Less than one month ago while absorbing a Senior Day loss to Wisconsin, the Ohio State men’s basketball looked like a team in disarray.
Saturday night, the Buckeyes became a team bound for the Final Four.
Four players hit double figures for Ohio State, led by Jared Sullinger’s 19 points, as Ohio State downed top-seeded Syracuse by a 77-70 final to capture the East Region in front of 19,026 in Boston’s TD Garden.
The Buckeyes now advance to New Orleans to take part in head coach Thad Matta's second Final Four in his eight seasons.
"We will see you in New Orleans," Matta told the Ohio State fans afterward while the Buckeye pep band played "When the Saints Go Marching In."
It was never easy, but Ohio State was the better team after the squads went to halftime tied 29-all. The Buckeyes quickly built a 10-point lead in the second half, then watched it ebb and flow but never disappear.
Lenzelle Smith Jr. continued his excellent weekend with 18 points while Deshaun Thomas had 14 and maligned senior William Buford added 13.
Ohio State (31-7) went ahead for good on two free throws by Buford, points that started a 13-3 run that gave OSU a 46-36 lead.
Syracuse got the lead down to one point twice with around seven minutes left, but Ohio State pushed it back to as much as eight in the final minute.
The Orange made the last few minutes harrowing, getting it down to a one-possession game at one point, but Ohio State was solid on its foul shots and iced the victory.
Sullinger’s final impact was amazing given he missed more than 13 minutes in the first half with foul trouble, but Ohio State played staunch defense in his absence and used gritty play to keep equally snakebit Syracuse within sight.
Afterward, Sullinger was named the most outstanding player of the regional, joining Smith and Thomas on the all-region team.
Ohio State will play the winner of tomorrow’s Kansas-North Carolina contest.