Buckeyes Fall To Creighton In Guardians Final

J.J. Sullinger scored 16 points and Ivan Harris had 11, but the Bluejays prevailed 65-63 in overtime. The loss was OSU's first in five games this season under first-year head coach Thad Matta. Click this free link for more.

Ohio State tasted defeat for the first time in the Thad Matta era, and the loss came in heartbreaking fashion.

Creighton got a 9-foot jump shot from Tyler McKinney with 4.2 seconds left in overtime to pull out a 65-63 win over Ohio State in the championship game of the Guardians Classic Wednesday night in Kansas City, Mo.

OSU (4-1) had built a nine-point lead midway through the second half. But Creighton surged ahead in the final minute before J.J. Sullinger's rebound basket with 8.6 seconds left tied the game at 57-57 and sent the game to overtime.

In the overtime, Creighton went ahead 62-57 before OSU's Tony Stockman hit a long three with 29.6 seconds left and an 18-foot jumper with 15 seconds left to help tie the game at 63-63. But Creighton brought the ball down without calling a timeout and McKinney dribbled around the OSU defense to the left side of the lane. His turnaround jumper turned out to be the game winner.

OSU had one last possession after a timeout, but Stockman's 25-footer to try and win it from the right wing was short of the mark.

"We shot ourselves in the foot too many times," Matta told WBNS-AM. "You can't do that against a really good basketball team. I have said this before, but this team is nowhere near where it needs to be. We messed up some major defensive possessions down the stretch."

Matta's Buckeyes had won their first four games by margins of 17 or more against inferior competition. But Creighton, one of the top mid-major programs from the Missouri Valley Conference, hung around all night before snatching the game at the end.

"I'm not down," Matta said. "We just need to continue to grow. We need games like this. A game like this should make us a better basketball team. We need to learn from it and get ready to go again."

McKinney and Antony Tolliver led Creighton with 13 points each. The Bluejays hit 44.4 percent of their shots from the floor (24 of 54) and were 12 of 20 (60 percent) at the foul line.

OSU was mired in foul trouble with center Terence Dials missing large portions of each half. Sullinger led OSU with 16 points, while Ivan Harris had 11. Stockman and Je'Kel Foster each had nine points with Foster going 3-of-4 from behind the three-point arc. Dials had eight points, Brandon Fuss-Cheatham scored seven and Matt Sylvester had three.

The Buckeyes made 46.6 percent of their shots from the floor (27 of 58), but were just 2 of 7 at the foul line.

"I think we learned the whole composure factor," Matta said. "If we just make our free throws tonight, we win the ballgame."

Harris had nine of his points and Sullinger scored six in the first half as OSU led 29-27 at halftime. The Buckeyes actually enjoyed a 29-21 lead after Foster hit a three with 4:53 left in the half. But OSU was 0 for 5 from the floor the rest of the half, allowing Creighton to rally. Nate Funk's driving layup with one second left cut the lead to two.

OSU got the lead back up to 38-31 on a Foster three-pointer with 13:41 left. A Foster three with 10:24 left and a Sylvester trey with 8:38 left gave OSU its biggest lead at 46-37 with 8:38 left.

But Creighton went on a 9-2 run to tie the game at 48-48. The key sequence saw Fuss-Cheatham miss a pair of free throws with 7:33 left. Creighton's Johnny Mathies drilled a three at the other end with 7:17 left. Then, it appeared Stockman and Fuss-Cheatham misconnected on the inbounds pass. McKinney stole it, drove to the basket, made the layup and was fouled. His free throw cut the OSU lead to 46-43 with 7:06 left.

"We have an (nine-)point lead there, but we miss two free throws and they scored six points in a matter of seconds," Matta said. "We don't get matched up (on the Mathies three) and then we turn it over on the inbounds pass."

Creighton drew even at 48-48 on Johnny Day's baseline jumper with 4:48 left.

OSU still led 53-51 when Sylvester was whistled for a charge with 1:19 left. At the other end, OSU left Dane Watts wide open underneath. He got free for a dunk and was fouled by Dials. His free throw put Creighton ahead 54-53 with 1:02 left.

Dials then missed the front end of a one-and-one with 42.3 seconds left. OSU fouled McKinney – a career 92 percent free throw shooter – and he made both to put Creighton up 56-53 with 30.4 seconds left.

Sullinger then made a driving shot into the key with 24.2 seconds left. Creighton's Kellen Miliner opened the door for OSU when he made just 1 of 2 free throws for a 57-55 edge with 23.7 seconds left.

OSU tied the game with Sullinger's third-chance rebound basket with 8.6 seconds left. Miliner had the ball at the end of regulation, but was unable to get a potential game winning shot off.

Creighton took advantage of two Fuss-Cheatham misses and a Stockman turnover to build a 62-57 lead in overtime. But OSU rallied. Sullinger hit 1 of 2 free throws with 1:20 left. McKinney then missed a three-pointer out of bounds with 44 seconds left. Stockman canned a long three-pointer with 29.6 seconds left when nobody came out on him to cut it to 62-61.

OSU then fouled McKinney in the backcourt, but the 92 percent shooter made just 1 of 2 with 27.6 seconds left. Foster rebounded the miss. Stockman did not hesitate, stepping just inside the three-point arc and drilling his 18-foot jumper to tie the game at 63-63 with 15 seconds left.

But McKinney made the play of the game. He dribbled from high on the right side to the left wing. OSU's Harris stepped out to cut McKinney off, but Fuss-Cheatham was late recovering through a screen. McKinney drove ahead to an open area left of the lane, stopped and hit a turnaround jumper over Dials to win it with 4.2 seconds left.

OSU called a timeout, but all the Buckeyes got was Stockman's long try under pressure just before the final buzzer.

The Buckeyes have little time to stew. They return home to host Chattanooga (1-0) Saturday at St. John Arena. The Mocs opened with a 113-52 rout of Toccoa Falls last Saturday. That will be OSU's sixth game in a 13-day stretch.

"My main focus is getting these guys some rest and getting ready to go Saturday night," Matta said.

The game will be OSU's first men's game in St. John Arena since February 1998. It was moved from Value City Arena because of a scheduling conflict with the Sesame Street Live show.

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