Arizona bounces Buckeyes from NCAA
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — If D’Angelo Russell really has played his last collegiate game, it’s not the way Ohio State wanted to send him out.
The standout freshman struggled to find his shot, scoring just nine points as the 10th-seeded Buckeyes lost 73-58 to second-seeded Arizona in the NCAA Tournament on Saturday.
“Unfortunately, it was kind of one of those days for him,” Ohio State coach Thad Matta said.
The Buckeyes gave the Wildcats all they could handle in the first half, even with Russell — a likely NBA lottery pick — in a shooting funk.
Sam Thompson had 18 points and Shannon Scott scored 10 for Ohio State, which led by six points early on but never could match Arizona’s size. The Wildcats won the rebounding battle 43-26, packing the paint and using their length to reel in Russell.
Russell made just 3 of 19 shots after going for 28 points in Ohio State’s overtime win over VCU in its tournament opener. He added seven rebounds and six assists — including a dazzling, cross-court, no-look pass during a fast break — in what was probably his last game for Ohio State.
Russell wore a bandage to cover the five stitches he received above his left eye after taking an elbow in Thursday’s contest. And he spent the final minutes on the bench listening to Arizona’s fans chant “U-of-A!”
“I would say they played great D on a few of them, but a lot of them were great shots. I just missed,” Russell said.
Russell declined to say whether he will declare for the NBA draft, as most expect him to do. He said his poor shooting performance will have no impact on his decision, either.
“I wouldn’t say it’s an individual factor, missing shots or feeling like, ‘Oh, I lost to Arizona, I’ve got to get back at ‘em,”’ he said. “I don’t see anything like that.”
Arizona’s Gabe York made five 3-pointers and finished with 19 points, and T.J. McConnell turned in a terrific all-around performance.
McConnell had 19 points, six assists, six rebounds and five steals to help the Wildcats (33-3) overcome a sluggish start. The senior’s steady hand created all kinds of space for York and other shooters to bust the Buckeyes’ zone defense, which they rarely used during the regular season but broke out for the tournament.
“They got the ball to the middle a lot in the second half and Gabe York played a heck of a half,” Scott said. “That kills a zone.”
The Pac-12 champion Wildcats went ahead by 15 points with 6:34 remaining before holding off Ohio State (24-11), which eliminated Arizona in the regional semifinals two years ago. Next up for the Wildcats is sixth-seeded Xavier in the West Regional semifinals Thursday in Los Angeles.
It was sweet redemption for Arizona and coach Sean Miller, who lost on a last-second shot to Ohio State in 2013. And it was the first time in three tries that Miller beat Matta, a close friend and former colleague who also handed Miller’s Xavier team a last-second defeat in the 2007 tournament.
“This is probably, without a doubt, maybe his best team,” Matta said.
The Wildcats looked tentative most of the first half against Ohio State’s smothering zone. In the second half, they worked the ball at a blistering pace and started hitting shots from outside.
York, who was scoreless against Texas Southern, hit four 3-pointers during one stretch. He finished 5 of 9 from long range.
“When they shrink (the defense) like that,” York said, “the only thing that’s left for me is to knock down shots.”
Ohio State: The Buckeyes fell to 18-9 in the NCAA Tournament under Matta. … Ohio State has not advanced past the round of 32 since 2013, when it lost to Wichita State in the regional finals.
Arizona: The Wildcats are 10-3 in the NCAA Tournament under Miller. … Arizona has reached at least the Sweet 16 in four of Miller’s six seasons.
Ohio State’s season is over.
Arizona faces Xavier on Thursday.