Buckeyes bounce Gauchos in first round

MILWAUKEE – The Gauchos were determined to keep standout Evan Turner from ending their illustrious season.  What they didn’t plan for was a long-range downpour from a kid who was under the weather.

Buckeyes guard Jon Diebler overcame a stomach illness to score 23 points, including 7-12 from behind the arc, to lead No. 2-seeded Ohio State to a 68-51 victory over UCSB in this opening-round game of the NCAA Tournament.

The Buckeyes advance to Sunday’s second round game, where they will face No. 10-seed Georgia Tech.

“Tonight, I think we did a good job of penetrating the zone and getting into the middle of the floor,” said Diebler.  “Evan did a nice job of finding the open guy.”’

VIEW BOX SCORE

The loss cuts short the most successful season – and the first tournament berth – that the Gauchos have enjoyed since 2002.

Sophomore Orlando Johnson played valiantly in the loss, tallying 20 points on 8-17 shooting, including 14 crunch-time points in the second half.  Senior James Powell, in his final game for the Gauchos, hit three 3-pointers en route to 11 points.  But Ohio State’s defense was just too unforgiving, as no other Gaucho scored in double figures.

“We didn’t really have an answer,” said Gaucho head coach Bob Willaims. “They were able to handle our zone, get us spaced out, and get the ball moving ahead of us.  It caused us a lot of problems.”

The Buckeyes jumped out to a quick 11-3 lead, as UCSB was limited to long-range shots that were repeatedly unsuccessful.  A tentative Johnson started out 0-5 from the field, but broke out of the slump with a succession of lay-ups and leaners that capped off a 9-2 run to cut the Ohio State lead to one point.

But Diebler and the Buckeyes responded with a 14-1 run of their own, and headed into the intermission with a comfortable 30-17 margin.

Even Johnson was in awe of the Buckeye’s shooting performance: “My first reaction was, ‘Is he gonna miss?’ Every shot, he was so wide open.  They thrive for those opportunities.  He lived behind that line…Diebler made us pay.”

“We did a very good job of taking care of the basketball,” said Ohio State head coach Thad Matta.  “We got rolling.  We were shooting quick.  We wanted to force the tempo, up and down, as much as we could.”

Diebler played 40 minutes in the victory despite being unable to keep down food for the past two days.  “I didn’t realize he was sick.  That makes me feel a whole lot better,” joked Williams.  “He’s the first sick kid I’ve ever seen play 40 minutes in a game.”

Despite holding Turner to a 2-13 performance, the Gauchos never led in the game, and trailed by as many as 18 points in the closing moments.  Any attempt to get close was stopped down low by Buckeye forward Dallas Lauderdale, who tallied 12 rebounds and an intimidating 8 blocks to go with his 4 points.

But despite the loss, it was Johnson’s performance that caught Ohio State’s attention. “He’s a great player,” said Coach Matta. “We can live with him making tough [shots]. He is very physical.  His first step is so good, and the range he’s got.  We were trying to load up [on him] as much as we could.”

“I loved watching him in preparation,” he added. “He’s going to have a great future.”

The Gauchos shot only 32% from the field, and were out-shot 18-7 at the free-throw line.  The Buckeyes converted on 16 of those attempts.

When asked for his preparation for the off-season, Coach Williams offered, “There’s a lot to work with, and a lot to work on.  The number one thing they have to do is really be humble, now that they’ve had some success.  Then come back [next season] and try to get better.”

The Gauchos return all but two players on their roster next year, and are looking to build upon their impressive 2009-10 season when play begins again in October.

Speak Your Mind

*