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The Basketball Tournament Recap: Former Ohio State stars Aaron Craft, LaQuinton Ross shine on the court

Craft, Ross and other stars of the Thad Matta era shined in opening round action of The Basketball Tournament.

Ohio State v Dayton Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

Friday night was jammed packed with The Basketball Tournament action, as four games took place at the Capital Center at Capital University. Carmen’s Crew, a team comprising of former stars of the Ohio State Buckeyes from the late-2000s and the top seed in the Columbus region, cruised to victory in their first matchup. Big X, which featured recent OSU stars Jae’Sean Tate, CJ Jackson and Andrew Dakich, also pulled out a victory in Ohio’s capital city.

Saturday will bring a matchup of the two teams, with the winner advancing to the regional championship on Sunday. But before that game takes place (2 p.m. ET | ESPN2), let’s recap each team’s victory from Friday night.

#4 Big X defeats #5 West Virginia Wildcats, 83-76

At times during this past college basketball season, CJ Jackson had breakout games. In his first game with team Big X, he had a breakout performance that lifted the No. 4-seed into the regional semifinals. Behind a team-leading 22-point outing, Jackson was a crucial factor in Big X avoiding the upset.

Things didn’t look great in the early going, as the West Virginia Wildcats had a 15-2 lead to begin the contest. Six straight points from Jackson, and a three-pointer from Keyshawn Woods, another former Buckeye, got Big X back within striking distance. And by the time the first quarter ended, Big X was down one, 22-21.

In the second quarter, the momentum was still on Big X’s side. Woods continued to hit threes, and help from Justin Sears pushed Big X to a 47-37 halftime lead. But as the fourth quarter began, that 10-point lead was cut in half.

With under six minutes remaining, the Wildcats got within four of Big X. But a bucket from Woods and a three-pointer from Jackson pushed Big X back up nine, 75-66. With the Elam Ending taking place at the under-4 mark, the target score to end the game was set at 83 points. Free throws creeped the Wildcats back within one possession, 77-74, but clutch makes by Sears, Jackson and Woods was enough to hold off their opponents.

Woods ended the game with 17 points off the bench, the most from either team. Sears had 19 points on 7-of-13 shooting, while Jackson’s 22 points came off a 8-of-15 shooting. Collectively, Big X had a tough time from downtown—going 10-of-30.

Turnovers were the biggest factor in the Wildcats’ demise. Nineteen of them lead to 21 points for Big X. Outside of the TOs, things were even matched between the two squads. In paint points, Big X had a slim 34-32 advantage. In rebounds, the Wildcats led with a slim 45-43 advantage.

#1 Carmen’s Crew defeats #8 Illinois BC 88-71

In the night cap, the top overall seed in the Columbus Region, Carmen’s Crew, took down No. 8 Illinois BC, 88-71.

With 2,817 in attendance, they got to see a throwback performance from former Buckeye stars. David Lighty led the Crew with a 17 point, seven assist effort. William Buford wasn’t too far behind, pouring in 16 points. Aaron Craft put together a 12 point night to go along with a team-high four steals. Off the bench, LaQuinton Ross was a huge factor, scoring 15 points off of 7-of-12 shooting.

From the start, Carmen’s Crew had things under control. In the first quarter, after giving up the opening three points, the Crew went on a 10-0 run. Buford and Craft connected on three-pointers of their own, while Evan Ravenel made free throws, and Jeff Gibbs knocked down a two ball.

Illinois BC battled back, making it a one point game midway through the first frame. However, another run by the former OSU stars put them on top 25-16 at the end of the first quarter. By halftime, the lead ballooned even more, with the Crew up 49-33.

The three-point shot was a big reason for the blowout win. The Carmen’s Crew went a staggering 12-of-24 from downtown, compared to Illinois BC’s 10-of-28 clip from three range. Additionally, transition basketball by the Crew paced them out even further. By the end of the game, they outscored Illinois BC 20-2 on fastbreak points.