Buckyes Overcome Sluggish Pace

When Ohio State prepared for Texas-San Antonio, it did so with the thought that it would be facing a team that would push the ball up and down the court. Instead, the Roadrunners brought the shot clock into play in an effort to pull off the upset. As the final score showed, it did not work.

Publicly, Texas-San Antonio had no plans to hold the ball in an effort to hang with top seed Ohio State. Privately, head coach Brooks Thompson knew better.

So it was that when the 16th-seeded Roadrunners took the court at Cleveland's Quicken Loans Arena in what amounted to a home game for the Buckeyes, they planned to bring the shot clock into play on every possession. For about seven minutes, it worked.

The end result, however, was what was expected: OSU 75, UTSA 46.

"I think we had to shorten the game as much as we (could)," head coach Brooks Thompson said. "It's hard to go out and try to play that way. You've got guys that are used to scoring and doing things, and our guys showed a great amount of discipline tonight to try to do that."

One day prior, however, the coach was singing a different tune. When a reporter pointed that teams like Northwestern had enjoyed success against OSU by bringing the shot clock into play on nearly every possession, Thompson joked that he is "not a good enough coach to coach that Princeton offense."

The early pace of the game took the Buckeyes by surprise.

"We thought they were just going to come in ready to run their regular offense," freshman guard Aaron Craft said. "We had to adjust to it. I think playing Northwestern twice helped us out. We knew what we had to do and we were able to adjust on the fly."

Although Northwestern finished its season 18-13, it lost both contests to the Buckeyes by a combined seven points by largely because the Wildcats held the ball as long as possible.

The fact that the Buckeyes were not initially prepared for the pace showed on the scoreboard as well. OSU trailed 9-7 for nearly three minutes before freshman forward Jared Sullinger tied it with 13:03 remaining. His basket was the start of a 16-4 run that pushed the Buckeyes out to a 23-13 lead. From there, UTSA would get no closer than eight on two more occasions and the lead would eventually stretch as high as 38 points.

On each possession, UTSA would dribble the basketball until 10 seconds remained on the clock before starting its offense. The Buckeyes found themselves being challenged mentally to stay in the game as the partisan crowd eventually began booing the approach.

"It does (drive you crazy), but you have to deal with it," OSU senior forward David Lighty said. "It's just about being ready. When a team attacks you, it's going to happen eventually. They're not going to just sit there and not shoot the ball. When they attack you you've got to be ready."

The 46 points marked a season-low scoring output for the Roadrunners. They would eventually ditch the approach in the second half, but by then it was too late to try and pull off the upset.

"We did slow the game down, but they just played calm and collected and they just took their time and go the best shot they could get," UTSA freshman forward Jeromie Hill said. "They just couldn't miss in the first half and had us on the back foot."

In the first half, the Buckeyes hit on 15 of their 24 shots – good for 62.5 percent – and assisted on 14 of those baskets. They led 37-21 at the break.

"You've got to dig in those last 10 seconds of that shot clock," Craft said. "They're going to make a shot here and there and you can't get demoralized. Go on offense and try to make shots. Try to get as big of a lead as you can because it's hard to hold the ball when you're down 10 or 12. I think we finally broke them open and they started running their regular offense."

Seated in their locker room, which normally serves as the home sanctum for the American Hockey League's Lake Erie Monsters, the Buckeyes pointed out that the key to beating such an approach is more than just making shots at the other end. Controlling the defensive glass and not allowing the opponent the chance to extend its possessions even further is paramount.

In the first half, OSU held a 15-7 rebounding advantage. The Buckeyes grabbed nine defensive boards while the Roadrunners were held to three offensive rebounds.

"(It's) very important because you can play defense for a minute and 10 seconds the way they were holding the ball," said Sullinger, who had a game-high nine rebounds. "We really had to focus on getting the rebounds."

Thompson said he has no regrets about his approach – "If I had to do it all over again, I'd do the exact same thing and just hope we guarded a little bit better," he said – but he said it is part of a plan that could help someone upset the Buckeyes.

"I think it can (work)," he said. "Obviously it didn't today."

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