By Chris Ramirez
Jared Sullinger scored 19 points and pulled down seven rebounds, to lead the Buckeyes over Syracuse by the score of 77-70, in the East Regional final of the NCAA Tournament. Lenzelle Smith Jr., who had three stitches to close a cut near his right eye early in the first half, scored 16 of his 18 points in the second half to help the victorious Buckeyes.
Brandon Triche had 15 points and Scoop Jardine added 14 for Syracuse. Ohio State went 31- 42 at the foul line, compared to 20-25 for Syracuse. Deshaun Thomas hit a layup to cap eight straight Ohio State points for a 41-33 difference with 15 1/2 minutes left. Smith’s 1-of-2 effort at the charity stripe extended Ohio State’s lead to 46-36 inside 14 minutes left, but the Orange rallied and eventually got within a point.
Despite Dion Waiters, James Southerland and Rakeem Christmas all picking up four fouls with just over 12 minutes left, the Orange nearly tied it. Kris Joseph, who scored 10 in the game, hit a free throw for a 52-51 difference with 7:43 left. His second try missed. Smith came right back by nailing a three from the right wing, but Brandon Triche countered with a long-distance bucket.
Baye Keita’s 1-of-2 performance from the foul line had the Orange within 57-55 with 5:18 to go, but Sullinger made a pair of foul shots, then added a free throw after a Jardine turnover. The Orange then turned the ball over on consecutive possessions, leading to Smith’s teardrop one-handed shot in the paint, boosting the Buckeyes to a 62-55 lead with 3:15 left.
Syracuse finally got it back to a one-possession game at 70-67 on a three- point play from Waiters with 36.8 seconds left, but Sullinger made 1-of-2 foul shots and then Triche missed a jumper at the other end. Sullinger, who had just four points in the first half, got two fouls in the first 6:18 of the game.
Thomas scored 14 and Buford 13 with each having nine rebounds…The Orange held a 28-20 scoring advantage in the paint…Keita had 10 rebounds.