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With 6:23 remaining in the first half Arizona led Ohio State 33-22 and looked to be well on its way to taking control of the Sweet 16 matchup at Staples Center. Outside of Deshaun Thomas the Buckeyes were struggling to score, and to that point in the game Thad Matta’s team was playing one of its worst halves of the season defensively.
But things changed. Ohio State improved defensively and LaQuinton Ross stepped up on the other end of the floor for the Buckeyes, and Arizona lost its poise during what would become a 22-5 Ohio State run.
Ross’ three-pointer with 2.1 seconds remaining may have been the difference on the scoreboard, but it was that 22-5 stretch that put the Wildcats in position to have their hearts broken in the game’s final seconds.
A team that played much of the season with more depth than many of its opponents, Arizona lacked the answer needed to slow down both Ross and Thomas and the Wildcats had to go small as a result. But despite those issues Sean Miller’s squad managed to remain within striking distance with senior Solomon Hill leading the way.
Mark Lyons, who finished his one year as a Wildcat with a team-high 23 points, tied the game at 70 on a three-point play with 21.8 seconds remaining and it looked as if Arizona would dodge another bullet in a season that featured multiple comebacks. It would be Ross who had the final word however, and the end result is a crushing defeat for Arizona.
The final play was technically the game-winner for Ohio State, but the momentum shift that sparked the Buckeyes’ 22-5 run was just as important when evaluating why they won.
Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.
Wednesday the NCAA made its ruling on two appeals of sanctions made by Syracuse University, with the news being mixed for the men’s basketball program.
On the positive side the NCAA ruled that Syracuse will be docked two scholarships per season for the next four years, as opposed to the original ruling of three. As a result Jim Boeheim’s program only has to account for the loss of eight total scholarships, meaning that they’ll have 11 to fill in each of the next four seasons as opposed to ten.
One scholarship may not seem like a big deal, but in a sport where you only get 13 (when not dealing with sanctions) getting that grant-in-aid back really helps from a recruiting standpoint.
As for the negatives, they both concern Boeheim. Not only has there yet to be a ruling on Boeheim’s appeal of his nine-game suspension that goes into effect when ACC play begins in January (that appeal is being heard separately), but the appeal to reinstate the wins that were vacated as part of the sanctions was denied. As a result Boeheim officially has 868 wins instead of 969 (not counting today’s game against Charlotte).
And with Mike Hopkins set to take over as head coach in 2018, the denial means that college basketball will have to wait quite some time before anyone threatens to join Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski in the 1,000 wins club.
While not having the wins officially reinstated does hurt, getting a scholarship back for each of the next four seasons is a bigger deal when it comes to the long-term health of the Syracuse program. Also of great importance will be the ruling regarding Boeheim’s suspension, as a suspended coach is not allowed to have any contact with his players or coaching staff while serving the penalty.
And with the original ruling due to take up half of Syracuse’s league slate, not having Boeheim (or the chance to speak with him) is a big deal when it comes to this current team.
St. John’s forward Kassoum Yakwe has been cleared by the NCAA to play this season and will be eligible immediately, the school announced on Wednesday.
Yakwe is a 6-foot-8 forward that reclassified and enrolled at St. John’s this fall. He attended the same high school as Kansas forward Cheick Diallo, who was also cleared by the NCAA to play today.
St. John’s played in the Maui Invitational this week, and Yakwe did not take part. His first game with the Johnnies will be on Dec. 2nd against Fordham if the program plans to play his this season.
The question that must be asked, however, is whether or not he will suit up or simply redshirt. The Johnnies are in the midst of a serious rebuild and will be without their other elite recruit this season, Marcus Lovett. Lovett was ruled a partial qualifier. Would it make sense to burn a year of eligibility on what make amount to a wasted season, or will head coach Chris Mullin opt to save that year for down the road?