Last night the Buckeyes fell short in their bid for the Elite 8, falling to Tennessee 76-73. It was a tough, back-and-forth game, but ultimately Tennessee’s outright dominance of the boards, free throw shooting, and flypaper defense on Buckeye sharpshooter Jon Diebler carried them to a narrow victory. The Volunteers deserve credit for playing a tough game, beating a very good team, and earning their first trip ever to the Elite 8.
As for Ohio State, we hoped they would win, but they didn’t — and now their season is suddenly over. Although it ended with a loss (a result that will happen for all but one team in the NCAA Tournament) that fact should not detract from an excellent season.
Evan Turner, who played his heart out last night, clearly is one of the best players in the country. Buckeyes fans will long remember his excellent play this year and his gritty and speedy return from a serious back injury; we will recall with special relish his last-second three-pointer to stun Michigan in the Big Ten Tournament. William Buford and David Lighty both stepped up their games this year, on both the offensive and defensive ends of the court, all the while playing virtually every minute of every game for the short-handed Buckeyes. Dallas Lauderdale also improved his game and was an intimidating shot-blocking force on defense. And although Jon Diebler had a difficult game last night, his pinpoint three-point shooting was a key ingredient that helped propel Ohio State on its end-of-the-season run to a share of the Big Ten regular season championship, the Big Ten Tournament title, and the Sweet 16 in the 2010 NCAA Tournament.
Kudos, too, to Coach Thad Matta and his staff for producing an exciting season and a team of young men who were fine representatives of The Ohio State University. Coaching at the major college level is not easy — Coach Matta just makes it look that way.