Ohio State scored an improbable come-from-behind 85-84 victory against Tennessee in the South regional semifinal Thursday night to advance to the Elite Eight versus 2-seeded Memphis.
Down as many as 20 points in the first half, Ohio State turned a 17-point halftime deficit to a lead that was as much as four points in the second half.
The Buckeyes (33-3) trailed 49-29 heading into half. Freshman David Lighty scored a driving layup in the paint with one tenth of a second remaining as he was fouled to send Ohio State into the locker room down 49-32.
In the second half, the Buckeyes stormed back with a vengeance.
With Greg Oden plagued with three first-half fouls and Mike Conley also dangerously close to picking up monumental fouls, the Buckeeys took command in the second half by taking the ball to the basket. Senior Ron Lewis and Conley put their feet on the pedal and led Ohio State on a 21-8 run over the first eight minutes of the second half.
Just like that, Ohio State was trailing just 57-53.
Although Oden picked up his fourth foul with a little over 10 minutes remaining, causing OSU head coach Thad Matta to sit him on the bench, Lewis and Conley continued their dominance.
Picking up where they left off in an overtime win against Xavier last Saturday, Lewis scored 25 and Conley scored 17 to lift the Buckeyes.
After taking a 72-68 lead with 6:58 left on a Jamar Butler three-pointer, Tennessee wasn't quite left for dead.
Back-to-back Ryan Childress and JaJuan Smith threes gave the Volunteers a 74-72 lead. Sensing he couldn't wait any longer, Matta returned Oden to the lineup with just over four minutes left. He reacted by getting to the free throw line, canning two shots and getting Ohio State back to within 77-76 with 3:59 left.
Over the last four minutes, Matta traded offensive for defensive substitutions, dancing with fate in keeping his 7-1 center from picking up a fifth foul.
With their backs against the wall, Lighty came through again in the clutch. With 2:51 left and down three, Lighty drilled a three-pointer from the corner.
Tied 84 apiece with 38 seconds left after Ramar Smith made one of two free throws for the Vols, Conley again played hero. Holding the ball out top until the six second mark, Conley drove left of the paint and drew a Tennessee foul.
Making of two shots, Tennessee had a chance to win on the last possession. However, JaJuan Smith's runner at the buzzer was swatted away by Oden, and the ball fell to the floor as the buzzer sounding giving the Buckeyes another life.
Advancing to the Elite Eight against Memphis Saturday, just one step short of a Final Four in Atlanta, Ohio State will remember the Alamo.
It was going to be unforgettable one way or another but now Ohio State is glad to remember this one.