NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Sports

March 30, 2013

Ohio St faces Wichita St for trip to Final Four

(Continued)

With 11 consecutive victories since Feb. 17, Ohio State is on the brink of its 11th Final Four appearance. The second-seeded Buckeyes are a win away from matching last season’s accomplishments despite losing Jared Sullinger to the NBA.

What’s more, leading scorer Deshaun Thomas thinks the Buckeyes’ current run has been easier than last year’s March surge, suggesting Ohio State still has much more to show.

“We’re playing at a higher level now,” Thomas said. “Last year was tougher, going through Gonzaga, Syracuse and Cincinnati. Those were some great teams. This year, we’re on a roll right now. Once Gonzaga and a couple of higher teams on our side got put out (this year), it opened doors for us. But again, you can’t take these teams like Wichita State lightly. We know it’s going to be tough. Gonzaga losing on our side kind of helped us leave the door open, but we’re still going to treat these teams like Gonzaga.”

Craft believes Ohio State has more momentum than last season, including those last two victories on dramatic, tiebreaking 3-pointers by Craft against Iowa State last weekend and LaQuinton Ross against Arizona on Thursday night.

Although Ohio State and Wichita State haven’t met since 1963, the Buckeyes think they know what to expect.

Wichita State will try to force a speedy tempo on Ohio State, using its pressing defense and stellar rebounding to push the Buckeyes into uncomfortable situations. The Shockers are big and tough under the basket, but could struggle to keep up when the Buckeyes use an undersized lineup.

“What we have to do is, don’t let their angriness affect us,” Thomas said. “Don’t play into their hands. Don’t let them speed us up, because that’s what they’re going to try to do. We know they’re going to come out aggressive, pressing, and try to do anything to make us throw the ball away.”

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