Buford Got on Lighty for Not Being Aggressive
By Brandon Castel
CLEVELAND — With the Buckeyes leading Texas-San Antonio in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, a George Mason coach leaned over and asked “Does David Lighty shoot?”
It was a strange question for anyone who has watched Ohio State play this season. Lighty certainly isn’t their first option offensively. He might not even be their second or third, but the gifted wingman is averaging 12.1 points per game while shooting 47 percent from the floor.
He is having a career year from behind the arc, but had not scored a single point over the first 24 minutes of Ohio State’s opening game in the tournament Friday night.
“Dave is so unselfish and he doesn’t really force anything. He just lets the game come to him,” said fellow senior Jon Diebler.
“The (first) game, with how other guys were shooting, he was just kind of waiting for his turn.”
The Buckeyes got 15 points from William Buford in the first half and nine apiece from both Diebler and Jared Sullinger. Ohio State led UTSA by 16 points at the halftime break despite the fact Lighty had missed his only shot of the game.
That wasn’t lost on George Mason’s assistant coach as he sat courtside, nor teammate William Buford.
“That’s what I was saying. I got on Dave during that game,” said Buford, who made six of his 10 shots in the first half of that game, including 3-of-4 from behind the arc.
“I was asking him why he wasn’t shooting. You’re not here to just sit there and pass that ball, you’re here to be aggressive and attack.”
Lighty did have four assists in the first half of that game, but seemed tentative to shoot the ball, especially with the way Buford and Diebler were knocking down shots. But this Ohio State team is at its best when they have four guys clicking on the offensive end, and Lighty in particular creates such a mismatch because he is typically being guarded by the other team’s power forward.
Lighty finally pulled up and knocked down a three at the 16:01 mark of the second half to give the Buckeyes their first 20-point lead of the game. He connected again from outside just two minutes later to put them ahead by 23 points.
Both times it was Buford giving him the ball and telling him to shoot.
“I was like the big bro the other day,” Buford said.
“Like ‘you better take some shots.’”
Lighty finished the game with eight points, hitting three of his four shots in the second half, but it was only a prelude for what would come Sunday.
“I got on him that game and he came out aggressive today,” Buford said Sunday night after Ohio State’s win over George Mason.
“I’m sure his family members got on him too, but he came out today in attack mode and was knocking down some big shots.”
The fifth-year senior was hitting just about everything during warm-ups, which caught the attention of Ohio State coach Thad Matta.
“Coach told me earlier this morning to save a couple for the game,” Lighty said.
“And I guess I took hold of that and just did it.”
Unlike Friday night, it took Lighty only four minutes to knock down his first three against George Mason Sunday in the second round of the tournament. This time it gave the Buckeyes their first lead of the game, 12-11, and Lighty would hit four more threes in the first half and a total of seven in the game.
“Dave just played great. He had another game like that earlier this season and Will knows how that feels. It just feels like everything will go in,” said Diebler, who was a meager 4-of-8 from behind the arc against the Patriots.
“I know how that feels when you hit a lot of threes, hit a lot of jump shots, it feels like anything you throw up will go in the basket. It’s nice that he was feeling like that tonight.”
After going 1-for-8 from behind the arc in the first two games of the Big Ten Tournament, Buford has now hit nine of his last 17 from long-distance. He has been much more aggressive since the dustup with Michigan’s Jordan Morgan in the second-round of the conference tournament, and is averaging over 17 points a night in the last four games.
The smooth-shooting junior has only had two games in single digits since mid-January, and he is hoping some of that aggressiveness has rubbed off on Lighty as the Buckeyes hit the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA Tournament, where they were eliminated a year ago.
“I try to, but you know, it probably rubbed off on him a little bit,” Buford said, looking up with a smile.
“He did really good today, I’m proud of him. This is home town and he wanted to go out on a good note.”
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