon Hill’s 16.
Arizona controlled the first half for the balance on the strength of a stifling defensive effort. The work shutting down the OSU offense turned into easy points on the other end for the Cats, often on the fast break, but also against a surprising flat Buckeye defense. Of course, that wasn’t about to stop the Wildcats from building a double digit lead with their three point shooting, mostly while Aaron Craft sat on the bench with 2 fouls. But, Thad Matta wasn’t going to let it stay that way. With six minutes to go in the half, Matta risked putting Craft back into the game to try regain control of the momentum. The strategy worked brilliantly, allowing the Bucks to finish on a 12-6 run to close to within 4 points going into the locker room.
What didn’t help the effort for either team was the ludicrous pace of the game as dictated by the officials. I won’t say that the calls were necessarily wrong, but with both teams in the bonus with just under 10 minutes to go in the first half, there were certainly a lot of them. Only at the very end of the half did the officials seem to loosen up on the controls and allow the players to simply play the game.
The Buckeyes came out of the half ready to play basketball. OSU jumped out on a quick 8-0 run on the strength of their own tough defense to take their first lead since the opening possessions. They were able to continue to push that momentum to a solid 8 point lead while continuing to suppress Arizona’s scoring. Not surprisingly, that wasn’t to last. After building up a 10 point lead, the Buckeyes found themselves taking fire from Solomon Hill of Arizona, who sank 9 straight points and brought the game within four.
The Buckeyes have advanced to the Sweet 16 for the 4th time in as many years on the strength of an Aaron Craft dagger – which I’m sure everyone has seen by now. Next up are the 6th-seeded Wildcats of Arizona in sunny Los Angeles.
For more on Sean Miller’s team, check out Ken’s work from a couple days ago.
Join us and The Buckeye Blog, Buckeye Empire, Men of the Scarlet and Gray, and Buckeye Ninja as we cheer on the Buckeyes in tournament time! The chat will kick off around 7:30 PM Eastern, with tip off on TBS (note the “T”!) around 7:47 pm.
Special thanks to Fox Sports Ohio for graciously helping with these livechats all year long!
School: University of Arizona
Location: Tucson, AZ
School Type: Public
Student Population: 39,236 total, 30,867 undergrad
Stadium: McKale Center
Head Coach: Sean Miller
Experience: 4th year
College Basketball fans got a heavy dose of everything a great tournament game entails Sunday afternoon, as Aaron Craft hit a timely last second jumper from the wing to give Ohio State a 78-75 win over Iowa State.
It was everything that basketball fans were expecting. An Iowa State team that was dangerous from three point territory, solid on offensive rebounds and scoring in bunches. They were faced with solid defensive intensity, forced turnovers, and a willingness to take what the defense was giving up.
In the first half, there were 7 lead changes and 10 points where the game was tied. Iowa State out rebounded Ohio State 23-12. The Buckeyes forced 9 Cyclone turnovers.
And like every great tournament game, for everything expected — there was an equal surprise on the floor for each team.
Unfortunately the surprises for each team weren’t all positive.
Iowa State would play the whole second half without Chris Babb, their defensive stopper. Korie Lucious, despite having 19 Points on 5/7 shooting from three, turned the ball over 5 times. Despite trying to shut down the Buckeye offense by forcing shots from the outside in the 2-3 Zone, Ohio State nailed shots.
Yet Fred Hoiberg’s crew were able to frustrate a team that is very good at protecting the basketball.
The Buckeyes were forced into three straight turnovers nearly halfway through the second half. After having just two in the first half, Ohio State struggled to get any edge inside. With Melvin Ejim going to work, the Cyclones would cut the lead to one with 11:46 to play. After a beautiful dish from Ejim led to a Georges Niang dunk, Ejim would get the ball back off his own miss on the next possession and throw it down off another turnover.
A six point lead was cut to one with twelve minutes to play, but Aaron Craft found Deshaun Thomas in the corner after a kick out on a drive to the basketfor a huge three with a hand in his face to give Ohio State a 55-51 lead.
Then arguably the biggest surprise of the game took center stage.
The LaQuinton Ross show.
School: Iowa State University
Location: Ames, IA
School Type: Public, Land Grant
Student Population: 31,040 total, 25,553 undergrad
Stadium: Hilton Coliseum
Head Coach: Fred Hoiberg
Experience: 3rd year
Sam Thompson put his full game on display tonight with a 20 point/10 rebound double-double to lead OSU in a rout of their 1st round opponent Iona, 95-70.
Ah, the ebbs and flows of NCAA tournament basketball. Ohio State went on a tear midway through the 1st half (from about the 17 minute mark to the 9 minute mark) expanding their lead from 6-5 to 27-8. Times were good and we settles in to watch the rout. Except if you’re at all familiar with OSU basketball this year, it wasn’t about to last. Over the next seven minutes, the Gaels outscored the Bucks 25-10 to pull within 4 points, 37-33. Ohio State strung together the final 6 points to go into the break with a 43-33 lead.
Even though the Buckeyes shot well in the 1st half, 50% FG, 75% 3-pt, 80% Ft, it was the defense that powered this team. Ohio State (read Aaron Craft) forced 7 turnovers and converted them into 13 points, several on Sam Thompson you-know-whats.
In addition to the 7 turnovers, OSU blocked 5 Iona shots, 3 by Evan Ravenal.
Ohio State needed to come out and regain their focus in 2nd half to put Iona away. Knowing a good thing when they see it, OSU right away went to their strengths; Sam Thompson, DeShaun Thomas and defense. At the 15 minute mark, led by Craft and Shannon Scott, OSU had already forced 5 turnovers and expanded the 10 point halftime lead to 20 points. At about the 10:30 mark Iona’s David Laury fouled out. At that point, any semblance of a front court game went to the bench as well. At about the same time with the 25-point or so lead, Thad began to rest his starters. At the 5:38 ,ark, in an effort to spark his offense, Thad inserted Amedeo Della Valle (FHM).
In somewhat of a defense of Iona, as good as David Laury (14 points, 8 rebounds) and Sean Armond (17 points, 4 assists, 6 rebounds) played tonight, this was an athletic mismatch, without any doubt at all. The Gaels played true to form with a very upbeat pace, but were often enough stymied at the offensive end by OSU’s length, quickness and athleticism.
The Ohio State box score looked pretty good; hard to look bad when you win by 25 points. Aaron Craft ( 4 points,7 assists,6 steals) Sam Thompson ( 20 points, 10 rebounds) DeShaun Thomas (24 points, 3 rebounds) Evan Ravenal (11 points,4 rebounds,3 blocks). For the full box score, go here, it was a thing of beauty.
On Sunday, Ohio State plays the winner of the Iowa State – Notre Dame game, played played later tonight.
School: Iona College
Location: New Rochelle, NY (20 miles north of Manhattan)
School Type: Private
Student Population: 3,189 total
Stadium: Hynes Athletic Center
Head Coach: Tim Cluess
Experience: 2nd year
The Buckeyes and Spartans faced off in a rubber match in the semi-finals of the Big Ten Tournament to decide who would face Wisconsin for the Championship. Ohio State pulled away at the end to win 61-58 after a hard fought battle for both teams. Aaron Craft led all scorers with 20 points, and was joined by DeShaun Thomas’s 16 in leading the Buckeyes. Michigan State responded with Derrick Nix (17), Keith Appling (16), and Adreian Payne (12) all scoring in double figures.
Despite starting their previous games sluggishly, both Michigan State and Ohio State came out attacking on defense in this one. Early on, it clearly favored the Spartans, as OSU struggled to find clean looks inside, and DeShaun Thomas couldn’t find his shot from the outside. Eventually, the Bucks began to open it up down low with some great play from Craft and Evan Ravenel. That freed up the shooters on the outside, including LaQuinton Ross continuing his shooting streak from yesterday. Unfortunately, neither team was able to really run away with this one in the first half, and Michigan State went into the locker room with a one point lead after an ill-advised Evan Ravenel final shot.
The back and forth affair continued well into the second half. However, after a first half with functionally no called fouls (OSU had 1 to MSU’s 4) the refs began to call a tighter game in the second. Virtually any contact was whistled, which completely changed the complexion of the game. Not that it was going to stop Aaron Craft from taking over the half on his own. His 17 points through the first 12 minutes of the half was instrumental in keeping the Buckeyes neck and neck with the Spartans. OSU was eventually able to open an 8 point lead late in the half, but it didn’t last long when MSU reset their defense and hit a second-chance trey to close the gap again.
It all came down the final seconds when Michigan State brought the game within one. A flagrant one call on Derrick Nix sent Aaron Craft to the line where he hit one of the two. On the ensuing possession, the Bucks found DeShaun Thomas who sank a critical 18 footer to give OSU the four point lead. MSU was unable to respond with more than a two pointer with only a second left to go.