BOSTON - The final score of Thursday night's game doesn't tell the whole story of what went down at TD Garden with the Cincinnati Bearcats. Jared Sullinger and DeShaun Thomas each had more than 20 points as the Buckeyes squandered a 12-point halftime lead to trail by five before pulling away late for a 81-66 win to advance to the Elite Eight.
Sullinger recorded yet another double-double with 23 points and 11 rebounds while Thomas had a game high 26 points. Lenzelle Smith, Jr. had 15 points and Aaron Craft had 11. The Bearcats were led by Cashmere Wright and his 18 points while Sean Kilpatrick had 15 in a losing effort.
"We were able to make the plays we had to make down the stretch," Ohio State head coach Thad Matta said after the game. "When you play a team that is as multidimensional as Cincinnati is, it can take its toll on you."
The win moves Ohio State forward into the Elite Eight to take on Syracuse who made it with a 64-63 win over Wisconsin in the first game of the doubleheader.
Matta's team came out strong behind the play of Thomas and after a jump hook by the Ohio State leading scorer, opened up a 27-18 lead. Cincinnati was able to cut it to five before Thomas hit a pair of consecutive threes and pushed the lead back up to 11. A Sullinger tip-in with 1:16 left gave Ohio State it's 12 point lead going to the halftime locker room.
"(I had) my mind right," Thomas said. "Trusting in coach (Matta) and my teammates and hitting open spots. I was really good in that zone, flashing and kicking it down to Sully and jut getting in the open and just knocking down shots."
But things came unraveled in the 2nd half. By the 15:10 mark the lead was gone as JaQuon Parker hit a shot and trailed by as many as four on two occasions, last time after a Yancy Gates three point play (hoop/harm).
"We got down early, made a tremendous comeback," Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin said after the game. "At the end of the day, we didn't take care of the basketball."
And those turnovers were costly throughout the game. The Bearcats turned it over 18 times and Craft had six steals alone.
Craft gave the Buckeyes the lead, 53-52, at the 10:23 mark after a jump shot and then Smith Jr. and Craft his back-to-back threes to widen the scoring gap to eight points. The Buckeyes never really looked back after that point as Ohio State would go on a 17-1 run. A Kilpatrick three snapped the streak but the damage was done.
The Buckeyes now advance to the Elite Eight after two previous stumbles in the Sweet 16.
"It feels tremendous," Sullinger said. "Coach Matta has been through to two Sweet 16s where the train kind of stopped. Well, it did stop. And we wanted to make sure that this train was going to keep rolling."
The train now will face the No. 1 seed in the East with Syracuse. The Buckeyes and Orange faceoff on Saturday at 7:05 pm.