Originally posted on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 3/23/12

Throughout the 2011-2012 season, there have been moments when the Buckeyes suddenly go ice cold from the field.  That happened again on Thursday night for an 8-minute stretch in the second half.  Cincinnati rallied from an early deficit and appeared to take over the game while Ohio State couldn’t find its rhythm at either end of the floor.  In those minutes, it felt OSU’s charge to a Final Four berth was about to meet its end in the Sweet Sixteen; an all too familiar and disappointing finish given how last year turned out.

For 8 minutes the Bucks’ offense stalled.  For 8 minutes, the defense was at the mercy of the surging Bearcats.  But for the other 32?  The Buckeyes looked unstoppable.

Thomas (right) and Sullinger led the Ohio State offense, combining for 49 points and 18 boards (Rogash/ Getty)

This is what is maddening about this year’s team.  At their best, these players combine inside and outside shooting with smothering defense and crisp passing– a true array of weapons.  But consistency has been hard to come by.  Against Cincinnati, Ohio State dominated early and dominated late, enduring the rally in between and willing itself into the Elite Eight.  As it turned out, the inconsistent play didn’t hurt.  But with 1-seed Syracuse looming as the next matchup, the Buckeyes need to figure out how to avoid damaging dry spells.

With the exception of the opening minutes of the second half, Thursday’s was as good a game as Ohio State has played all season.  Deshaun Thomas was unconscious in the first half, draining 20 points before the break and helping OSU to a 12-point halftime cushion.  Jared Sullinger was a force inside, finishing with a 23-point, 11-rebound double-double.  Lenzelle Smith, Jr. added 15, going 3 of 4 from beyond the arc.  And despite an 0 for 5 start, Aaron Craft tallied 11 points to go along with 5 assists and 6 steals.

If Thomas was the hero of the first half, the second half– and crunch time– belonged to Craft.  After Cincinnati roared back from a dozen down to regain the lead, something seemed to change in the point guard.  His normally high energy levels skyrocketed, fed by Sullinger’s ire and fire.  While the big man implored his teammates to regroup, Craft ratcheted up his defense.  Over a 6-minute span his harassment led to five UC turnovers versus just a single point, and Ohio State’s 52-48 deficit became a 65-53 advantage.

With the lead back to 12, the Buckeyes never looked back.

For a guy who didn’t score his first point until the ten-minute mark of the second half, Craft had a profound impact on the game.

Craft pestered the Bearcats into numerous second-half mistakes (Dwyer/ AP)

Just as in the 2011 Tournament, William Buford had a Sweet Sixteen to forget, mustering a mere 4 points on 1 of 8 shooting.  The bench managed just 2 points.  Despite the eventual 81-66 win and its comfortable margin of victory, there remains plenty of room for improvement.  Ohio State shot 48% from the floor and nailed 8 of 17 3-point attempts, but let Cincy hit 46% from the floor.  Until Craft locked down the Bearcat offense, UC was shooting over 50%.  Cashmere Wright led Cincinnati with 18 points.  Sean Kilpatrick added 15 and Jaquon Parker 10.

Against the top-seeded Orange, Ohio State must find a way to maintain defensive effectiveness for a full 40 minutes.

Thomas, whose big first half gave the Bucks what seemed to be a sufficient lead, all but disappeared until late in the second half.  Though he finished with 26 points, his torrid start could have led to a much bigger night had the team not gone away from him after the break.  However, his 10 for 17 night was extremely encouraging.

In spite of the mistakes and the negatives, Ohio State gave a strong performance and bulled its way into the Elite Eight.  It seemed as though Sullinger was reliving the bitterness of bowing out against Kentucky last year, and he and Craft refused to let the squad repeat that scenario.  

The Buckeyes have now bested Loyola (MD), Gonzaga, and Cincinnati en route to a collision with ‘Cuse.

Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Fitzpatrick, Jets agree to one-year deal

Baker considering removing Papelbon from closer role?

Greg Hardy struggling to find work, reportedly even in CFL

Jets players told not to discuss Ryan Fitzpatrick situation

Brock Lesnar won't be punished by WWE for UFC drug test


Report: Cowboys to be fined up to $250K for suspended players

Data shows NFL-backed youth program that claimed reduced concussions is bogus

Report: Odom’s family working hard to get him to go to rehab

Drug dealers adding Olympic rings to cocaine wrappers in Rio

Report: Cowboys have ‘no interest’ in Freeney, Hardy

Report: Bradham was defending girlfriend during alleged assault

Conor McGregor talks trash to Nate Diaz on ‘Conan’

We asked Team USA: What other Olympic sport would you play?

Real Madrid can’t train at Norwegian school because of the kids

Newspaper uses Michael Jordan ‘crying face’ as image

Equipment manager Blake Griffin punched no longer works for Clippers

Report: Nicks signing one-year deal with Saints

Reds 'picking up the pace' on Jay Bruce trade talks

Robbie Keane rescued on highway after running out of gas

Why Gary Bettman's CTE denial is cause for concern for NHL

WATCH: Tigers play high stakes game of Rock, Paper, Scissors

Tavares dismisses rumors, wants to stay with Islanders

UFC signs a new broadcast deal in the U.K.

College Basketball News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

We asked Team USA: What other Olympic sport would you play?

Why Gary Bettman's CTE denial is cause for concern for NHL

WATCH: Inside the Nike SNKRS BOX in SF for Golden Air Celebration

WATCH: Five other uniforms Chris Sale should cut up

QUIZ: Name every Olympic event in which the USA has never won a gold medal

Five U.S. Olympians favored to win multiple gold medals

WATCH: What teams should join the Big 12?

One Gotta Go: Do NBA players really love NBA2K?

One Gotta Go: NBA players hate Facebook too

One Gotta Go: NBA players settle the fast food beef

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Follow Yardbarker