Buckeyes Make Quick Work of Roadrunners Despite Slowdown Offense
By Brandon Castel
CLEVELAND, Ohio — As happy as he was to have his team in the NCAA Tournament, Brooks Thompson was equally contented to hear the final buzzer in Friday’s loss to No. 1-seed Ohio State.
“Boy, I’m glad that’s over,” Thompson was overheard saying as he shook hands with OSU coach Thad Matta following the Roadrunners’ 75-46 loss to the top-ranked Buckeyes.
No 16-seed has ever knocked off a 1-seed in the NAA Tournament since the field expanded to 65 teams back in 1985, but not all of them have gotten drilled by 29 points.
“Wow, they’re good,” Thompson said after the game.
“We knew coming into it how good they were. I think that we sum it up as they’re so efficient in everything that they do. They’re so well coached and so disciplined that I told our guys at the end, before I talk about our team, I was proud of them.”
Coach Matta was a part of the nearest upset by 16-seed as an assistant coach back in 1996 when Western Carolina missed a game-winning three against No. 1-seed Purdue in the final seconds.
This was the exact opposite.
They might be called the Roadrunners, but Texas-San Antonio (20-14) would not have escaped many coyotes moving at the pace they did Friday. With Thompson determined to slow things down against No. 1-ranked Ohio State (33-2), UTSA ran a Northwestern-style attack for much of the game.
“We were pretty surprised. I think with the film that we watched in the short period of time that we had, we didn't really see that much,” said senior Jon Diebler, who was 4-8 behind the arc and finished with 14 points.
“But, again, we have to be ready for whatever the way teams will play against us. I think for the first 45 minutes we weren't, but after that we kind of picked it up.”
The Buckeyes got off to a slow start offensively, and the Roadrunners actually led 9-5 in the early-going. Star freshman Jared Sullinger was called for an offensive foul the first time he touched the ball and, for a moment, it looked like the No. 1 overall-seed might actually have fight on its hands.
It was short-lived, however as the Buckeyes quickly rattled off a 9-0 run with junior William Buford doing most of the work.
“My teammates, they were giving me the ball and shots were open,” said Buford, who scored 15 of his game-high 18 points in the first half.
“So I was just taking good shots and I was able to knock them down, and opened up the floor for me and everybody else.”
After scoring 18 points in the Big Ten Tournament Title game, Buford said he wasn’t happy with his performance in Indianapolis. He was 7-of-14 from the field in the win over Penn State, but said fans would see a different William Buford in the NCAA Tournament.
They certainly did in the first half of Friday’s game. After throwing down a one-handed dunk off dribble penetration, Buford connected on a three to give Ohio State a 12-9 lead. With the Roadrunners determined to play a zone defense in order to slow down Sullinger in the paint, things were wide open for Buford and Diebler on the outside.
The two combined to shoot 6-of-9 behind the arc in the first half. The Buckeyes built a 37-21 lead at the break. San Antonio opened the second half with a quick 5-0 run when point guard Devin Gibson stole the ball from Aaron Craft for a layup in transition before hitting a three.
Gibson was the one bright spot for the Roadrunners. He scored 24 of the team’s 46 points, but Ohio State complete neutralized Melvin Johnson III. Coming off a 29-point performance against Alabama State in the play-in game Wednesday night, Johnson was held to just five points on 1-of-9 shooting Friday.
“Obviously, I think he was one player that we kind of focused on, obviously with him and the other guard,” Diebler said.
“Gibson played really well. But we knew the game that Johnson was coming off of, and he was the guy that we knew we couldn't let get going.”
Ohio State put their best defender, David Lighty, on Johnson for most of the game, and he really struggled to find room on the offensive end. He took eight shots from behind the arc and connected on just one of them.
As a team, UTSA shot 25.8 percent in the second half and 34 percent for the game. They turned the ball over 13 times and had just six assists. On the other end, Ohio State shot 56 percent from the field and recorded an NCAA tournament record 26 assists.
“I think with this team, the biggest thing for me is 29 field goals, 26 of them assisted,” Matta said.
“The one thing we've always preached, take care and share the ball and play unselfishly. And hopefully we can continue to do that throughout the course and play team basketball.”
When they do that, there aren’t many teams who can play with them. Certainly not Texas-San Antonio.
“They did a nice job,” Thompson said of his players.
“And they played maybe the eventual national champion today."
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