For a Buckeye basketball fan, Saturday’s first round game for Team Scarlet & Gray in the 2018 The Basketball Tournament was as close to going back in time as is currently scientifically possible. With a roster comprised of some of the best OSU hoop stars from the past decade or so, the top-seeded team in the Midwest region blitzed the No. 17 seed West Virginia Wildcats, 99-68, on their quest to secure the $2 million, winner-take-all prize.
The Wildcats defeated the Charlotte Chess Center 114-87 on Friday night to earn the honor to play against Columbus’ favorite sons. With current (Micah Potter, C.J. Jackson, Andre Wesson, and Joey Lane) and former (Michael Redd and Clark Kellogg) Buckeyes in the arena, the Nuthouse student section getting the crowd amped, former coach Thad Matta in attendance, and the Voice of the Buckeyes Paul Keels on play-by-play, it is difficult to imagine a better way for OSU faithful to spend a summer afternoon as they await the start of fall football camp.
It was like old times early on as Jared Sullinger hit a turn-around jumper from the block, Aaron Craft hit a three-pointer, and Dallas Lauderdale paced the Scarlet & Gray to an early 7-0 lead.
Ryan Taylor got the West Virginia Wildcats on the board with just over five minutes left in the first quarter, but on the next trip down the floor, David Lighty got the S&G scoring again to put the de facto home team up 7-2.
As Team Scarlet & Gray’s head coach Scoonie Penn made some substitutions, the Wildcats’ Ed Henry hit a bucket to cut the S&G lead to five, but n the next trip down the floor, “BJ” Byron Mullens found a cutting Talor Battle driving through the lane to put S&G up 16-9.
From there the Big Ten’s all-time leading three-point scorer Jon Diebler hit his first triple of the 2018 TBT to give the “home” squad a 19-11 lead.
At the end of the first quarter, Scarlet and Gray held a 21-14 advantage having shot 52.9 percent from the floor, while the Wildcats only completed a quarter of their attempts.
Early in the second quarter, the Wildcats made the mistake of leaving Sullinger open from downtown on consecutive possessions, and the former first-round pick hit a pair of three-pointers to put S&G up 29-17.
Sullinger is making the most of this weekend’s games, because should S&G advance, Sully will have to miss the next weekend’s games, as he will be getting married. However, he will be replaced on the roster by another all-time Buckeye great Greg Oden.
With 4:30 left in the second quarter, Craft spun towards the baseline and found Lauderdale who slammed it home. Then, on the next possession, Lighty found the big man who laid it in to give S&G a 38-21 lead.
As the former Buckeyes continued to pad their lead with halftime approaching, Mullens decided to pull up early in a possession from way downtown and banked it home. On the subsequent trip, former Nittany Lion Battle hit a three for Scarlet & Gray to put them up 54-28.
At halftime, the home team held a commanding 55-30 advantage. Sullinger had 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting from the field, while Battle was a perfect 4-for-4 en route to his 11 points.
With S&G’s lead hovering around 20 in the third quarter, the tenacious defense that got them the advantage started to get a little lax. However, one of the few non-Buckeyes on S&G’s roster Battle got things back on track with another three-pointer, pushing the lead back to 64-43.
Then with 2:16 left in the third quarter, an outlet-pass found Battle alone in the front court, and rather than taking the easy layup, he used the backboard to pass it to Mullens who enthusiastically slammed it home and give S&G a 70-45 lead.
This season, TBT is employing the Elam Ending score system, which is designed to prevent the tedious, foul-heavy endings to most basketball games. At the first stoppage after the four-minute mark in the fourth quarter, the goal score is determined by adding 7 points to the score of the team that’s in the lead. From there, the first team to get there, wins.
With just under seven minutes to play, former Buckeye Evan Ravenel slammed it home, Northern Illinois alum Leon Rodgers hit a triple, and William Buford got a put-back to keep the Wildcats at bay.
With 3:57 left, Penn called a timeout to activate the Elam Ending, with a 98-point target set.
Team Scarlet & Gray, with assistant coach Evan Turner, will take on the Texas Tech-based Matadors tomorrow at 2 p.m. ET, which will be broadcast on the ESPN family of networks.
Earlier in the day fourth-seeded Big X, a team comprised of former Big Ten players, beat No. 13 Chattanooga, 81-79. Big X includes former Buckeye Andrew Dakich who finished the game three points and seven assists. His former OSU teammate Jae’Sean Tate is on the team’s roster, but he did not play in their first round game.