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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Arizona battles Ohio State with Sweet 16 berth at stake

Rebecca Noble

Ohio State guard D’Angelo Russell (0) drives to basketball during Ohio State’s 75-72 win against Virginia Commonwealth during the first found of the NCAA Tournament in the Moda Center in Portland, Ore. on Thursday.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Arizona men’s basketball faces a familiar foe on Saturday afternoon, for a spot in the Sweet 16.

On Saturday at 2:15 p.m. MST on CBS, the No. 2 seed Wildcats (32-3) play No. 10 seed Ohio State (24-10) in the third round of the NCAA Tournament. The winner will play in the Sweet 16 in Los Angeles.

The Buckeyes beat Arizona 73-70 in the 2013 Sweet 16 in Los Angeles.

Arizona junior guard Gabe York didn’t play in the 2013 game but still felt the pain.

“For me it was tough because I saw how sad my teammates were, I wasn’t playing,” York said. “So I keep that in the back of my mind, but at the same time I just want to go out and play well.”

Then Ohio State forward LaQuinton Ross hit a game winning three with two seconds to go to finish a game that saw the Wildcats led by as much as 11 and the Buckeyes by as much as 10.

“I remember it being a game of runs,” Ohio State forward Sam Thompson said. “I think we started off pretty slow in the first half, then I think we were able to put a run on them in the second half. Then they came back again and tied it up. We know they’re a great team. We know that. They still have a few guys left from that team that played a few years ago.”

Arizona coach Sean Miller said the Buckeyes are much different than they were in 2013. That season OSU was a two seed and made it to the Elite Eight.

“Although there’s some similarities in the way Ohio State may play this year, there’s also some striking differences,” Miller said. “We’ve just tried to better prepare our entire team regardless of the style, but in particular those 3-point shooters who are frontcourt players can really change the game.”

Arizona center Kaleb Tarczewski, the only remaining UA starter from the 2013 game against the Buckeyes, said revenge is not a consideration.

“We’re just focused on winning, we just want to play our best basketball, the past is in the past,” Tarczewski said.

The Buckeyes are led by Thad Matta, who worked with Miller at Miami of Ohio and had Miller on his coaching staff when Matta was Xavier’s head coach.

Matta is 2-0 against Miller, having beaten Miller when he was Xavier’s head coach in 2007 in the NCAA Tournament as well.

Interestingly, the winner of Arizona’s game against Ohio State could play against Xavier in the Sweet 16. The sixth seeded Musketeers play No. 14 Georgia State for a spot in the Sweet 16 against the UA/OSU winner.

“It’s definitely going to be fun,” Tarczewski said. “There is a little bit of familiarity.”

This year’s Buckeyes are 40th in RPI and went 11-7 in the Big Ten conference. Ohio State made it to the third round by beating No. 7 seed VCU 75-72 in overtime right after Arizona beat No. 15 seed Texas Southern 93-72.

On Thursday Ohio State used a zone defense for the first time in months.

“I know that defense against VCU seemed to be effective,” Miller said. “I’m certain they’ll at least show it or play it for a portion of the game against us. We have to be patient. Like everything with Ohio State in terms of their defense, they’re very deceptive in how they turn their opponent over.”

Against VCU, the Buckeyes only used one player over 6-7, center Amir Williams, who had 13 points and two rebounds.

Thompson said they went small against VCU out of necessity.

“We obviously had different personnel than we had a couple years ago,” Thompson said. “The principles are still the same.”

Six-foot-nine forward Brandon Ashley said that the Wildcats can deal with the Buckeyes if they go small or even with him and the seven-foot Tarczewski playing together.

“We’re more equipped and ready to handle something like that this year with our smaller lineup as well,” Ashley said. “Even with me at the four and Kaleb at the five, I think we’re better equipped to handle that.”

Ohio State guard D’Angelo Russell scored 28 points in the win over VCU. The freshman is a first team All-American and leads the Buckeyes in scoring, rebounding and 3-pointers made.

“The first thing that comes to mind obviously is he’s a top-five pick for sure,” Arizona point guard T.J. McConnell said. “He scores in bunches. You let him get hot, I don’t think there’s a very good chance that you can beat Ohio State. He makes their team go.”

Ohio State is playing in its 27th NCAA Tournament and have gone 49-25 all-time in the tournament. They have won one national championship (1960), finished second four times and made the Final Four 10 times.

Arizona is 0-2 against the Buckeyes all-time, having also lost to OSU in 1971 in Los Angeles.

While Ohio State has won five of their last seven games, the Wildcats have won 12 in a row and 18 of their last 19.

“They’re a great basketball team, but I think we match up really well with them,” York said. “I don’t think they have a lot of size in the frontcourt, so if we get their bigs in foul trouble, I think that will be an advantage for us and I hope that they play a lot of zone.”


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