Arizona guard Mark Lyons walks off the court after a 73-70 loss to Ohio State… (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles…)
It's counterintuitive, but Ohio State's small lineup paid big dividends on the boards Thursday. Ohio State defeated Arizona, 73-70, at Staples Center and advances to the West Regional final on Saturday.
The Buckeyes out-rebounded the Wildcats, 32-30, and 11-9 on the offensive end, something that wasn't expected. Kaleb Tarczewski, Arizona's 7-foot freshman center, played just 16 minutes, far less than the other four starters.
By putting smaller, quicker players on the floor, Ohio State forced Arizona to follow suit.
"It's so difficult to deal with them, and big guys, in particular, someone like Kaleb, for example, especially as a freshman," Arizona Coach Sean Miller said.
"It was a difficult game for us to utilize him. When you start to go smaller, shots around the basket and rebounding starts to go in the other direction. That's the thing that Ohio State does. They put you in that predicament.
"You try to match up with them, and as you do it, they end up sometimes getting the advantage," Miller said.
Pass the oxygen
Ohio State has won consecutive tournament games with buzzer-beating threes, and that's helped bolster the Buckeyes' belief that anything is possible.
"I know it makes some people nervous watching, but I believe a lot in this team and it shows," said guard Aaron Craft, who beat Iowa State on Sunday by hitting a three with a half-second remaining.
"We've been in a lot of close games throughout the year, and that's helped us to this point," Craft said.
"I think having been through the battles at the end and having lost has helped us get to the confidence we are at right now."
Called for traveling
Seeing the Buckeyes basketball team in the West is a rare thing — like glimpsing a spotted owl.
The trip to this year's regional was the team's first venture west of the Central time zone in nine years under Coach Thad Matta.
"Regular season, I think, it's hard to come out and play one game with the time zone in terms of just you're off a little bit," Matta said.
Matta's aversion to going west dates to 2002, his second year at Xavier.
"We were playing at Stanford, and we were tipping off at, like, 12:05 our time," he said.
Xavier lost that game by a point.
To combat jet leg, Ohio State players were taken to Santa Monica on Tuesday and walked around for 21/2 hours. They were also provided with pickles to help with dehydration.
Guilty with an explanation
Wichita State entered the weekend seeking its first trip to the Final Four since 1965.
The Shockers ended up losing back then by a total of 57 points, but, wait, it really wasn't as bad as it sounds.
Wichita State ran into two buzz-saws at that Final Four in Portland, Ore.
The Shockers lost in the national semifinals, 108-89, to eventual champions UCLA. Wichita forward Jamie Thompson scored 36 points but it wasn't enough to offset the 52 combined points scored by UCLA's Gail Goodrich and Edgar Lacey.
Wichita State then lost the consolation game, 118-82, to Princeton.
That was the game Bill Bradley scored 58 points, making 22 of his 29 shots. Bradley also made 14 of 15 free throws and had 17 rebounds.