MILWAUKEE - The Ohio State Buckeyes were expected to roll past the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, and that is exactly what happened. Ohio State controlled the game from the opening tip, and behind the strong play of they pulled away for a convincing 68-51 win.
Ohio State knew that they were going to have an advantage on the perimeter with their size and skill, and that was apparent early on. David Lighty converted a pair of free throws to being the scoring, and then a tremendous up and under reverse layup from William Buford followed, and like that the Buckeyes were rolling.
The momentum continued for Ohio State, and eventually the lead would reach 13-3 before the Gauchos would go on a run. When UCSB did make their run it was behind the play of 7-foot-3 Greg Somogyi. The big man off the bench for the Gauchos blocked and altered shots on defense, and then converted down low on the offensive end.
Still even with Somoygi playing lights out, the Bucks never let them get even. UCSB's run stopped at 9-0 with the score 13-12, after that it was time for Jon Diebler to take control. The Ohio State marksman hit four first half threes on his way to a team high 14 points.
With Diebler on fire from three, the rest simply fell in line. Ohio State opened up a 13 point lead at the break with a 30-17 edge. Even with that double-figure lead, and OSU holding the momentum, the Bucks were never quite able to bury UCSB.
UCSB was able to cut down the lead to eight on a pair of occasions early in the second half, and the reason why is likely player of the year Evan Turner was struggling mightily. With the Gauchos playing in your face pressure defense on Turner he wasn't able to get untracked, and along with that his shot was simply not falling as usual. Without Turner, the Buckeyes had to continue to rely on Diebler and Buford in the second half.
A Diebler three with 16:48 remaining in the game kick started the Buckeyes in the run that would give them the separation needed to breath fairly easily. In the run center Dallas Lauderdale converted on two dunks, and then Lighty hit a three, and just like that the lead would be at 15.
The Gauchos wouldn't go down without a fight, but never were they able to cut the lead below double figures. Every time they would make a mini run, Buford or Diebler would hit a big shot, and before the final media timeout Turner finally scored going to the bucket to give OSU an 18 point edge at 64-46.
Ohio State would continue to maintain a solid lead on the scoreboard despite not being able to significantly out rebound or put away the Gauchos. As the final buzzer sounded the Buckeyes went home happy with a 68-51 win.
Leading the way for Ohio State was Diebler with 23 points, and he was joined in double figures by Buford with 16 of his own.
Ohio State will next face the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets on Sunday afternoon at 2:20 pm Eastern Time as the first game of a double header from the Bradley Center.