Rushed Reactions: #9 Wichita State 70, #2 Ohio State 66Posted by AMurawa on March 30th, 2013
Andrew Murawa is reporting from the West Regional in Los Angeles, CA this weekend.
- Tekele Cotton Ain’t Scared. To set the scene, a 20-point lead with 11 minutes left had turned into a three-point lead with under three minutes remaining. The Shockers had committed five turnovers on their previous six possessions and hadn’t made a field goal in nearly five minutes. Wichita State players were arguing with each other, looking over at the bench at every loose ball for some sort of help and checking the clock, which was moving far too slow for their liking, at every chance they got. A game that had once been a snoozer looked very much like one that was going to turn into a surprising Ohio State comeback. But after breaking through Buckeye pressure and getting the ball in the halfcourt, the ball found its way to Tekele Cotton with less than ten seconds on the shot clock. Primarily known as a defender and dirty work type of player, Cotton, however, stepped into the three as calm and as cool as you would want, as if the world around him weren’t going to hell. And it was pure. Nothing but net. In that moment, one player putting aside the enormity of the situation and handling his business as if he were all alone in the gym, much of that confusion and disorder disappeared. And he wasn’t done yet. On the next offensive possession, after Fred Van Vleet missed and end-of-shot-clock three on a possession where the Shockers never got the ball inside the three-point line , Cotton tracked down the offensive rebound and turned a wasted 35-second possession into a 1:10 possession that ended in a Van Vleet jumper. Suffice it to say that likely without Cotton, the Shockers may have gotten shocked themselves.
- Athletically Even. You look at the names of the front of the jerseys and the conferences in which these teams play and you expect, sight unseen, the Buckeyes to be the physically dominant team. That was very much not the case today: Wichita State was every bit the athletic equal of the Buckeyes, with all the height, strength, quickness and bounciness of the more familiar Buckeyes. And you got the feeling right from the start that the Shockers new that. But the Buckeyes are used to playing against their athletic equals on a regular basis, while this was all new for the Shockers. After dominating for 30-some minutes, when the Buckeyes turned up the energy, the Shockers got flustered for a bit, but their athleticism allowed them to recover and fend off a late charge.
- Aaron Craft Exposed. The game plan for the Shockers on Craft was pretty clear: go under ball screens, give him looks at jumpers over a chance at penetration and go at him with the ball. And their game plan paid off. Craft did his a couple of his seven three-point attempts, but he missed all five of his two-point attempts and was at times a liability offensively, allowing the Shockers to sag off and clog up the lane. And defensively, on more than a couple occasions, Armstead blew by him on the way to the hole. Even more shockingly, when the Buckeyes finally started to show some pop, it was when Craft was on the pine for a brief two minute stretch. He came back on to help harass the Shockers into turnovers late, but this certainly wasn’t a great performance from the Buckeye point.
Star of the Game. Carl Hall and Cleanthony Early, Wichita State. Armstead had plenty of sizzle, scoring 14 at-times-spectacular points, but the fact is it took him 21 shots to do it. And down the stretch he was a huge part of the meltdown. And while, as we mentioned above, Cotton was nails down the stretch, it was really Hall and Early who set the tone early down low, proving they weren’t the least bit afraid of the Buckeyes or of the situation. Hall wound up with just eight points and four boards on the night, but swatted six shots and grinded it out down low against the Buckeye bigs. And Early came out of the gates swinging, scoring six of the Shockers first eight points and annoying DeShaun Thomas into a terrible start. It was their effort and fearlessness that got everything started for the Shockers.
Sights & Sounds. Feeding Off The Crowd. Despite making up probably 80% of t he non-neutral fans in the building, Ohio State fans were notably absent for the first 30 minutes or so. And when they did finally come alive at the urging of the Buckeye bench at around the nine minute mark in the second half, Ohio State finally, after stagnating for so long, began to play with some energy, reeling off a 7-0 run and getting some momentum on their side. Let this be a lesson to fans everywhere: you can effect a game and be a positive for your team, but you can’t do it sitting on your hands. You’ve got to bring your A-game too.
Quotable. “You can really get too high, you can’t get too low. I just try to keep calm and keep composed. I know my teammates have confidence in me, my coaches believe in me, so when I saw I was wide open, I just went up and shot it. I felt good shooting it and it went in.” – Tekele Cotton on the final shot
Wildcard. Happy Birthday Ron. It was Ron Baker’s 20th birthday, and wow what a birthday it was. Despite his dad’s claims that his sixth birthday when he got a new Tonka truck was his best birthday, Ron cleared up any confusion and confirmed that yes, this was as good of a birthday as any 20-year-old could ever expect to have.
What’s Next? Wichita State joins Pennsylvania (1979), LSU (1986), George Mason (2006), and Virginia Commonwealth (2011) as the only teams seeded nine of lower to advance to the Final Four. They’ll play the winner of tomorrow’s Louisville/Duke game and be a significant underdog, a role they are no unfamiliar with. Ohio State is done and it is likely the next time we watch the Buckeyes play, DeShaun Thomas will be earning an NBA paycheck. But, assuming LaQuinton Ross returns for his junior season (which is no guarantee after his draft stock skyrocketed on the strength of his last three games), the Buckeyes should again be a team favored to make big noise in the Big Ten.