There was plenty for Ohio State basketball fans to root for on both sides of The Basketball Tournament’s second regional semifinal on Saturday afternoon as The Big X and Carmen’s Crew faced off for a spot in Sunday’s finals, and to keep their quest for the $2 million winner-take-all prize still on track.
The first half was back and forth, but the tide turned in Carmen’s Crew’s favor as David Lighty and William Buford started to find their groove. Though Big X fought to keep the game close throughout, CC’s veteran experience and depth of talent allowed them to take the win 89-75.
The Big X — who defeated the West Virginia Wildcats 83-76 on Friday night — are coached by former Buckeye guard and current graduate assistant Andrew Dakich. Their roster includes the former OSU teammates C.J. Jackson and Keyshawn Woods.
The other side of the matchup, Carmen’s Crews, previously played in TBT as Team Scarlet and Gray, and is coached by Scoonie Penn, Jared Sullinger, and Dallas Lauderdale; though only the latter was on the bench on Saturday. Their roster features former Buckeyes Aaron Craft, Lighty, Evan Ravenel, Buford, LaQuinton Ross, and Jon Diebler.
The game started a bit sloppy as The Big X took an early lead, but as both teams found their footing, they found scoring from multiple places. Through the first quarter of the matchup, 13 players had scored, but only three had multiple baskets. After the first nine minutes of play, the teams were tied at 20.
However, as the second period started, Big X raced out to their biggest lead of the game, 30-23, as Carmen’s Crew went cold from the floor missing four straight attempts from the field, until William Buford hit a fall away from just outside of the lane.
However, a pair of Big X triples — one from Cameron Vines and another from C.J. Jackson extended the lead to 11, 36-25. Buford then connected from distance to set off a Carmen’s Crew streak. Aaron Craft had a layup and Jon Diebler had a fastbreak dunk following a steal from Craft.
After a media timeout, Jeff Gibbs had a layup for Carmen’s Crew to make it a four-point game, 38-34, via a 9-2 run. Then, with time running out in the first half, Courtney Pigram forced a Big X turnover close to half court and then shoveled it to a racing Lighty who converted the old-fashioned three-point play to give the more veteran former Buckeyes a one-point lead at the break, 43-42.
One of the reasons that Carmen’s Crew was able to erase the double-digit deficit was that Big X coughed the ball up 12 times in the first half, and Carmen’s Crew was able to turn those turnovers into 17 points; Big X only had five points off of turnovers.
However, the Dakich-led team countered with a 14-5 advantage in fastbreak points. The only players in double-digits where Carmen’s Crew’s Lighty and Buford. Big X was led by Amir Bell, Woods, and Vines.
Carmen’s Crew kept their collective foot on the pedal as the second half opened was they went on a 9-0 run in less than a minute to give them a 59-49 lead. Buford added eight points in the first three-plus minutes after intermission.
Big X’s Bubu Palo broke the run after a timeout with a three-pointer. After Gibbs got a layup for Carmen’s Crew, Vines hit another three to cut the deficit to six, and then Palo connected from beyond the arc again. The Carmen’s Crew lead was down to a single bucket at 61-58 with 3:36 left in the third quarter.
With around 30 seconds remaining in the period, Buford hit his sixth triple of the game — on six attempts — to extend the Carmen’s Crew lead to a very nice 69-90.
As the teams approached the Elam Ending mark at 4:00, Ross started exhibiting some physical dominance down low, as Carmen’s Crew’s lead ballooned to 16. As the clock got below 4:00, Carmen’s Crew called a timeout to set the Elam Ending mark. The score was 80-67, meaning that the winner would be the first team to hit 88.
A trademark sneaky layup from Craft, a no-doubt triple from Diebler, and a Ravenel layup led to the cusp of victory, and Craft hit a reverse layup to end the game.
Buford led all scorers with 24 on 9-for-13 shooting, including 6-6 from distance. But, he was one of six players in double-figures for Carmen’s Crew — Lighty (12), Craft (11), Gibbs (11), Ross (11), and Diebler (11).
Carmen’s Crew will face the Dayton Red Scare in the Columbus regional championship on Sunday, July 21 at 12 noon ET. The game will be broadcast on ESPN.