When the former Xavier coach accepted a position at Ohio State, he had visions of championships and Final Fours in his mind. This afternoon, after two consecutive Big Ten Championships, Matta will get the bigger reward.
Ohio State closed out Memphis with a late surge - a developing trend for the Buckeyes, and grabbed a 92-76 win in the Elite Eight. The Buckeyes will now advance to Atlanta to play the winner of North Carolina and Georgetown on Saturday.
Something had to give in the first of four regional final showdowns this weekend. Memphis entered the game winners of 25 straight games. Meanwhile, Matta's Buckeyes won 20 in a row.
After needing two consecutive near-miraculous comebacks against Xavier and Tennessee, Ohio State decided to turn on the energy a bit earlier.
The Buckeyes jumped out to an early 8-0 lead over the first three and a half minutes thanks to tough defense. Ohio State turned three steals into outlet passes and easy layups on the other end.
However, the pesky Tigers didn't go away.
Memphis rode the hot hands of guards Willie Kemp and Jeremy Hunt in the first half. As a team, Memphis made 7-of-10 three-pointers. Hunt himself accounted for 16 first half points.
Sitting much of the first half, Ohio State took a precious 41-38 lead into halftime without 7-1 center Greg Oden. The freshman was plagued for a third straight game with foul trouble, getting two fouls called on him in the first 10 minutes.
Ohio State started the second half with fire.
A quick 4-0 run on a basket by Oden and then an outlet pass by the big man led to an alley-oop from Jamar Butler to Ron Lewis. Memphis head coach John Calipari was forced to call a quick timeout down 45-38.
But once again, Hunt delivered for the Tigers.
After Oden picked up a critical third foul with 17:21 left in the game, Memphis began attacking the Ohio State defense. Having problems stopping dribble penetration, Ohio State allowed Memphis to build a 58-54 lead with 11:26 left behind Detroit sophomore Chris Douglas-Roberts.
Forced to counter, Matta returned Oden to the lineup. The move paid immediate dividends.
With 9:43 left, the game's momentum swung Ohio State's way for good.
After a missed shot by Lewis, a tip went right to Mike Conley. Conley delivered a laser beam to his former high school teammate, Oden, who took the ball from the right baseline and made a shot as Andre Allen grabbed him. Allen was called for an intentional foul and the basket counted.
Oden was granted two free throws, one of which he canned. Because of the intentional, Ohio State was also given the ball where Butler drew a blocking foul and made two shots from the charity stripe. Within mere seconds, Ohio State had gone from being down 60-57 to being up 62-60.
From that point on, Ohio State slowly pulled away by drawing fouls. They fouled out Douglas-Roberts, Allen and had 6-9 junior forward Joey Dorsey in foul trouble. Ohio State outscored Memphis 26-12 over the last eight minutes to seal the trip to the Final Four.
The giant victory made "Goliath" look small. Dorsey drew attention Friday over comments made that Oden was overrated and it was like a David versus Goliath matchup - with Dorsey being Goliath.
Oden and Ohio State held Dorsey scoreless for the entire game, and he grabbed just three rebounds. Meanwhile, in just over 20 minutes, Oden had 17 points and nine rebounds.
Ohio State finished an incredible 35-of-41 from the free throw line, winning it going away. Lewis continued his strong senior run with another 22 points and six rebounds. Conley added 19 points.
As an unsung hero for the second straight game, David Lighty added 7 points and six rebounds. Lighty was involved in several critical plays in the first half when Ohio State needed a spark with Oden on the bench.
Hunt finished with 26 points in a losing effort for Memphis. Douglas-Roberts had 14 and Kemp 12.
Ohio State (34-3) will get a rematch one way or another. Either the Buckeyes can avenge a second round defeat in last year's NCAA Tournament against Georgetown or they'll get another shot this season at North Carolina - who defeated Ohio State 98-89 in Chapel Hill back in November.