CLEVELAND - David Lighty and the three other graduating seniors received their diplomas in a mock graduation ceremony Sunday afternoon.
The real show had yet to begin.
While saying goodbye to his hometown crowd consisting of friends and family, Lighty capped off a memorable day by completing perhaps the most electrifying individual performance of his career.
Tying his career-high with 25 points, the Cleveland-native knocked down all seven of his 3-point shot attempts in Ohio State's 98-66 win over George Mason Sunday night in Quicken Loans Arena.
"Just my family and friends," said Lighty while describing his emotional exit from the floor after the game. "I mean, just being here in Cleveland, playing in front of them, it being graduation day, and you never know, I might not be able to come back and play in front of them.
"So just for them to experience this moment with me is something that's always going to be close to my heart. And I just pretty much tried to console them and tell them how thankful I am of them."
Perhaps the worst news for George Mason was Lighty's teammates were equally impressive, helping the top-seeded Buckeyes advance to its second Sweet 16 in as many years.
The No. 8 seed Patriots - affectionately referred to as the "Cinderella" of the tournament after making an improbable run to the Final Four in 2006 - jumped out to a quick 11-2 lead.
But sparked by Lighty's first 3-pointer, Ohio State (34-2) turned up the heat. And it wouldn't cool down for the remainder of the contest. Shooting 63 percent in the first half, Lighty's first shot from beyond the arc sparked Ohio State's 10-0 in response to George Mason's initial burst.
Backed by that run, Ohio State out-scored George Mason 50-15 to close out the first half, effectively ending any chance at another magical run for the Patriots five years later.
"We had a talk last night and I just knew he was going to have a big game," said junior guard William Buford. "We spoke about how he was home and how he had to be more aggressive. I knew Dave was going to come out and have a big performance."
Ohio State freshman point guard Aaron Craft finished with a school-record 15 assists - which was also the third most ever in the NCAA Tournament - and Jared Sullinger and Buford each scored 18.
Adding Jon Diebler's 13 points, Ohio State finished the game having shot 16-for-26 from beyond the arc. The feeling in the arena was reminiscent of the Buckeyes final regular season win against Wisconsin in which the team shot 14-of-15 from long range.
"This team can shoot," Diebler said. "We have done this before and when we're playing well we are really tough to beat. It was just one of those nights where shots were falling and we just continued to get them to fall for us."
The score seems unbelievable. The record books have been opened.
Ohio State's 16 3-pointers were only two short of the most made in a single game, falling shy of the 18 the Buckeyes scored in 2005 at Louisiana State. The Buckeyes shot better from beyond the arc (16-of-26) than they did from the free throw line (10-of-18).
Lighty's seven 3-pointers tied the Ohio State record for most made in a single NCAA Tournament game set by Diebler in last year's first-round win over UC-Santa Barbara.
"To see him play like that, you know and I think just the whole in Cleveland, graduation, you know, as close as David and I are, I couldn't be happier or proud of him," Ohio State head coach Thad Matta said.
George Mason was without standout guard Luke Hancock, who was back at the team hotel while suffering with symptoms of influenza. It likely wouldn't have mattered.
The Patriots were led in scoring by Cam Long, who scored 16 points, and Ryan Pearson, who added 13.
Ohio State - who had perhaps the most dominant first two games of the tournament after outscoring its opponents by 61 points - will now advance to Newark, N.J. to take on No. 4 seed Kentucky on Friday in the Prudential Center.
"We're really happy we were able to come out here and take care of business," said senior Dallas Lauderdale. "But our journey is far from over."