OSU prevails by nocturnal means

PITTSBURGH – At 12:30 in the morning, Operation Shutdown has usually taken affect for the average working stiff.

But Ohio State’s William Buford found himself surrounded by reporters in the wee hours Friday following the Buckeyes’ midnight special presentation, also known as March Madness.

At that unsavory hour, there was more activity in the building among the arena cleaning crew than weary fans, most of whom had long ago hit the highway.

Thursday’s ‘late’ game had all the makings of a 2 vs. 13 seed. As it turns out, Buford and the Bucks didn’t require an ‘A’ game to take out scrappy but overmatched Loyola.

Still, OSU’s senior ace out of Toledo was not in a pleasant frame of mind. “We had almost 20 turnovers. That won’t get it done (from here out),” he advised.

The Buckeyes had mounted a 70-50 lead with 5:35 to play when Thad Matta began to pull the plug, first removing he-men Jared Sullinger and Deshaun Thomas to deserving accolades from the remaining faithful.

Just for kicks, Loyola used a 9-0 run over the next 3:17 as the Greyhounds pulled within 11.

Matta had little choice but to wake Sullinger, Thomas and Buford who reluctantly returned to finish the deed.

“We weren’t real crazy about going back out there but crazy things can happen in this game,” offered Buford. “No need taking a chance. We went back out and closed it out.”

Loyola coach Jimmy Patsos had to enjoy the moment, if only for an instant. Aaron Craft converted twice from the line and Buford twice went deep for the final tally.

“It might have been good for us,” Buford added. “Regardless who’s on the floor, it takes a complete effort. (This) game’s over. Now we move on.”

Patsos took the final ticks in stride. “This is show business for a lot of these players,” he indicated. “We were realistic enough to know we had to play a perfect game against Ohio State and we were far from doing that. If anything, I think our kids were a little too hyped out there. I wanted them to be excited but channel (some emotions) at the same time.”

It mattered little the way Thomas performed. No Greyhound could sniff the Buckeyes’ 6-7 sophomore who imposed his will at both ends of the floor.

Sullinger was good (12 points, 11 boards) but Thomas downright dominant. “DeShaun kept his foot on the gas all night,” praised Matta.

In 33 minutes, Craft contributed one bucket and six free throws to go with four assists, three steals and five turnovers.

“Those mistakes take away from any good stuff I might have done,” the Bucks’ sophomore point guard stressed. “I don’t think any of us are pleased with our overall performance. Tomorrow (Friday), we’ll be in the film room and work on getting some things fixed.”

Moments later, the lockerroom mood turned significantly more upbeat when players were informed Saturday’s third rounder against Gonzaga would tip off at a more conventional hour.

“I hope that’s it for these late nighters,” stated Buford.

Far as the Buckeyes are concerned Saturday’s scheduled 2:50 tip is literally the difference between night and day.

Gibson may be reached at rgibson@timesleader-online.com