• Get the Blackhawks Championship Package
    Get the Blackhawks Championship Package
  • Give the Gift of SI
    Give the Gift of SI
SI.com Home
HALF
CLOCK
LEADING SCORES
FINAL
  1. TX-San AntonioGIBSON24
  2. Ohio StateBUFORD18
Quicken Loans ArenaCleveland, OH
Source:

CLEVELAND (AP) -- Ohio State's seniors didn't want to be at their graduation ceremony. Now, they'll definitely miss Sunday's commencement.

"It's cool," guard David Lighty said. "I'd much rather be here."

Caps, gowns, diplomas and strains of "Pomp and Circumstance" can wait.

These Buckeyes are out to earn a national championship.

William Buford scored 18 points, freshman Jared Sullinger added 11 before getting some extended rest, and Ohio State showed why it's the top overall seed in this year's NCAA tournament by rolling to a 75-46 win over Texas-San Antonio in the second round Friday.

Playing a two-hour drive from their Columbus campus, the Buckeyes (33-2) were cheered on by more than 15,000 fans, who made Quicken Loans Arena feel just like home. Shaking off a sluggish start, Ohio State built a 16-point halftime lead that stretched to 38 in the second half and was never threatened by the No. 16 seed Roadrunners (20-14), who did all they could to keep the game close.

That lasted about 10 minutes.

"Wow," said UTSA coach Brooks Thompson. "They're good."

Ohio State could have named its score, and the blowout allowed coach Thad Matta to rest his starters for Sunday's East region matchup with George Mason, a 61-57 winner over Villanova. The Patriots are no stranger to March magic after making the Final Four in 2006.

They now stand in the way of an experienced Ohio State squad with no obvious weaknesses. A team, that at times, seems unbeatable.

"Well, I don't know about unbeatable," Lighty said. "But it's awful hard to beat us when the offensive weapons that we have are all clicking at the same time."

Devin Gibson scored 24 points to lead UTSA, which beat Alabama State on Wednesday night in Dayton for the right to face the powerful Buckeyes. Melvin Johnson III, who scored a career-high 29 in UTSA's opening-round win, was held to five on 1-of-9 shooting. Matta warned his players about what could happen if their opener if they weren't careful. They listened.

In 1996 he was an assistant for No. 16 seed Western Carolina, which came within a missed last-second shot of stunning No. 1 seed Purdue in the tourney. Matta didn't want the Buckeyes, as loose a group as you'll find, to be overconfident against an inferior opponent.

Ohio State didn't take things lightly.

The Buckeyes were supremely efficient on offense, setting a tournament record with 26 assists. They also handled UTSA's slowdown game, which was a surprise.

"We weren't expecting them to slow the game down the way they did," Sullinger said.

Ohio State's win improved No. 1 seeds to 107-0 against No. 16s since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985.

With 12:12 remaining and the Buckeyes ahead by 23, Matta pulled Sullinger, who added nine rebounds in his NCAA tourney debut. Moments later, the fab frosh was joined on the sideline by Lighty, Buford and Jon Diebler, who made four 3-pointers and scored 14.

In the closing minutes, Matta cleared his bench, even giving senior walk-on and OSU fan favorite Eddie Days some minutes.

Following the game, Diebler left the arena with his right hand heavily wrapped. There was no mention of him hurting it.

UTSA's strategy was to slow the game to a crawl. This group of Roadrunners had no intention of going "beep-beep" and taking off.

Thompson was content to have senior point guard Devin Gibson dribble the ball deep into the 35-second shot clock on each possession before heading toward the basket. It worked for a few minutes, and when Ohio State freshman guard Aaron Craft picked up his second foul - on a reach that upset Matta - UTSA's plan seemed to have some merit.

"We had to shorten the game as much as we could," Thompson said. "We were going to try and do that for the entire game."

But the Roadrunners began missing shots and the Buckeyes got hot - ridiculously hot.

Diebler, the Big Ten's career leader in 3-pointers, buried two long ones and Buford hit another as Ohio State went on an 18-4 run to open a 23-13 lead. Gibson and Stephen Franklin shook free for layups to keep the Roadrunners within striking distance, but that's when the Buckeyes began pounding the ball down low to Sullinger, their 280-pound wide body.

Thompson promised to "throw the kitchen sink" at Sullinger, but the Roadrunners didn't have anyone to slow Ohio State's bulky big man.

Sullinger muscled in for consecutive buckets, and when Diebler drilled a 3-pointer from just inside the Cuyahoga County line, the Buckeyes were up 36-19. On UTSA's bench, Thompson dropped his head in resignation. This was what he was afraid might happen.

"Sullinger, our guys were just bouncing off him," Thompson said. "It was pretty comical."

The Roadrunners knew it would take a perfect game, or one very close to flawless, to pull off an upset of historic proportions.

Showing no fear, UTSA made four of its first five shots, and reached the first TV timeout leading 9-7. The few dozen supporters wearing blue and orange were high-fiving, with a few raising their eyebrows as if surprised by the early lead.

It wouldn't last.

Ohio State wouldn't let it.

Before the game, Lighty learned he had passed his last final at Ohio State, his last hurdle to a degree in consumer affairs. As proud as he is of his players' academic success, Matta isn't upset about them skipping the winter graduation ceremonies.

"Hopefully, they're going to get their diplomas by mail this year," he said.

SI.com
Hot Topics: NBA Draft Yasiel Puig NHL Playoffs NBA Playoffs Mark Cuban Jabari Parker
TM & © 2014 Time Inc. A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you. Read our privacy guidelines, your California privacy rights, and ad choices.
SI CoverRead All ArticlesBuy Cover Reprint