Three Key Takeaways.
- Officiating was the story. We have tried for most of this NCAA Tournament to avoid criticizing the officials because it is a very difficult job and we cannot imagine what our jobs would be like if we had 10 million people overseeing us with the aid of HD cameras and replay, but the officials in the first half were atrocious. Early in the game, we assumed that the awful second foul that was called on Jared Sullinger with 13:42 left in the first half would change the tenor of the game and it did for a brief period, but then the officials really took over. By the end of the half, Syracuse had 12 fouls while Ohio State only had six. We would sympathize with Orange fans more, but the loss of Sullinger against the zone was huge as the second half demonstrated. Unfortunately, the questionable officiating carried over to the second half. It is unfortunate that a game with so much potential was marred by the officiating, but Syracuse was plagued with foul trouble for much of the second half. In the end it was too much for the Orange to overcome although the Buckeyes deserve credit.
- Syracuse was destroyed on the board. It has been a topic all year, but tonight the Orange were outrebounded by 13. While Sullinger had 7 rebounds, the Buckeyes were led by Deshaun Thomas and William Buford with 9 rebounds each. Baye Keita had 10 rebounds, but the rest of the Orange could only gather 16 rebounds combined. It is difficult to say that rebound did the Orange in with the officiating, but it certainly played a major role in their eventual demise.
- Sullinger is headed to the Final Four. Limited to just six minutes in the first half, Sullinger played the entire second half and came up huge. Coming into the game we figured that the Orange would not have an answer for him and although foul trouble in the first half prevented him from putting up a huge line he managed to finish with 19 points and 7 rebounds. For all the talk about Anthony Davis and Thomas Robinson it has been easy to forget about the Buckeye star, but he will be heard from in New Orleans. Whether or not the other two will join him is yet to be determined.
Star of the Game. Lenzelle Smith Jr., Ohio State. The forgotten sophomore (Sullinger, Thomas, and Aaron Craft) take all the headlines) came up huge today. He had 18 points including making 7-9 from the free throw line. The free throws at the end were particularly big when the Orange cut into the lead and Aaron Craft was on the bench leaving the Buckeyes vulnerable. Smith, a 59% free throw shooter on the year, made them when they counted and now Ohio State is headed to New Orleans.
Quotable. “No comment” – Jim Boeheim after the game and John Adams at halftime when asked about the officiating
Sights & Sounds. As you can imagine the crowd was all over the officials for the entire game. Surprisingly the language was kept PG. Maybe we are just used to big city crowds (or ones with a lot of college students), but the area we were sitting in (across from the Ohio State bench) heard very few expletives.
What’s Next? The Buckeyes march on to New Orleans where they will face either North Carolina or Kansas. In either case they will face a formidable front line, but if they draw the Tar Heels the point guard matchup, which will like be sans Marshall, will be very interesting with an untested point guard trying to bring the ball up against Aaron Craft.