Bi-Polar Buckeyes’ Season Comes To An End In Final Four
At times during the 2011-12 season the Ohio State men’s basketball team was admittedly bi-polar. On Saturday night, the Buckeyes’ split personality cost them a shot at the national championship.
OSU followed up a first half in which it led by as many as 13 points with one of its worst shooting halves of the season and watched its season slip away at the foul line in a 64-62 loss to Kansas in college basketball’s national semifinals.
After taking a nine-point lead into halftime, the Buckeyes only made eight of their 33 field goal attempts in the second half, and allowed a late 6-0 Jayhawks run to put Kansas on top and into Monday night’s national championship game where it’ll face Kentucky.
"Well, I thought we played the first half very effectively. Second half obviously we didn't shoot the ball to the level we needed to. I thought Kansas was much more active defensively, using their athleticism," said OSU Head Coach Thad Matta.
Trailing by two points with two seconds remaining, OSU Aaron Craft attempted to send the game into overtime by purposely missing the second of two free throws, but was whistled for a lane violation before attempting the would-have-been game-tying lay-up.
Craft’s ill-fated attempt was too little too late for a Buckeye team that was outscored 39-28 over the course of a second half that saw OSU forward Deshaun Thomas’ minutes limited after he picked up his third foul with 17:34 remaining in the game, and his fourth with 11:30 left.
OSU’s disaster second half was hardly predictable after a first half that saw the Buckeyes hold Kansas to just 13 points over the course of the game’s first 15 minutes and consistently lead by double-digits until a Travis Releford lay-up cut the Buckeyes’ lead to 34-25 heading into halftime.
With Thomas on the bench, Kansas managed to erase the deficit in the first six minutes of the half, tying the game at 38 with 14:06 remaining in the game. A William Buford 3-point shot pushed the Buckeyes’ lead back to six with just less than nine minutes remaining, but the Jayhawks quickly cut that advantage to just one and never trailed by more than five points for the remainder of the game.
Two Releford free throws with 2:48 left in the game gave Kansas its first lead since the opening minutes of the game, but a 4-0 run that consisted of a Craft lay-up and two Thomas free throws bumped the Buckeyes’ lead back to three. Releford then gave the Jayhawks their final lead of the game with another pair of free throws, which were followed by an Elijah Johnson lay-up and free throws from Tyshawn Taylor that made the Kansas lead too much for the Buckeyes to overcome in the final minute of play.
"Give Kansas credit, they were fighting for their lives," said Matta.
"Their season was on the line.
"You know, like I said, we just didn't have the edge that we knew where they were going to start the second half. You know, we couldn't get it done."
In his final game with the Buckeyes, Buford led OSU in scoring with 19 points and seven rebounds, while Kansas’ National Player of the Year candidate Thomas Robinson led the Jayhawks with 19 points and eight boards. Sullinger struggled while being covered by Kansas center Jeff Withey, who recorded seven blocks against OSU and played a crucial role in holding the Buckeye big man to 13 points on 5-of-19 shooting.
"It hurts," said Buford after the loss, "but, at the same time, if you look at this team a month ago, people like y'all said we wasn't good enough to get here, so...
I'm proud of these guys and everything they overcome."
OSU’s loss to the Jayhawks wraps up an up-and-down season that saw the Buckeyes ranked as high as No. 1 and as low as No. 11 in polls, before winning an improbable share of the Big Ten regular season title before making perhaps an even more improbable run to the their programs 11th Final Four.