For the second straight year the Buckeyes are one win away from winning a post season tournament and while the Postseason NIT might not be nearly as glamorous as the NCAA tournament it doesn't diminish the run that Ohio State has been on through the post season. The Buckeyes (23-13) missed their first six shots of the game against Ole Miss (24-11) before opening up a lead as big as 27 points and then holding on for a few tense moments en route to a 81-69 win to advance to play UMass on Thursday night (7 p.m. EDT – ESPN).
Four Buckeyes scored in double figures with Jamar Butler and Evan Turner each going for 17 points while Kosta Koufos and David Lighty each going for 16 a piece. Butler appeared to be limping toward the end of the game but that didn't stop the senior captain from driving to the hole to extend the lead to nine points when the Buckeyes needed it down the stretch.
Chris Warren put the Rebels on his shoulders down the stretch hitting three big three-pointers to keep Ole Miss within hailing distances. Warren went for 19 points including five three pointers. David Huertas had five three pointers of his own to go for 16 points. Huertas gave Ole Miss their only lead of the game at 3-0 as the Buckeyes were stuck in neutral early including an Othello Hunter missed alley-oop drunk.
After the teams tied it up at 8-all early the Buckeyes started to turn it on with a 14-0 run that saw several Buckeyes get into the action. Ohio State would continue to pour it on through the half and stretch the lead out to 24 points with a 44-20 cushion. But nothing has come easy for this Ohio State team and a big lead would not be safe.
The Buckeyes would open the lead up to 27 points at three different occasions including a Hunter dunk to make it 49-22.
Ole Miss kept themselves in the game with 10-19 shooting from beyond the arc because the Rebels didn't have much success inside the paint with the Buckeyes recording 10 blocks (Hunter -5 , Koufos -2, Turner -1, Lauderdale 1, Lighty 1).
The Rebels would cut the lead to single digits at the 2:30 mark with a Warren three pointer but it was too little too late.
Next up for the Buckeyes will be the Minutemen of UMass who dispatched of Florida 78-66 in the first game of the double header. It won't be a rematch of the 2007 NCAA Championship game on Thursday but it will still be a chance to bring home a trophy for the winningest senior class in Ohio State basketball history.
Ohio State – Butler 17, Turner 17, Lighty 16, Koufos 16
Ole Miss – Warren 19, Huertas 16, Curtis 12, Williams 11
Ohio State – Koufos 8, Turner 7, Lauderdale 7, Hunter 6
Ole Miss – Curtis 15, Parnell 15, Polynice 4, Williams 4
Ohio State – Turner 5, Lighty 5, Butler 3
Ole Miss – Polynice 6, Warren 3
Ohio State - Hunter 5, Koufos 2
Ole Miss -3 tied at 1