Originally posted on Fox Sports Ohio  |  Last updated 3/24/12
By Ari Wasserman BuckeyeSports.com Thad Matta anticipated Cincinnati would play zone defense. Perhaps thats how Ohio States head coach was able to justify glancing a game forward when thinking about Syracuses notorious 2-3 zone defense even before the Buckeyes advanced past the Bearcats in Thursday nights Sweet 16 matchup. We spent a majority of our time this week (before getting to Boston) going against zone, Matta admitted after second-seeded Ohio State beat No. 6 Cincinnati 81-66 in the TD Garden. And I told our guys, trying to motivate them, when we play Syracuse on Saturday, this will pay off for us. Matta didnt mince his words when addressing his team. He didnt bother entertaining the fact that Ohio State wouldnt be advancing past the Bearcats, nor did he think his team would have the luxury of advancing to the Elite Eight and playing anyone other than the East Regions top seeded team. Syracuse held on to knock off No. 4 Wisconsin Thursday night to set the showdown Matta knew to expect days before arriving in New England. The Orange (34-2) have ridden their zone defense to perhaps the most impressive season of any team in college basketball to this point. The Bearcats dont sport the athleticism and length Syrcause does, but the Buckeyes got a primer to what theyre in line to face in tomorrows Elite Eight matchup. Ohio State showed patience and quick ball movement against Cincinnati in the first half before building a 12-point halftime lead. Deshaun Thomas, one of Ohio States two athletic posts, had 20 points in the games first 20 minutes. I know Syracuse is going to play a 2-3 zone, theres no hiding that, sophomore big man Jared Sullinger said. Were going to have to score and execute our offense even though theyre playing a 2-3 zone. We cant just sit back and let them punch us. Weve got to throw the first punches. Ohio State will try and throw those punches by penetrating Syracuses interior with Sullinger and Thomas. Those two players combined have created matchup issues for opponents, especially since both are bigs that hit the boards hard and have the versatility to knock down open shots. Through three NCAA Tournament games, an average game for Thomas and Sullinger is the two combining for 42.7 points and 17.4 rebounds. Against the Bearcats, the duo combined for 49 points and 18 rebounds. Ohio State will continue to attempt to play the inside-outside game. Getting both players touches inside will be instrumental in the Buckeyes efforts to find great not good shots from the floor. Find the best shot has been a new focus for the Buckeyes recently. In the NCAA Tournament specifically, Thomas and Sullinger have found chemistry with one another. Both have a feel for where the other is going to be and their size and athleticism allows for aggressiveness on the boards when the other doesnt convert. Yeah, I think we've gotten way better playing together," Thomas said. "We've learned that teams are double-teaming us and playing the right guy out of the double-team. He's seen me flashing, now they're double-teaming me, so now I see him flashing. So I think that's way better. But Syracuse will try and dissuade the Buckeyes from finding the two players in the post. The Orange will leave outside looks open in effort to tempt the Buckeyes to fire average shots early in the shot clock without going through their offensive progression. That strategy almost cost the Orange against the Badgers, a team that got hot from long range in the second half before finishing 14 of 27 from 3-point range. Wisconsin who made a three on six-straight possessions at one point ultimately fell because it couldn't knock down a three in the games final six minutes. Ohio State hasnt necessarily been at their best when firing jumpers instead of working it into Sullinger, but hesitation when looks from the outside present itself is a recipe to fail. Senior William Buford, who made only 1-of-8 shots against Cincinnati, knows shooting with confidence is the way to replicate what Wisconsin did. It's not our game plan just to get some threes, Buford said. We want to move the ball against their defense. The threes certainly count but we want to move the ball and work it inside out. If you take a shot, you know youre going to have to make a shot. If we take those shots and know were going to make it, most likely theyre going to go down.
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Twitter, Facebook report engagement decline during Super Bowl

Steve Spurrier becomes special assistant to South Carolina AD

Brent Musberger wants you to bet on Joe Lunardi’s bracketology

Unranked Duke uses big first half to beat No.13 Louisville

MLB reportedly close to rule preventing collisions at second base

USOC says athletes concern about Zika shouldn't attend Games


Von Miller shares support for embattled Johnny Manziel

The Panthers had to use a silent snap count at the Super Bowl

Report: Lakers would fire Byron Scott to hire Luke Walton

Was Alain Vigneault right about NHL's lack of punishment towards Wayne Simmonds?

Seahawks’ Frank Clark rips Cam Newton ‘that boy a b—‘

Report: Tom Thibodeau has 'always wanted' Knicks job

Ten storylines to watch heading into spring training

Seahawks release awesome Marshawn Lynch tribute video

WATCH: Alleged LeSean McCoy fight video surfaces

Daniel Bryan says goodbye to WWE during teary retirement speech

Paul George delivers great line about driving by Kobe Bryant

WATCH: Oklahoma beats Texas on Buddy Hield's 3-pointer

Andre Drummond hits 70-foot buzzer beater to end 3rd quarter

Duke's Allen appears to intentionally trip Louisville's Spaulding

Candidates for New York Knicks head coaching job

Attorney alleges Johnny Manziel ruptured ex-girlfriend's eardrum

Jeanie Buss may clean house in Lakers’ front office

Lisa Ann wants to reward Emmanuel Sanders for Super Bowl win

WWE Superstar Daniel Bryan to announce retirement

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

Was Alain Vigneault right about NHL's lack of punishment towards Wayne Simmonds?

Report: Knicks fire coach Derek Fisher

The best and worst commercials from Super Bowl 50

Best and worst from Super Bowl 50

Six best plays from Super Bowl 50

Eli doesn't look thrilled as Peyton wins Super Bowl

Did Beyonce almost fall down during Super Bowl halftime show?

Curry to serve as drummer for Panthers

Report: Marshawn Lynch plans to retire

The 14 biggest plays in Super Bowl history

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Follow Yardbarker