BOSTON - Jared Sullinger's double-double (23 points, 11 rebounds) and a 26-point night from Deshaun Thomas were more than enough for the Ohio State Buckeyes, who recovered from a second-half lapse to defeat the Cincinnati Bearcats, 81-66, in the Sweet 16 of the 2012 NCAA Tournament on Thursday night.
"Well, obviously a great college basketball game," said Ohio State head coach Thad Matta. "We were able to put together a run there in the first half. Give Cincinnati credit, they came out and stung us to start the second half, and we had to take some timeouts there to kind of refocus what we were doing on the defensive end. And one we got that going, I thought it generated some offense for us."
Sullinger and the Buckeyes pulled ahead, 17-13, by the midway point of the first half and closed out the period strong, using a 20-12 run to capture a 37-25 edge heading into intermission. Sullinger had 10 points and nine boards while Thomas scored 20 of his 26 points in the half. Ohio State shot 45.2 percent while holding Cincinnati to 38.5 percent.
The Bearcats made a run at the start of the second half, even pulling ahead by four points on two occasions midway through the period, only to fall victim to a 17-1 run by the Buckeyes that ultimately did them in. Lenzelle Smith Jr. scored 10 of his 15 points in the half and the Buckeyes were 13-of-25 from the floor (52.0 percent) in the final period.
"We've got two types of basketball teams," Sullinger said. "We've got the cool guys and then the blue collar guys. I thought to start the second half we got into cool guy mode and we kind of let our guard down. Coach Matta basically told us before we started the second half that they was going to come at us with everything they had because Cincinnati is just the type of team that does not give up. I mean, we just came out and decided to be cool guys, and they came out and they stung us, and then we got ourselves back into another basketball game."
Cashmere Wright scored 18 to lead Cincinnati, which shot 46.4 percent for the game. Sean Kilpatrick had 15 points and JaQuon Parker chipped in with 10 points and six rebounds. The Bearcats coughed the ball up 18 times and had only eight assists compared to 11 turnovers and 14 assists for the Buckeyes.
"We just weren't making the right plays," Wright said. "We weren't making the right pass. We was over-dribbling the ball, doing things uncharacteristic of our team."
"At the end of the day, we didn't take care of the basketball," Cincinnati head coach Mike Cronin said. "We're a low turnover team. We out-shot out percentage tonight. We've been shooting 46 percent, 46 and a half; we shot 39 percent from three. But too many turnovers. We gave ourselves no chance to win. They're hard enough to guard, but with 18 turnovers we just gave ourselves no chance."
Ohio State will meet Syracuse, which defeated Wisconsin 64-63 in the first game at TD Garden on Thursday, in the Elite Eight at 7:05 p.m. EDT on Saturday inside the Garden.