Home » Columns » Currently Reading:

Ohio State gets a little help and advances to the Final Four

March 25, 2012 Columns No Comments
ohiostate

BOSTON – Jared Sullinger came back to college for this. He felt his team had this kind of potential, even if many others didn’t. In the end, he proves to be right, as his young Ohio State team is headed to the Final Four, and not on the backs of four players who carried them for a lot of the season.

Ohio State’s 77-70 victory had a little irony in that they won the game a little like the way their opponents often beat teams this season. Ohio State didn’t use a zone defense like Syracuse, but whereas the Orange won a lot of games with their depth, Ohio State did so on Saturday to a different degree. The man of the hour, if there truly is one, was not Sullinger, and it wasn’t surging Deshaun Thomas, feisty point guard Aaron Craft or steady senior William Buford.

Sullinger ran down a list of reasons given as to why this team couldn’t advance this far. One noteworthy one was absent.

“I appreciated everyone that doubted this basketball team, said we was the underdogs, we wasn’t good enough, mentally strong enough, not physically strong enough, mentally immature, we heard it all,” said the sophomore forward, who was having fun with the media in his typical big kid-like fashion. “I want to thank y’all, y’all helped us out tremendously.”

One ongoing storyline was that the Buckeyes were heavily dependent on four players. The stats certainly back it up, although they don’t do justice to the talent this team has. They account for almost 75 percent of the team’s scoring, over 59 percent of the team’s rebounds and over 64 percent of the team’s assists. Part of it is also being a young group, as this team has just two upperclassmen. But one of the Buckeyes who made the All-East Region team was not one of those four, Lenzelle Smith, Jr. He was that fifth man they needed, although he wasn’t alone on the night.

Smith had 18 points on the night, right behind Sullinger’s 19 for game-high honors. 16 of those points came in the second half, when he went 4-6 from the field, and he hit several shots at key junctures as well. When Syracuse had come within 52-51 thanks to five straight points, Smith hit a three-pointer to push the lead back up to four. Later, he capped off a 5-0 run with a jumper that put the Buckeyes up by seven with 3:15 left.

Not only did he score, but he also played through a cut above his eye that required three stitches in the first half, and that was behind a couple of comments in the locker room after the game about how important his play was.

“I’m gonna punch him in his other eye for the next game, so he can play just how he played today,” said Buford, who added 13 points and nine rebounds. “He came in and played tremendous today, knocking down shots and playing aggressively today.”

Added Thomas, who had 14 points and tied Buford for team honors with nine boards: “I told him he should go blind from now on. It was something special to see him knocking down shots like that.”

Smith had scored in double digits in just seven games before Saturday night, although he had proven himself capable before. In January, he scored 28 against Indiana, and just two nights earlier, he scored 15 in the win over Cincinnati. He scored in double figures in both games in Boston.

There were others who joined Smith in helping the stars. When Sullinger sat with early foul trouble, playing just six minutes in the first half, the combination of Amir Williams and Evan Ravenel, the latter of whom started his college career just down the road at Boston College, managed to hold down the fort. They were hardly world-beaters, but they did enough to keep Ohio State in good shape, and they went into the half tied at 29.

“He’s not the only big man that we have,” Buford said, referring to Sullinger. “Amir came in and did a great job, he was blocking shots and getting rebounds, going up strong.”

Ohio State won the first few minutes of the second half that coaches talk about all the time, and they did so decisively. Not only that, but foul trouble was clearly mounting for Syracuse, as the Orange had three players (Christmas, Waiters and Southerland) with four fouls before the under-12 media timeout. Later, when the Orange had to start fouling, that caught up to them, and they couldn’t complete a late rally. Waiters, arguably their best offensive player, fouled out.

Sullinger was quick to give credit to the entire team, and not just in the way many often do. Everyone saw what Smith did in the box score, and the way Williams and Ravenel held down the fort was noticeable as well. But that wasn’t all.

“We couldn’t have won this game without everybody,” said the sophomore forward. “Those guys come in every day, regardless of playing or not, they push through in practice, they compete in practice, they try to send a statement to the starting five. They elevate our game as well. Those guys, even though you’re not interviewing them, those guys are MVPs of this basketball team.”

There’s a lot of talent behind the starters and key reserves. One of them, freshman point guard Shannon Scott, was a McDonald’s All-American in high school. Sullinger was quick to note how talented Williams is, and Sam Thompson had some good moments in Saturday’s game.

Sullinger knew what he was getting himself into when he came back to college instead of being a potential lottery pick last June. With a little help from his friends, he and the Buckeyes are headed to the Final Four.

Comment on this Article:







Advertisement

Coaching Changes and NBA Draft Early Entrants

The coaching carousel is moving. Keep track of the latest coaching changes right here on Hoopville.

Also, keep track of players who have declared early for the NBA Draft.

Your Phil of Hoops

Young UNLV team grows in Brooklyn

November 23, 2014 by

unlv

Teams often grow from early season tournaments, and that appears to be what UNLV did in Brooklyn. The young Runnin’ Rebels need the experience.

Simply put, Syracuse needs to improve offensively

November 22, 2014 by

syracuse

Jim Boeheim didn’t have many things to say about his team’s offense, but that said it all. It’s at that end of the floor that Syracuse’s fate this season will be determined.

Growing pains are here for talented Brown team

November 20, 2014 by

brown

Brown has good talent and should be a factor in the Ivy League, but with three sophomores starting on the perimeter, growing pains are in the foreseeable future

Hoopville Archives

Reader Poll

Best win November 2014-15
Which team has the best win thus far on the young season?

2014 Prep School Tour

Missed a recap of an open gym workout? We have them all right here for you.

Sept. 9: Putnam Science Academy
Sept 10: Commonwealth Academy
Sept. 11: St. Andrew's
Sept. 12: Northfield Mount Hermon
Sept. 16: Brewster Academy and Phillips Exeter
Sept. 17: Brooks School
Sept. 21: Holderness School
Sept. 23: St. Thomas More and Marianapolis Prep
Sept. 24: South Kent School and Kent School
Sept. 25: Williston Northampton
Sept. 28: Wilbraham and Monson Academy and Suffield Academy
Sept. 30: New Hampton
Oct. 5: Worcester Academy
Oct. 7: Brimmer and May
Oct. 8: Cushing Academy
Oct. 9: Tilton
Oct. 12: Tabor Academy and Rivers School
Oct. 14: The Master's School
Oct. 16: Vermont Academy

You can also find them all right here.

Phil Kasiecki on Twitter

Recruiting Coverage

New England Prep Schools 2014-15: looking back and looking ahead

November 3, 2014 by

nepsac

With a series of prep school open gym visits in the book and the season not far away, here’s a look back at open gyms and a look forward to the season in the New England prep school ranks.

Marianapolis Prep will battle in Class AA

October 20, 2014 by

marianapolis

Marianapolis Prep is far from loaded with talent, but they have enough perimeter talent to be dangerous. As is usually the case, they will battle and be a tough out in Class AA.

New Vermont Academy coach has put together a contender

October 17, 2014 by

vermontacademy

Vermont Academy has a new coach for the second year in a row, but they shouldn’t skip a beat. They have enough talent to win a lot of games and make a deep run in NEPSAC Class AA.

The Master’s School has good students and talent

October 15, 2014 by

mastersschool

The Master’s School has a number of good students, and they will continue to head to college later. This time around, they also have some talent on the hardwood and should win a few more games.

Rivers will try to build on a breakthrough season

October 13, 2014 by

riversschool

The Rivers School had a breakthrough season last year, winning the Independent School League. They will try to build on that with a team that loses a lot but also returns a lot from last season’s team.