William Buford, ladies and gentlemen.
Continuing a roller coaster year, Buford capped his final regular season game in a Buckeye uniform in style with 25 points (8/14 FG, 7/11 FT) including the game winning bucket with .8 seconds left giving Ohio State a come from behind 72-70 win over Michigan State in East Lansing and a 3rd straight conference title.
Taking a hand-off from Aaron Craft on the right wing with about :04 to play, Buford dribbled to the top of the circle and unleashed a 19 foot fadeaway jumper that was as wet as your loins after the ball tickled nothing but twine, giving the senior from Toledo his 18th and 19th points of the 2nd half.
Buford's game winning rain maker was set up by a terrific defensive stand from Evan Ravenel as he forced Draymond Green to launch a tough 17 foot turnaround jumper with :24 to play and the game tied at 70. Ravenel was an absolute beast after Jared Sullinger picked up his 4th foul with 8:32 to play.
The seldom used transfer from Boston College entered for Sully and immediately went to work converting an and-1 that gave Green his 4th foul at 7:10 while tying the game at 58. Afer an MSU free throw gave Sparty a one point lead, Ravenel hit a layup off a great look from Craft and hit a pair of free throws after Derrick Nix hit two of his own to keep the Buckeyes in front at 62-61 with 4:22 to play.
The lead was short lived after two FT's from Adreian Payne but Ravenel found Thomas off a dribble drive putting the Bucks in front once more at 64-63 with 3:40 left in regulation.
A Keith Appling free throw would tie the score once more then Green went to work scoring six straight MSU points but those were offset by a putback from Sully, a clutch 17 footer from Thomas and a short baseline jumper from Craft making tying it at 70-70 with :43 on the clock.
Craft's handiwork set up Ravenel's sturdy stand on Green paving the way for Buford to put a smile on the face of all the haters, at least until next Friday when the Buckeyes begin play in the B1G tourney.
Seriously. That jumper was ice $^%@&#% cold. So splashy.
Sullinger added 14 points (5/17 FG) and 10 boards with Thomas chipping in 12 (5/12) and four.
In 40 grueling minutes, Craft did a little bit of everything with nine points, seven boards, six assists and four steals against just one turnover. In a game as hotly contested as this one, I definitely tip my cap to Craft for an outstanding effort that also saw him hold Appling to 11 points on 4/11 shooting.
It didn't look like it would come down to a last second game winner after Sparty went on a 17-2 bender to take a 24-9 lead with 10:47 left in the 1st half thanks to a combo of cold Buckeye shooting and fast break inducing turnovers.
Ohio State missed nine of their first 11 shots and turned it over five times while MSU was busy putting all five starters in the scoring column via 9/13 from the floor. Finally settling in, OSU was helped by a ton of fouls on Sparty. The Buckeyes used an 8-0 run with four points coming from the stripe to trail just 32-27 with 1:55 left in the half.
Sparty responded with back to back three point plays but Buford answered with a 17 foot jumper to make it 38-29 at the break.
Hitting just 25% from the floor in the opening 20 minutes (7/28), OSU kept within striking distance by way of 14/18 from the stripe and 12 points off 10 MSU turnovers. Sully was awful missing 8/10 shots but went 4/4 from the line for eight points while Craft added seven and WB six.
The 2nd half comeback saw the Buckeyes shoot 59% (17/24) with only four turnovers while holding Sparty to 32% on 9/28 from the field.
Green led Sparty with 19 points and 10 boards giving him his 17th dub-dub of the season against Sully's 13th.
Though the win gave the Buckeyes (25-6) a shared title (13-5) , it did nothing to improve their seeding in the conference tourney. In the #3 slot, they'll play the winner of the Purdue/Nebraska tilt on Friday around 9pm. Holla if you'll be in attendance - we'll be courtside.
I'm in a hurry to hit the Black Keys but again, props to WB for stepping up large and also to Ravenel for his spectacular stint with the game in the balance.
It's a good day to be a Buckeye.