After upsetting No. 7 VCU in Thursday's opening round, the No. 10 Ohio State Buckeyes faced No. 2 Arizona in the Round of 32 in Portland, Oregon. The last time these two teams faced each other in the NCAA Tournament was in 2013 when Ohio State hit a last-second shot in the regional semifinals. Last-second defeats to Thad Matta's team are nothing new for Arizona head coach Sean Miller who also lost to Ohio State on a last-second defeat in the 2007 tournament when Miller coached Xavier.
The game swayed back and forth for the majority of the first half. Arizona looked to be struggling against the Ohio State zone to start the game, but the Wildcats still finished the half leading the Buckeyes 26-25. In the second half, Arizona then stretched its lead to ten while holding Ohio State without a point for three-plus minutes. Ohio State would cut its deficit to eight, but Arizona answered with a 7-0 run and never looked back. The Wildcats took down the Buckeyes 73-58 and will face the Xavier University Musketeers in the West Regional semifinals Thursday in Los Angeles.
So, what did we learn from the final game of Ohio State's 24-11 season?
What We Learned
Ohio State Relies on Russell
It was a battle of freshmen of the year between Arizona's Pac-12 Freshman of the Year Stanley Johnson and Ohio State's Big Ten Freshman of the Year D'Angelo Russell. However, neither player really showed off their credentials in Saturday's game. Unfortunately for the Buckeyes, there was no one to pick up for Russell's lack of contribution. Russell scored 28 points in his NCAA Tournament debut in Ohio State's overtime win against VCU. But, the likely lottery pick, who wore a bandage to cover the five stitches he received above his left eye after taking an elbow against the Rams, only scored nine points and made just 3 of 19 shots against the Wildcats. In what was probably his final collegiate game, Russell did have seven rebounds and six assists.
New Defense Not Effective When It Counts
Thad Matta had his team try something relatively new against the Wildcats, and it did not pay off. The Buckeyes could not match the Wildcat's size, so instead presented them with a 2-3 zone defense. Arizona struggled against the Ohio State defense to start the game; however, Gabe York and the Wildcats figured out their shooting stride at halftime to bust the Buckeye defense, which is what ultimately put the game out of reach. York came off the bench to go 5 for 9 from behind the arc. He hit four 3-pointers during the opening stretch of the second half and hit another to help Arizona go up 59-44 with 6:34 to play.
No matter what Ohio State tried, Arizona's size was too much to handle. The Buckeyes put up a good fight, but without the leadership and dominance of their star guard D'Angelo Russell, they were not the same team that could have very much so beaten the No. 2 seed and advanced to its fourth Sweet 16 in five years.