BOSTON – It started looking dicey for Ohio State midway through the second half. Cincinnati's Yancy Gates had just converted an and-one to put the Bearcats up by four with 11:34 remaining.
The Buckeyes looked tired, especially defensively, where they were rotating too slowly onto Cincinnati's shooters. William Buford was struggling mightily and backcourt mate Aaron Craft wasn't providing much from the field.
Suddenly, Ohio State clamped down on the defensive end and started knocking down shots. Over the next six minutes, the Buckeyes went on a 17-1 run that gave them a lead they wouldn't relinquish, pulling out a 81-66 victory to move on to the Elite Eight.
The key turning point could have been Buford picking up his fourth foul with 9:16 left in the second half. He hadn't had a good offensive showing, and head coach Thad Matta went with Shannon Scott and Craft together in the backcourt. Having two ball-handlers on the court at the same time worked wonders, as the Buckeyes went on a 15-6 run and extended the lead by nine points with Buford on the bench.
And I thought the Buckeyes were getting tired …
Sophomore forward Deshaun Thomas led the way with 26 points (20 in the first half), constantly making big plays at both ends of the court. Jared Sullinger had 23 points and 11 rebounds, while Lenzelle Smith Jr. finished with 15 points.
Cashmere Wright led Cincinnati with 18 points.
Ohio State will play Syracuse in the regional final on Saturday.