ST. LOUIS - During Ohio State's run in March the question was asked what would happen if the supporting cast did not show up. On Friday night the Ohio State nation found out as Evan Turner led the Bucks with 31 points but did not get anything in the way of support. Wayne Chism was unstoppable down low with 22 points and the Buckeye season came to an abrupt end with a 76-73 loss in the regional semifinals to Tennessee.
Ohio State was not without opportunities and despite squandering a seven point lead in the game and a couple of six point leads in the second half Turner had a pair of looks at the end to potentially send the game into overtime but there would be no last second heroics in River City.
"He got a decent look at it and it didn't go in and then he tried to get the four point play but we got it in the hands of who we wanted (to have it)." Ohio State head coach Thad Matta said.
The Vols dominated the paint taking the scoring edge 50-22 and outrebounded the Buckeyes by 12 boards including a 20-13 edge on the offensive glass. The tandem of Ohio State bigs (Dallas Lauderdale and Kyle Madsen) were not much of a factor on the offensive side combining for six points and pulling down nine rebounds.
"For some reason we just didn't have it whether it came down to rebounding or offensive execution or taking good shots or any of that," Lauderdale said. "We just weren't Ohio State today and I don't know why."
Some argument can be made that Ohio State was taken out of its rhythm early with David Lighty picking up two quick fouls in the first six minutes of the game. Jeremie Simmons played very well offensively in his stead with nine points on three triples but Ohio State had to sacrifice Lighty's defensive presence and even though the Buckeyes had a three point lead at the half the writing was on the wall of Ohio State inability to defend the Vols with any regularity.
"We just couldn't stop them," Ohio State guard William Buford said. "They were driving and kicking and getting to the rack and that is where they got most of their points, in the paint."
The Buckeyes had plenty of chances and held a lead in the second half by as many as six but while Turner was putting up 21 points in the half the rest of the team went ice cold and no Buckeye scored other than Turner until the 9:17 mark of the second half.
"My job is to make shots and I didn't make shots," Diebler said of his poor shooting performance.
Buford chipped in 15 points for Ohio State and was the only other player to score in double figures. But that didn't matter when the Vols started making their run and at the 7:20 mark the game was tied at 59-all and there was a feeling that things might not end up well for the Buckeyes.
Ohio State would go cold while the Vols would use the next three plus minutes to build a five point lead after a Chism bucket to make it 68-63 with less than four minutes to go. The Buckeyes had no answers to stopping Chism who added 11 boards (five on the O-glass) to his total.
"I don't know exactly what it was," Madsen said. "They were coming into the paint all night and I don't know that Chism was making so many straight up post moves as he was just getting rebounds and putting them back him and I think he did a heck of a job on the glass."
The Buckeyes did have time to make another run and after Lighty had a mini-run with a bucket and a three pointer (his only make of the night from distance) the Buckeyes took a two point lead with 2:17 to go and it seemed as if the Buckeyes had a chance to pull one out of the fire but nothing is that easy.
Diebler committed a foul on the very next possession on Chism and that put the big man on the line for the Vols and knotted the game back up at 70.
"I just saw a big guy handling the ball," Diebler said. "I haven't seen a replay but I didn't think that I fouled him but the official made the call and we have got to live with it. I probably shouldn't have reached but I saw a bigger guy handling the basketball and I thought I had a clean steal."
Chism would give the Vols a two point lead but Turner was not going to be denied and hit a three pointer from the top of the circle with less than 43 seconds left to give Ohio State a one point lead. But Ohio State's inability inside to stop the Vols would end up costing them yet again as Brian Williams would be in down low for the go-ahead bucket.
The Bucks would put together another shot and Turner got deep into the offensive corner but was unable to get a good look off and was forced to foul the Vols, who promptly hit two more FTs to go up by three.
Ohio State would have one more chance and opted not to call a timeout after the made free throws.
"One of Tennessee's things that they do well is the press on the inbounds," Matta said. "We were going to quick inbound and we set it up to what we wanted to do. They kind of pinned Evan on the sideline and the last thing I told Jon was the throwback (to Evan) could be there if they switch up."
Turner got the ball on the switch and launched a heavily contested shot that didn't go but the Bucks had a final chance with a second left and Turner couldn't get a miracle shot to go with a Tennessee defender in his face.
"I definitely liked the look that I got," Turner said. "I thought I was going to get a call or something. I like the look of the second one, it was just I saw one second on the clock and I turned and missed.
It was a bitter pill to swallow for Ohio State after so many people were saying that the team had a chance to go to the Final Four after the Midwest Region opened up.
"I just think about what we could have (done)," Lauderdale said. "We tried though."
Now all eyes will be on Turner's decision to go or stay with the Buckeyes. Buford said after the game that he was going to come back but not many people are expecting Turner to come back for his senior year. All things considered it was a special season for the Buckeyes.
"I told the guys that they are not going to realize it tonight and that it make take them a month or years to understand exactly what this basketball team accomplished throughout the course of the season," Matta said. "They did it the right way and played hard and acted right and I am proud of them and what they were able to accomplish."