INDIANAPOLIS - The Buckeyes lived by the run and ultimately died by the run in a game where the loss of Evan Turner was all too noticeable.
The Buckeyes were fueled by a 16-0 run in the first half to make a ten point deficit disappear, but in the second half Butler (7-3) ran off a 19-2 run that took a tie game into what looked like a blowout win. The Buckeyes, however, had one last run left in them and despite a 14-2 run to close it to three the Buckeyes couldn't close the door at the end and Butler won 74-66.
Four Buckeyes scored in double figures with William Buford leading the way with 20 points but Gordon Hayward led all scorers with 24 points and Willie Veasley registered a double-double with 15 points and ten boards.
Ohio State fell into an immediate hole in the game and was down by 11 points after a Hayward 3-pointer. Surprisingly enough the Buckeyes held Butler to 38-percent shooting in the first half but streaking play by the Bulldogs matched with inconsistent play by Ohio State put the Bucks in deep with an early deficit.
"When you are playing great teams you have got to sustain for 40 minutes and we just had a few too many letdowns." Ohio State head coach Thad Matta said.
The loss of Turner was evident in a couple of facets of the game. Ohio State didn't have a strong threat to drive the lane even though Lighty and Buford both tried to do that. That lack of a threat allowed the Bulldogs to extend the defense and take away Ohio State's 3-point threat. Jon Diebler was held to 1-4 from outside the arc and 7 points overall.
"It is just up to us to get him open," Lighty said. "They had somebody with him the whole game if you go watch it. It was like a box-and-one you could say, every screen, every post up, every play we ran someone was with him. We knew that was going to happen so it was just up to us to execute the plays that we drew up."
But the Buckeyes came roaring back with less than seven minutes to go in the first half with Buford and Lighty leading the way to a 16-0 run that was capped off by a Jeremie Simmons 3-pointer to erase a ten point deficit and give the Buckeyes a 34-28 lead at the time. The run put a charge into a small but vocal Ohio State contingent and was not indicative of how slow the team started off.
"Pretty much what we did was wake up," Dallas Lauderdale said. "We started out very sluggish and not playing the Ohio State way and I guess we just woke up at that point."
Ohio State would take a tenuous two point lead to the halftime locker room led by Lighty's 12 points. Everyone associated with the team knew that Lighty would have to step up in relief of Turner.
"If you go back and look at that tape from what I saw David Lighty played his ass off today," Matta said. "He was everywhere and I was very pleased with what he was capable of because he literally played nine positions out there today."
Slow played returned for the Buckeyes in the second half and that two point lead turned into a 17 point hole as the Buckeyes couldn't hit most of their shots and the Bulldogs were getting it done on the offensive boards and making their shots count.
"I think what we were trying to do was match their shots," Lauderdale said. "When they came down and hit a quick shot we really didn't run our offense we just wanted to fire back really quick without running our offense and doing what we do. I think that was the main problem when we weren't hitting those shots."
The Buckeyes were outrebounded by 17 boards and the Bulldogs held a 15-5 edge on the offensive glass. Lauderdale only grabbed four boards and was disgusted with himself after the game when it came to his effort on the glass.
"I didn't rebound well today," Lauderdale said. "I have got to get more rebounds and we all have to rebound the ball more, that is just the mentality… I shouldn't even be having this discussion with you about rebounding but I have got to step my rebounding game up."
"It is huge. (Rebounding) is going to be one of the keys, not just Dallas but he's an intricate part of it but he has got to be sort of who we are in that regard," Matta said.
When the Buckeyes fell down by 17 at the 4:32 mark everyone figured the game was all but over but the Buckeyes had that one last run left in them and the play of Buford was a huge factor in the run. What is all the more surprising about all of that is that there were some doubts that WB would even be able to go.
"I think the biggest thing is that we came in thinking we didn't know that Buford was going to play, he went down on Thursday morning and found out before tipoff that he was going to go and thank God he did," Matta said.
What exactly happened to the Ohio State guard?
"He was dribbling in a passing drill, stopped, turned and fell to the ground," Matta said. "(There was) no contact, we haven't touched anybody for the fear of injuries here in the last few days. So he was down and they tried to get him ironed out and he was moving a lot better last night but I didn't want to play him unless he was 100-percent today and he told me before that he felt good enough to go."
And the Buckeyes needed all 20 of Buford's points but could have used a few more when it all came down to it but the streaky Buford was able to heat up and make it a close game. But ultimately Ohio State did not have enough down the stretch but Buckeye fans had a memory of how Ohio State came back in its only other loss.
"We have done it before, we did it versus North Carolina in the game that we lost," Lighty said. "It is just up to us and we waited a little bit too long to start playing again in the second half and we just dug ourselves too big of a hole to come out of."
Turner is still somewhere around seven weeks from being able to make a return and the Buckeyes are going to have to get used to life without him on the floor.
"We all have to pick up the slack replacing 20-plus points, 13 rebounds and five assists," Lighty said. "If we all do it collectively that is something that will grow over time and make us a better team."
But even without Turner the Buckeyes did enough to impress many with their first go-around without their star.
"They are a good team with Evan Turner but they are a good team without him," Butler head coach Brad Stevens said.