George Mason went into Sunday’s NCAA Tournament third-round game with Ohio State saying it wasn’t afraid to run with the Buckeyes.
Instead, the Patriots (27-7) got run over.
No. 1 overall seed Ohio State closed the first half on a 50-15 run, clinching a Sweet 16 berth with authority with a 98-66 win in front of a raucous sold-out crowd in Quicken Loans Arena.
"I'm obviously very proud of the way we played," head coach Thad Matta said. "This city's been great to us here this past weekend, and we're very excited to be moving on."
The Buckeyes move on to a matchup next Friday with fourth-seeded Kentucky in Newark, N.J. Ohio State has advanced to its second Sweet 16 in a row, but the goal will be to advance after losing last year in a regional semifinal to Tennessee.
"I think we have a whole different mind-set," senior Dallas Lauderdale said. "I think this time we're on a mission. The Sweet 16 is just a step on our mission to our main goal."
David Lighty was unstoppable in his hometown, canning 7 of 7 three-pointers – a school record for makes without a miss in a game – on the way to game-high honors of 25 points. Aaron Craft added a school-record 15 assists – the fourth most in NCAA Tournament history – while Jared Sullinger and William Buford had 18 points apiece and Jon Diebler added 13.
"I was a scorer in high school, so it kind of came up today," Lighty said. "Coach told me earlier this morning to save a couple for the game. I guess I took hold of that and just did it."
After the game, Lighty took his time leaving the court, gesturing toward the crowd after leaving a postgame on-court interview and then hugging family members for an extended period of time behind the OSU bench.
Eighth-seeded George Mason opened up an 11-2 lead in the early going, but Ohio State (34-2) turned up its play on both ends of the floor from there on the way to a 52-26 halftime lead.
The Buckeyes shot 63.3 percent (19 of 30) in the first half while making 9 of 12 three-pointers and pulling in eight offensive rebounds. George Mason shot only 37.0 percent (10 of 27) and made only one field goal in the last 10 minutes of the half – and that came with only 18 seconds left.
By the time it was over, Ohio State had made 16 of 26 threes, and its shooting percentage of 61.5 from beyond the arc set an NCAA Tournament single-game record.
Cam Long had 16 and Ryan Pearson 13 for George Mason.
The Patriots actually started the game looking like the upstart squad that grabbed the attention of the nation on the way to the Final Four five years ago – and used some late magic to down Villanova in Friday’s opener.
GMU used strong ball movement and good interior play to take an 11-2 lead, while their physical play on defense kept the Buckeyes to a 1-4 start with three turnovers.
The entrance of Craft into the game for Lauderdale helped turn things, though. On Ohio State’s first possession with Craft in the game, the freshman point guard fed Lighty for the first of five threes on five tries in the half.
OSU quickly turned up its defense as well, with Buford stealing the ball and going coast to coast to make it 11-7. Lighty then fed Sullinger for a dunk to make it 11-9 and then, after a Long turnover, hit a trey of his own to give OSU its first lead at 12-11.
Lighty answered a three by Pearson on OSU’s next possession to give the Buckeyes the lead for good, and from there it was pretty much a highlight reel for the Big Ten champions.
Craft’s vision and toughness led to perhaps the most impressive play. He appeared to be trapped along the sideline before whipping a pass some 35 feet to Sullinger underneath the basket for an and-one layup. When the big freshman made the free throw, OSU was up 29-22 and rolling.
The defense kicked in, too, as George Mason went on a stretch of almost 10 minutes in which it missed all nine of its shots and committed five turnovers.
"That's crazy," Buford said of the run. "Going on a 50-15 run, that lets you know that we were locking down on defense and taking great shots on offense."
The second half was merely an exhibition as freshmen Jordan Sibert and Lenzelle Smith Jr. got extensive playing time and Eddie Days was inserted for three minutes of time, much to the excitement of the crowd. Days, a senior walk-on, went to the line with 1:17 left and sank a free throw to bring the fans – who stayed en masse – and OSU bench to its feet.
The largest lead was 38 points at 87-49 with 7:39 to go.