They call him the go-to-guy. Every basketball team has one.
He’s the player you go to when the game is on the line. More times than not that guy is the team’s leading scorer, but that hasn’t been the case for Ohio State the last two games.
Last week in Dayton, Aaron Craft hit the shot that sent the Buckeyes here for the Sweet Sixteen. Thursday night it was LaQuinton Ross who swished a long 3-pointer that sent Arizona home and Ohio State on to the Elite Eight. Both times Deshaun Thomas, who averages 20 points a game, was nothing more than a spectator with the best seat in the house.
Craft insists there is no go-to-guy on this Ohio State team. “I have confidence in a variety of people to take that shot down the stretch,” he said. “We don’t try to pigeon hole ourselves, we just try to put ourselves in a position to be successful and give confidence to whoever is going to take it.”
As for Thomas, the Buckeyes’ leading scorer admitted that a year ago he might not have been happy not getting the ball when the game was on the line. “I would have threw a fit, but this is all me growing up as a person,” Thomas said. “You know, guys are making plays and I like that and this is just me being a team player and having confidence in them.”
That confidence has given coach Thad Matta the ability to rely on a variety of players, especially during the current 11-game winning streak. “The thing I have always felt comfortable with this team is guys have had good stretches,” Matta said.
Back-to-back wins in the closing seconds is a confidence boost but so is the fact that for the first time all season Ohio State was able to rally from a double-digit deficit to win a game. There is still one team standing in the way of a return trip to the Final Four and nobody is looking past Wichita State. “They are a team that’s on a roll right now,” Sam Thompson said. “They’re playing their best basketball of the season just like we are.”
Will the Buckeyes need another last-second hero tonight and, if so, who will it be? The road to the Final Four in the West Region is a Hollywood script that still needs an ending.