Talent Mismatch Sends Buckeyes to Elite Eight

By Chris Lauderback on March 23, 2012 at 12:26a
Thomas blew up for 26 points and seven rips

Oho State used a combined 49 points and 18 rips from Deshaun Thomas (26 pts, 7 reb) and Jared Sullinger (23 pts, 11reb) and used runs of 15-4, 14-5 and 26-7 to send the Cincinnati Bearcats back to Kentucky in an 81-66 victory tonight in Boston. 

Aaron Craft was once again a difference maker with 11 points, five assists, four rebounds and six steals and Lenzelle Smith Jr. continued his emergence with 15 points (10 in 2H) and five boards in 35 sensational minutes. 

Thomas was in flat out beast mode in the opening 20 minutes scoring 20 points on 8/12 shooting as he effectively found holes in the UC zone at the elbows, short corners and beyond the arc while Sullinger added 10 points and nine boards as Ohio State built a 37-25 lead at the break. 

The Buckeye D also came to play early as they held the Bearcats to just three field goals in their final 21 possessions of the opening half. 

The game started a bit ominous as UC scored the first five points but the Buckeyes responded with a 15-4 spurt to lead 15-11 at the 12:11 mark behind eight points from Thomas. Moments later, up 21-17, Thomas keyed a 14-5 spurt with seven points off an elbow jumper, a putback and a trey pushing the lead to 35-22. 

The Buckeyes attacked UC's 2-2-1 pressure and 2-3 zone with crisp ball movement allowing them to assist on nine of the 14 FG's in the 1st half against just four turnovers. Meanwhile, Craft locked up Cashmere Wright holding him to seven points on 2/6 from the floor while Sullinger held Yancy Gates to two points on 1/3 shooting in 11 foul plagued minutes. 

A heavy dose of celebratory smack talk almost went out the window however as little Micky Cronin's troops stormed out of the locker room using a 27-8 run over the first eight and half minutes to take a 52-48 lead with 11:34 left in regulation. 

The run saw the Buckeyes shoot just 5/13 with five turnovers while the Bearcats were busy draining 11/14 shots (79%) including 4/6 beyond the arc. 

Triple team, two points

The stunning turn of events put the Buckeyes on shaky ground but to their credit, Matta's squad went on a dominating 26-7 blitz over the next 10 minutes to seize a commanding 74-59 lead with just 86 ticks remaining in Cincinnati's season. 

The knockout punch saw the Buckeyes revert back to sick ball movement leading to balanced scoring as Craft (9 pts), Sully (7) Smith (5) and Thomas (4) took turns putting the biscuit in the basket. Craft was particularly nasty as he picked up a steal and fed Smith for a triple giving the Bucks a 58-53 lead and seconds later splashed a triple out of a timeout giving OSU a 61-53 edge with 7:04 left. 

The decisive burst was done mostly without William Buford as he picked up his 4th foul at the 9:16 mark and OSU already on a 7-1 streak. Buford was mostly awful with four points on 1/8 with four turnovers though he did pick up five boards and three steals plus a big three pointer cutting UC's lead to 49-48 at 11:50 shortly before the Buckeyes finally woke up and put the Bearcats' season to sleep. 

For the game, OSU shot 48% with Thomas (10/17), Sullinger (7/13) and Smith (6/7) carrying the load and won the glass 35-28 while the defense scored 20 points off 18 UC turnovers. Sullinger was money in the lane holding Gates to seven points on 3/7 from the floor. 

Wright led UC with 18 points and Sean Kilpatrick added 15 in a losing effort. 

With Cronin using a small lineup and Buford in foul trouble, Shannon Scott played 16 minutes and to his credit he didn't kill the cause shooting close to his season average at 25% (1/4) with three assists against just one turnover. 

The win pits the Buckeyes against Syracuse this Saturday at 7:05 with a trip to the Final Four on the line. 'Cuse squeaked by Wisconsin 64-63. 



Comments Show All Comments

JakeBuckeye's picture

Just one more game until I get to give some of you a friendly "told you so." Just one more! Come on Buckeyes.

LadyBuck's picture

Never disagreeed with you, Jake.

JakeBuckeye's picture

I'm glad. Even though I have gotten frustrated with some of my fellow 11Dubbers' comments about this team, Buford, etc. etc. we're all in this together and I'm glad everyone is along for the ride!

buckeyefanatic's picture

Me too but what are you gonna do? I want us to win just as badly as anyone else (plus I have a huge 6-1 odds bet placed) but I can't bring myself to bad mouth WillieB. I can call a spade a spade and admit when he has a bad game ... but some of these "fans" I just do not get it.


How many batteries does it take to beat Michigan football?   1AA
Want to beat Michigan? There's an App for that.

BrewstersMillions's picture

I'll admit my guilt on this one. I really disliked how this team was playing 5 one on one matchups in mid Feb. That isn't the case right now and their talent and team work have turned out some great games. Cuse is tough but if Buford and Thomas can hit from long range, OSU can shoot the Orange right out of the stadium. Should be a pretty good matchup.

OhioKris's picture



F'um, we don't need him 

LABuckeye's picture

I don't like how a large proportion of our fanbase blames him for everything, but I do have to say I think we need him to have a good game to get by Syracuse.

Nick's picture

Ya but this performance didn't send us home. He played defense and didn't jack up a bunch of bad shots so I'll take a redemption performance vs Syracuse.

BrewstersMillions's picture

Boy that might be the best comment about the game last night. How many times, whether it was his night or not, did Buford just keep shooiting no matter what? Last night it was obvious it wasn't a #44 game and he played his role. If he can get hot Syracuse is dead to rights. If Buford doesn't get hot but plays within the team game, I still like our chances. Good point here Nick.

matti's picture

3 things

1. glad to see the buckeyes win and advance

2. cincy no matter how hard you try this is not 1992 please do not try to rock your zumbas

3. bring on the cuse

Bucks43201's picture

Great headline.

Buford will be back against that 'Cuse zone. I'm calling it now: he'll have 20+ points and at least 4, 5 three-pointers.

"You win with people." - Woody Hayes

RedStorm45's picture

No, he's shooting 33% since the regular season ended against MSU.  Played against all kind of defenses and defenders...he's not going to suddenly get hot against the Syracuse zone.

OhioKris's picture

Has anyone else seen the kid from Crieghton punch the kid from UNC?


Rfahncke's picture

Living in (northern) Cincinnati was crazy today. Lots of BS smack talk. You'd have thought they were 30 point favorites and playing Wright State. Now the excuses are rolling in......laughable.

"Have you earned your buckeye today?"

Seabass1974's picture

Exuses? Like what?

The harder you work, the harder it is to surrender. - Woody Hayes

BuckeyeLurker0509's picture

This relentless Bufod bashing is so annoying and played out. 

Give it a rest.



Buckeye Chuck's picture

Strange ball game. It's rare that you see a team as good as Cincinnati was for 8 minutes, and be that sub-mediocre the other 32. But I'll take it. What Thomas has been doing reminds me of how the lightswitch went on for Dennis Hopson near the end of his sophomore year, and it set the tone for what he would do the next 2 seasons. We're not likely to be fortunate to have Thomas as a senior, but you'd obviously trade that for a national title.

If nothing else, we've gotten a monkey off our back with the too-early exits. Amazingly, Saturday will be the first time in 13 years we've played a higher-seeded team in the NCAAs. Of course the goal is to keep on winning, but at least we won't have that sick feeling that an inferior team ended our season.

Wisconsin's play against the Orange gives me hope that we can pull this out Saturday. I hope Smith is still looking for his shot if the usual suspects aren't hitting from outside. He's fully capable, but it's still a surprise when you see him shoot. We need all hands on deck tomorrow night.

The most "loud mouth, disrespect" poster on 11W.

njc2o's picture

Florida #1 overall seed in 2007

Seabass1974's picture

We aren't even on the front of ESPN.com. You have to go through a Syracuse link to find an OSU popup to find our article. Espn claims no bias, F-them.

The harder you work, the harder it is to surrender. - Woody Hayes

JakeBuckeye's picture

Oh dear Lord. The Buckeye blogosphere cracks me up sometimes.

Jason Priestas's picture

To quote the great Inigo: "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."

JakeBuckeye's picture

Am I incorrectly using the term "blogosphere"? If so, save me future embarassment by correcting me!

Jason Priestas's picture

Yeah, I guess I consider the blogosphere the production of the people that write blogs. Comments are comments and are universally good (Reddit) and bad (YouTube) all across the internet.

BuckeyeChief's picture

Who's the avatar chick?

"2014 National Champions...deal with it!!!"

BrewstersMillions's picture

The Florida game recap was set up the same way! SEC Bias! ESPN HATES THE SEC! AND THE B1G!


Come on now....


BuckeyeChief-I believe the Avatar chick is Chris Bosh, no?

Wobble in our Shoes's picture

It started with a whisper.

Buckeyevstheworld's picture

*throws pokeball*

I choose you, Buford!!

"YOLO" = I'm about to do something extremely ignorant/stupid & I need an excuse to do it.

FLBuckeye's picture

This team has guts, so much more tested than last year's team. I love it, keep rollin'.

PortlyOSUMan's picture

I have to go to work early tomorrow, so naturally I stayed up late tonight to make this. If you play Minecraft, I attached the link to the picture so you can download the skin.

Jason Priestas's picture

Nice! I actually just got over a Minecraft addiction. Must... resist urge... to fire it up...

LadyBuck's picture

Why can't minecraft work on my computer??? WHY?

palko's picture

Looks really cool but couldn't found it. Uploaded a similar one. :)

baddogmaine's picture

One of the best things to happen to the Buckeyes last night was Buford getting his 4th foul. At that point he was 1 of 8 with 4 turnovers, and Matta seemed ready to let Buford do for Cincinnati what he had done for Kentucky last year at this time, until foul #4 forced Matta to sit William. At which point a shakey 3 point lead grew to double digits. This experience did two things.

1) Made clear beyond any possible doubt that Buford is totally unreliable offensively. Not incapable, but unreliable.  In the games preceeding last night's 1 for 8 he was 4 for 13, 5 of 11, 4 of 12 and 4 of 12. And he's not just missing by inches, as Craft's missed 3 pointers did - he's looking bad. Letting him try to shoot himself out of his slump and pick up foolish charging fouls comes with a known risk that he will play us out of the tournament. We did win four of those games, but the win last night was locked in with Buford on the bench, and the one really good team we played in that stretch was a loss.

2) During the year while Matta has tried subbing for various starters at least to some degree he has rarely sat Buford. Will has logged as many minutes as any Buckeye. What last night showed is that Buford can be pulled without - at least last night - any ill effect on the team. This means that if Matta lets Buford stay on the floor while he is hurting us on offense and it costs us the game the result will be squarely on Matta's shoulders. I'm not saying that Matta should be replaced - I'm saying nothing of the sort. I'mn saying that even excellent coaches can have blind spots; that blind spots should be called as such; and that Matta's devotion to the perputually slumping Buford is a blind spot that can no longer be justified as unavoidable. Buford can be subbed for, and if he starts a game playing badly he should be subbed at least for brief stretches. The alternative is having Buford completely wipe-out the great stuff his teamnmates are doing, as he did last year.

Ohio Guy in Jersey's picture

I love the five of Craft, Scott, Smith, Thomas, and Sullinger because Scott never tries to do more than he should (although he is guilty of lazy passing at times). Plus it moves Smith to a more prominent role, which he can apparently handle.

As for loyalty to Buford, all coaches are loyal to seniors. This isn't a Matta thing, it's a coach thing.

baddogmaine's picture

But Lauderdale lost his playing time last year because the team had a better five. Maybe Matta should give Will a Dallas deal - start, and sit. I'm not serious that Buford should not be playing as long as he contributes what is needed. But there is precedent for Matta sacrificing player loyalty for team strength, and a pretty strong case for blind loyalty to Buford hurting the team.

nickma71's picture

Arm chair quarterbacking also applies to basketball I see. I look forward to see Buford shake what ever it is he is thinking about since that Kentucky game.

nickma71's picture

And the best way to beat a zone isn't an outside shooting threat. It is dribble penetration. After the collapse is when you hit the open man. That zone will be tough.

NW Buckeye's picture

That is exactly why Wisky lost last night.  They had an awesome night hitting 3's, but they could not buy a basket in the paint.  There was no dribble penetration all night long. And, when they needed it with 12 seconds left they still played perimeter ball and gave the game away.  Craft would have at least created a chance for someone to take a high percentage shot.  Should be interesting to see how OSU attacks that zone. 

Jdadams01's picture

If Buford never has another good game for the Bucks I'll still support him because he's a Buckeye. And no matter what he does, I can't just forget the great play he's had. I'll remember the game winner at MSU and how we wouldn't have won a few of those games without him.

CoachGrasso's picture

Two quick notes re: Buford and the bench:

LSJ has been shooting the ball with confidence as the 3rd/4th option (DT, Sully, Craft). As long as this continues, Buford's contributions can be minimal on the offensive end. He has been rebounding and defending well recently - it's almost as if the two have switched roles. Buford should still look for his shot but if it's not dropping, he can defer to the other guys who are playing well.

When Buford does sit, Shannon Scott has assumed those minutes admirably. He is still an offensive liability, but he provides a change of pace as penentrate and kick type guy and gives tremendous effort defensively. It seems as though the coaching staff has confidence in him being in the game in important segments. In fact, our final stretch where we ran away with the game, he was in and Buford was sitting with 4 fouls.

deadbuckeyeinthelake's picture

my  first impression  was the  rims clanked to much,basketball had  way to much  air in it.


excuse my english as i am old.

buford is a  great player he will get his due when needed.

bucks will win saturday in a  blow out



"Give me Liberty, or Give me Death!"

RedStorm45's picture

Buford's ship has sailed.  No need to ride him 35+ minutes a game when he's shooting 33% in the post-season and is good for a combination of at least 6 fouls/turnovers.  

Still some concerns moving forward...have you ever seen an elite team so bad on the fast break? That was pathetic last night.  Free throw shooting, again.  Was Craft seriously hurt after that hip check?  Lastly, the sloppiness/laziness factor reared its head to start the 2nd half.  They can't do that Saturday.

Bucks43201's picture

I don't think anybody's "shiip has sailed"... sorry, but that's kind of a foolish statement. This isn't a relationship with the girl who got away, so that term doesn't really apply here. Streaky shooters get hot and cold...and Will Buford is streaky. You can't just say that "ship has sailed", inferring that he's incapable of knocking down some shots, or that he doesn't have it in him. I still think he's still got at least one more 20+ game in him where he's on fire. Buford is streaky -- he is due for a hot streak. Not guaranteeing it - but, I'm just saying - don't be surprised if he gets hot and knocks down some shots against a zone.

"You win with people." - Woody Hayes

Ohio Guy in Jersey's picture

Buford could have 24 against the Orange. He could just as easily have 4. Saying he isn't a reliable player right now isn't the same as saying he shouldn't play at all. And last night he did a much better job of not continuously jacking up shots to get himself out of this funk.

But everyone should remember that when WB is on...he can be unguardable. Hopefully that guy shows up at 7 PM tomorrow.

Bucks43201's picture

exactly...well said. We've seen Will Bufe go off after a bad game. He could very likely go 1 for 8 with 4 points, but to infer that OSU should give up on him is not right -- because we all know he could go off for 24....especially against a zone.

"You win with people." - Woody Hayes

RedStorm45's picture

They played against a zone in the 1st half last night and much of the 2nd half against Gonzaga.