Mar 24, 2012; Boston, MA, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Thad Matta waves to the crowd after cutting down the net after the finals in the east region of the 2012 NCAA men
Ohio State to the Final Four!!!!!
Ok, trying to regain my composure…
Just as we have done for the first 3 OSU games of this tournament, it’s time for a quick recap of the Elite 8 matchup that just ended between the Buckeyes and the Orange of Syracuse…
#1 Guard (Scoop Jardine vs. Aaron Craft)
One scored points, and the other led defensively. Both were their respective team leaders. Scoop Jardine and Aaron Craft were all heart in this game, and it was amazing to watch. Jardine cooled off a bit in the second half, while Craft turned up the heat exponentially on the defensive side of the ball. Scoop was the hot hand early in the game, but spent a lot of time on the bench in the second half because his hot hand had transferred to Brandon Triche. Craft did win the rebounding and steal battle, but his aggressive play also led to his fouling out with under a minute left in the game.
This battle was the most even on the court tonight, even though they produced in different ways, but I’d certainly take either player. In the end, I’d have to give the edge to Aaron Craft, based on the intangibles that he showed in this contest. On one play, Craft slapped the ball out of a would-be shooter’s hands, chased it to the baseline, saved the ball to a teammate while diving over the photographers and into the first row of fans, then sprinted down the court to get the ball. His attitude, leadership, and control of his team and the emotions that they had was key in this game.
#2 Guard (Dion Waiters/Brandon Triche vs. Lenzelle Smith, Jr.)
Smith Jr., like most everyone on the court in this game, showed tremendous heart. He was forced to exit in the first few minutes, due to an injury. After an incidental head butt from Brandon Triche, LSJ hit the court, saw a trainer, and was escorted to the locker room. We later learned that he received 3 stitches in his right eyebrow/eyelid, but that only kept him out of the game for a matter of minutes. Upon his return, LSJ proceeded to hit shots from all over the court and ended the game with 18 points.
Waiters and Triche scored points, as they often do, with Triche surprisingly being the hot hand for Syracuse in the second half. Triche ended with 15 to Waiters’ 9, but it was Brandon Triche’s performance that helped to carry ‘Cuse and keep the game within reach when it could have easily slipped away from them. Despite Triche being the driving force behind ‘Cuse’s success in the second half, this battle has to go to Lenzelle Smith, Jr. and his inspired performance.
By the way, Sam Thompson, you currently owe me approximately $1. I figure that about covers the cost of the beer that I spilled onto myself and my couch while celebrating your monstrous dunk. Thompson was only on the court for a few minutes tonight, but did his thing on an inbound pass
from Craft and shook the house. (This video is from his dunk against Indiana, but as soon as a clip is available of tonight’s dunk, I’ll post it).
#3 Forward/Guard (CJ Fair vs. William Buford)
CJ Fair had his moments in this game in which he was a presence and helped boost his team, but his 8 points and overall effort were eclipsed by William Buford. Buford only had 13 points on the night, and was less than stellar in his shooting performance (3-12 from the field), but he snagged 9 rebounds, and that was HUGE in keeping this game in OSU’s favor. Buford was also solid on the defensive end, showing a quick baseline step which cut off several Kris Joseph and CJ Fair drives and forced them to retreat and kick the ball out to a guard to restart their offense. It may not be the Willy B performance that we know he is capable of, but he kept his composure, had several good drives to the basket, and was a force on the glass. Congrats, Buford, you won this battle.
Mar 24, 2012; Boston, MA, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes forward Jared Sullinger (0) reacts in the second half of the finals in the east region of the 2012 NCAA men
#4 Forward (Kris Joseph/James Southerland vs. Deshaun Thomas)
This matchup was probably the most frustrating for all of the players involved. Kris Joseph turned the ball over repeatedly and was clearly bothered by OSU’s in-your-face defense. Southerland came off the bench and hit a couple of big shots to lift his team, but was essentially used as a foul vacuum, as he came in, applied pressure underneath, and fouled out in his few minutes on the court. Deshaun Thomas met his first resistance in this tournament against the zone, and it clearly bothered him. Aaron Craft practically pulled him aside, sat him on a couch, and listened to his problems a couple of times, as the X Factor was venting his frustration to the point guard after a couple of breakdowns. It was about time that the rest of the Buckeyes picked up the slack and allowed Thomas a chance to ease off the gas, and get the win without his superhuman production. In the end, this matchup was a push.
#5 Center/Forward (Baye Keita/Rakeem Christmas vs. Jared Sullinger)
I’ll keep this short and sweet. Sullinger played for only 6 minutes in the first half, and still outscored everyone that tried to guard him…combined. Despite only 26 minutes on the court, the OSU big man put up 19 points, grabbed 7 rebounds, and completely dominated Syracuse in the paint. Losing Fab Melo clearly hurt the Orange, as they had no answer to Sullinger’s size, strength, and ability to score under pressure. This position matchup was 100% in Jared Sullinger’s favor.
It should also be noted that Evan Ravenel and Amir Williams stepped in with all of the pressure in the world riding on them in the first half, and they delivered. It may not have been the prettiest shifts on the court, but both Buckeyes were efficient, reliable, and filled in for the foul troubled superstar as well as could be asked.
Cut down those nets and enjoy it, boys, because you’re headed to New Orleans and the Final Four!!!
Predicted Score: OSU 75 – Syracuse 68
Actual Score: OSU 77 – Syracuse 70