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March 25, 2011

Dream season ends abruptly

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NEWARK, N.J. - The No. 1 Ohio State basketball was in the midst of a dream season. With one shot by Kentucky's Brandon Knight, the Buckeyes saw it come to an abrupt end.

For the second season in a row Ohio State fell in the Sweet 16, this time after Knight knocked down a basket from the right wing with 5.4 seconds send the No. 4 seed Wildcats to a 62-60 win in the Prudential Center.

Ohio State pushed the ball up the court quick enough for William Buford to get off one final shot from beyond the arc to win the game, but it missed right.

The ringing buzzer signified the end of a season filled with national title hopes.

"The shot felt good, it just didn't go in," said Buford, who finished the game just 2-of-16 from the floor. "I had good looks, they just weren't falling for me. I feel like I let the team down. I didn't do what I am capable of doing."

Kentucky (28-8) will advance to the Elite Eight and play No. 2 seed North Carolina (29-7) on Sunday at 5:05 p.m. North Carolina knocked off Marquette in the first semifinal game played before Ohio State took the floor.

The loss was the second-straight regional semifinal game the Buckeyes fell short in, losing a year ago in the round to Tennessee in St. Louis.

Ohio State was led by freshman Jared Sullinger, who finished the game with 21 points and 16 rebounds. Sullinger, a projected top lottery pick in this year's NBA Draft, said after the game that he plans to return for his sophomore season next year.

"The love for this basketball team makes me want to come back," Sullinger said. "To see five of them depart from us is very touching. I am going to miss these guys terribly. I feel like I let them down today. I want to come back and show them I had a lapse, but I can do better."

Ohio State's usual execution faltered against the Wildcats, as the team shot just 33 percent from the field in the game. Ohio State was coming off a game in which they made 16-of-26 attempts from beyond the arc against George Mason.

Senior Jon Diebler, who scored 16 points in his final game as a Buckeye, knocked down a game-tying 3-pointer just seconds before Knight's game-winning bucket.

Despite the poor shooting night, the Buckeyes were able to hang close with the Wildcats by scoring big points off of second-chance buckets and Kentucky turnovers. Ohio State out-scored Kentucky 33-8 in those opportunities.

Kentucky's Josh Harrellson led Kentucky with 17 points and 10 rebounds and DeAndre Liggins scored 15 points, 11 of which coming in the second half.

"I think, honestly, some of the shots we missed we were making all year," he said. "You have to give them credit, I thought they did a good job channeling shots with their length, but we've faced length all year. They just didn't go in."

The Buckeyes lost a game in which they saw 19 lead changes, having the feel of a Final Four they'll miss out on for the second consecutive season despite having high hopes for a national title.

The Buckeyes say goodbye to seniors David Lighty, Dallas Lauderdale, Diebler, Eddie Days, and Nickola Kecman.

"Most definitely we had high hopes for a national championship," said Lighty, who scored 16 points in his final game as a Buckeye. "I love this team. How it ended was just disappointing."



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