Buckeyes Not Blaming Buford
By Brandon Castel
NEWARK, N.J. — William Buford will probably never have another game like the one he did Friday.
What started as a bad dream quickly spiraled into a full-blown nightmare as Buford missed shot after shot in Ohio State’s 62-60 loss to Kentucky.
After the game, he was quick to blame himself for Ohio State’s earlier-than-expected exit from the NCAA Tournament.
“I feel like I let the team down and I didn’t do what I was capable of doing,” Buford said in the locker room at the Prudential Center.
“I know if I would have played better, the result would have been different. That’s why it’s so hard right now.”
Ohio State’s second-leading scorer this season, Buford finished just 2-of-16 from the floor against the Wildcats; his worst shooting performance of the season, and second worst of his entire college career.
“Most of them were just long or I didn’t follow through on my shot,” Buford said.
“Most of them were off the back of the rim.”
In a game that saw 11 ties and 19 lead changes, everyone was waiting for Buford to snap out of it. He had gone through dry spells before only to shoot his way out the other side, but not this time. This time, there would be no heroics for the Buckeyes. Buford’s potential game-winning three hooked off the front of the rim just before time expired.
“I had a chance to hit a three to win the game and I missed it,” Buford said, still in disbelief.
“It felt good coming off, it just didn’t fall for me, like most of the shots I took tonight.”
It even looked good coming off his finger tips, but it didn’t take long to see that Buford’s shot was pulling to the right and it was going to be lucky to draw front iron.
Six inches to the left and Buford would have been the hero. Instead, he and his teammates had to watch as Kentucky celebrated their trip to the Elite Eight.
“I don’t really think this loss is blamed on will or anybody as a single person. It was a team loss,” center Dallas Lauderdale said.
“We didn’t play well as a team and it’s a team game. We didn’t get it done as a team. There’s nothing to say to Will about that. Everybody’s hurting here. We win as a team and we lose as a team.”
Anyone who saw Buford play this year knows what he is capable of doing. When he is on, Buford’s shot is a thing of beauty. It doesn’t just go in, it tickles the twine like foreplay. It dances in the air, a magic all its own.
“Will is an awesome guy. He’s a great player. He’s a competitor. It just happens sometimes,” point guard Aaron Craft said after Friday night’s loss.
“Today we weren’t able to overcome it with our stops. That’s how we usually overcome our off shooting nights. It was just a bad night for it to happen.”
The worst night. The last night. Like Jon Diebler against Tennessee, had Buford made one or two more baskets, the Buckeyes would likely still be playing right now. Had he finished 4-for-16 instead of 2-for-16, the dream season would not be over.
But no one is feeling bad for Buford.
“No. We don't have to feel for Will. Will knows what he can do and we know what Will can do,” freshman Jared Sullinger said.
“If we baby Will, Will might slap us in the face and say ‘shut the hell up.’”
Sullinger said he will wait for Buford to come to him if anything needs to be said, but neither of them expects anyone on the team to say something about Friday night.
“No, they probably won’t,” Buford said.
“We’re so close, they probably won’t say anything. I know I did wrong. I know I didn’t show up.”
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