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No. 1 Ohio State downs UTSA, 75-46

Courtesy: UTSA Athletics Communications
Release: 03/19/2011
Courtesy UTSA Athletics Communications
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (AP) — Close to home, Ohio State lived up to its No. 1 billing.

William Buford scored 18 points, freshman Jared Sullinger added 11 before getting some extended rest and Ohio State looked every bit the part of a No. 1 overall seed in rolling to a 75-46 victory against UTSA in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on 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.

Ohio State built a 16-point halftime lead, ballooned it to 38 in the second half and were never threatened by the No. 16 seed Roadrunners (20-14).

The blowout allowed Ohio State coach Thad Matta to rest his starters for Sunday's East Region matchup with George Mason, a 61-57 winner earlier in the day against Villanova.

Devin Gibson scored 24 points, 18 in the second half, to lead UTSA, which beat Alabama State on Wednesday night for the right to face the powerful Buckeyes, who are seeking their first National Championship since 1960.

Melvin Johnson III scored just five after getting a career-high 29 in UTSA's opening-round win.

Matta warned his players about what could happen if they weren't careful.

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.

They listened.

Ohio State's win makes No. 1 seeds 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 Tournament debut. Moments later, the fab frosh was joined on the sideline by seniors David Lighty, Buford and Jon Diebler, who made four 3-pointers and scored 14 points.

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

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

Head coach Brooks 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.

However, the Roadrunners began missing shots and the Buckeyes got hot. Make that 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 take 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 capable of slowing 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.

Johnson, who lit up Alabama State for 25 first-half points in Dayton, was held to three on 1-of-6 shooting in the opening 20 minutes.

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 started strong, making four of its first five shots, and reached the first television 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.


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