Ohio State Basketball: Greatest Buckeyes Highlights from the Past Decade

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistAugust 13, 2013

Ohio State Basketball: Greatest Buckeyes Highlights from the Past Decade

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    While the early 1960s still stands as the golden era of Ohio State basketball, the consistent winner that Thad Matta has built in Columbus has made the past decade something of a silver era.

    No Big Ten team has won more regular-season or conference tournament titles during the past 10 years than the Buckeyes, and the Scarlet and Gray are now regular Final Four contenders.

    This level of success is bound to come with a number of highlights, and that has certainly been the case. Read on to see 10 of the best Ohio State basketball highlights in the past decade.

Evan Turner’s Game-Winner

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    Evan Turner’s final season in Columbus was one of the most memorable in program history (more on that later). But one moment in particular during that National Player of the Year season stands out in the minds of Buckeye Nation.

    Ohio State was the No. 1 seed in the 2010 Big Ten tournament but found itself in a dogfight against archrival Michigan in the quarterfinals. Any potential at a top seed in the NCAA tournament the next week would disappear with an upset loss in that game.

    With a mere two seconds remaining, the Scarlet and Gray trailed Michigan by two points. The situation appeared dire until Turner took the inbounds pass, glided across half court and launched the shot that every kid with a basketball in his or her hands dreams about growing up.

    It was the ultimate thrill for a Buckeye fan—an exhilarating victory for the good guys and a heartbreaking defeat for the Wolverines.

Aaron Craft and LaQuinton Ross One-Up Each Other

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    The 2013 NCAA tournament ultimately ended in heartbreaking disappointment for Ohio State, thanks to an Elite Eight upset loss at the hands of Wichita State, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t some memorable highlights along the way.

    In the Buckeyes' second game, they found themselves pitted against an underrated and dangerous Iowa State squad, and their leader Aaron Craft was struggling down the stretch. Yes, he drew a critical charge, but turnovers and missed jump shots were plaguing the point guard’s game.

    And then in an instant, he went from potential goat to hero with a buzzer-beating three-pointer to win the game. The fact that he waved off the Big Ten’s leading scorer in Deshaun Thomas only made the three that much more impressive.

    The wild ride wasn’t over for the Buckeyes because the very next game they found themselves tied once again in the final moments. This time it was LaQuinton Ross, who made the NCAA tournament his personal breaking out stage, who buried the game-winning dagger against Arizona in the Sweet 16.

    We are only treated to a couple of buzzer-beaters every tournament, and the fact that Ohio State provided two consecutive game-winners was quite memorable.

Duke Beatdown

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    While the basketball team continues to get more and more support every year that Thad Matta is on campus, Ohio State rarely ever gets “football-level” excited for a game on the hardwood. That certainly wasn’t the case heading into a showdown with Duke early in the 2011-12 season.

    Fans lined up outside the Schottenstein Center for days before the game (perhaps reveling in the news that Urban Meyer had been named the football coach that week, too) ready to take on everyone’s favorite college basketball team to hate. Even LeBron James and Dwyane Wade were courtside to take on the proceedings.

    The Buckeyes jumped out to an 11-0 lead and never let the Blue Devils take a breath. Ohio State won in convincing 85-63 fashion behind an incredibly balanced effort. Jared Sullinger scored 21, William Buford had 20, Deshaun Thomas had 18 and Aaron Craft scored 17.

    The win gave the Big Ten a victory in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge and solidified Ohio State as one of the national title favorites for the rest of the year. While the Buckeyes ultimately fell short of the championship, this was one of the most memorable regular-season wins in program history.

Matt Sylvester Shocks the Nation

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    There have been Final Fours and Big Ten championships during Thad Matta’s tenure at Ohio State, but the argument can be made that the Buckeyes’ victory over Illinois in March of 2005 was the biggest of his career.

    Ironically, it was during a season when the Scarlet and Gray were ineligible for the postseason. It was the last game on the schedule, and Illinois was undefeated. A mediocre Buckeye squad was all that stood in the way.

    The Illini jumped out to a double-digit lead by halftime, but Ohio State gradually chipped away. Down by only two with seconds remaining, Matta decided to go for the win.

    Matt Sylvester, who had the game of his life, drilled a three-pointer to give the Buckeyes the lead. Illinois’ desperation shot fell short, and Matta picked up his first of many big wins at Ohio State.

    It was a win that put the program on the map and kicked off a stretch that saw the Buckeyes win conference title after conference title and reach two Final Fours.

William Buford’s Redemption

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    William Buford was always underappreciated during his time in Columbus. Often overshadowed by superstars like Jared Sullinger and Evan Turner, Buford quietly went about his business and ended his career as one of the top five scorers in Ohio State history.

    He was inconsistent at times, but he had his moment of glory in East Lansing in the final regular-season game of the 2011-12 campaign.

    The Buckeyes needed a big road win to win the Big Ten title, and Michigan State jumped out to an early double-digit lead. Ohio State gradually chipped away and found itself tied with merely seconds remaining on the clock.

    But it wasn’t Sullinger or Aaron Craft who took the final shot; it was Buford. The senior, who had his senior night at home ruined by Wisconsin the previous week, ruined the Spartans’ senior day with a beautiful jumper from the top of the key.

    It was a critical shot that gave the Scarlet and Gray momentum heading into a postseason that saw them qualify for the Final Four.

Ron Lewis, Buckeye Hero

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    The storylines were basically writing themselves in the final moments of the second-round matchup between Ohio State and Xavier in the 2007 NCAA tournament.

    The Goliath sports program in the state of Ohio was about to be upset by a hypothetical in-state David—an overlooked squad from the Atlantic 10 that was not intimidated in the least by the Buckeyes.

    Throw in the fact that Thad Matta left the Musketeers to come coach at Ohio State and his understudy Sean Miller was orchestrating the win, and it was too much for Buckeye fans to bear.

    However, Xavier missed a free throw that would have put the game on ice in the final seconds, and Ron Lewis proceeded to drill one of the gutsiest three-pointers in Ohio State history. The thrilling shot put the game into overtime, where the Buckeyes cleaned up behind impressive play by Mike Conley Jr.

    The moment was made all the more memorable considering Gus Johnson was able to deliver his typical excitement on the play-by-play.

Greg Oden Swats Away the Vols

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    Following Ohio State’s narrow escape in the second round against underdog Xavier, the assumption was that the No. 1 seed would be ready to go from the start against Tennessee in the Sweet 16.

    That was far from the case.

    The Volunteers jumped out to a seemingly insurmountable 20-point lead in the first half and appeared ready to cruise to the Elite Eight. Down 17 at the break, the Buckeyes came storming out of the locker room with a 16-5 run. Suddenly we had a ballgame, and with 6.5 seconds left, Mike Conley Jr. gave Ohio State the narrowest of leads.

    The Vols took the ball the length of the floor and appeared to have a good look to win it at the buzzer when Greg Oden came out of nowhere to swat away Tennessee’s hopes.

    That “Thad Five” team may have set the lifespan of Buckeye fans everywhere back a few years with its heart-stopping, back-to-back wins against Xavier and Tennessee, but that’s the beauty of March Madness.

No. 1 vs. No. 2

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    On Feb. 27, 2007, Ohio State fans who packed the Schottenstein Center got the rare opportunity to witness history. The No. 1-ranked Wisconsin Badgers were in town, and it was the first time in Big Ten history that the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the country faced off against each other in a regular-season conference game.

    While there weren’t a lot of offensive fireworks, the game didn’t disappoint in terms of intensity level. It was a traditional Big Ten slugfest, and the Badgers held a 48-47 lead with seconds remaining.

    Mike Conley Jr. split the defense and hit a floater with four seconds left. Ron Lewis swatted away Wisconsin’s final shot (although the Badgers made a shot that didn't count because Bo Ryan called timeout) and Buckeye Nation fled the floor in celebration.

    It gave the Buckeyes the Big Ten title and another victory in what would be a 22-game winning streak before ultimately falling to Florida in the national championship.

Final Four-Bound Times Two

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    Ohio State has been to two Final Fours in the past decade, each of which required impressive victories over Big East powers in the Elite Eight.

    In 2007, the Buckeyes matched up against Georgetown in what was billed as a big-man showdown between Greg Oden and Roy Hibbert. While both centers found themselves in foul trouble for much of the game, the contest did not disappoint.

    Ohio State jumped out to an early lead and held on during a back-and-forth affair. Ironically, the game’s best highlight may have been a missed dunk by Oden, which saw the Buckeye center sky through the air from the free-throw line before slamming the ball off the back rim.

    In 2012, Thad Matta’s squad had to deal with Syracuse’s 2-3 zone on the way to college basketball’s final weekend. The game was tight the majority of the way, but the Buckeyes pulled away late in the second half despite some issues on the free-throw line down the stretch.

    It marked Ohio State’s 11th Final Four, which is sixth all-time.

Evan Turner Takes off at Purdue

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    The earliest memory that sticks out about Evan Turner’s National Player of the Year 2009-10 season was the Buckeye star writhing on the floor in pain after breaking his back against Eastern Michigan in December.

    There was legitimate fear that Turner would be out for quite some time (and more importantly would be affected off the court with broken vertebrae), but he returned only a handful of games later. But it was a trip to No. 6 Purdue when Ohio State was a mere 1-3 in Big Ten play that Turner really returned to the college basketball spotlight.

    The Boilermakers held a double-digit lead and appeared ready to send the Buckeyes to a dismal 1-4 in league play before Turner tallied 14 of his team’s final 18 points and carried his squad to victory. Turner even went on a 10-0 run by himself down the stretch.

    It was a turning point for Turner and the Buckeyes. Ohio State went on to win 18 of its next 20 games and take home the Big Ten crown. Considering the Scarlet and Gray would have been staring at a 1-4 record were it not for Turner’s performance, this game truly marked the turning point for that season.


    Follow and interact with Ohio State basketball writer Scott Polacek on Twitter @ScottPolacek.