March 16, 2012

WATCH: Game Highlights  |  Postgame Press Conference

PITTSBURGH (AP) – Ohio State made sure there wouldn’t a second scare for a top seed at the Consol Energy Center.

Deshaun Thomas scored a career-high 31 points and grabbed 12 rebounds – one off his career best – to lead second-seeded Ohio State to a 78-59 victory over Loyola, Md., on Thursday night in the second round of the East Regional.

William Buford had 17 points and Jared Sullinger added 12 points and 11 rebounds for the Buckeyes (28-7), who dominated the smaller Greyhounds inside, finishing with a 49-24 rebound advantage.

Ohio State will play seventh-seeded Gonzaga in the third round Saturday. The Bulldogs beat 10th-seeded West Virginia 77-54.

The Buckeyes, playing on the same court where top-seeded Syracuse struggled before finally beating 16th-seeded North Carolina-Asheville 72-65 hours earlier, twice took a 15-point lead in the first half and then led by as many as 20 – 70-50 on a basket by Thomas with 5:34 to play.

Erik Etherly had 19 points for the Greyhounds (24-9), the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference champions, who were in the tournament for the second time and first since 1994.

It was Ohio State’s 28th NCAA tournament appearance and fourth in a row, and the Buckeyes looked as though they had been there before, never letting Loyola get closer than 11 points in the second half.

The Greyhounds made a run against Ohio State’s reserves, closing within 70-59 with 2:18 to play. Ohio State coach Thad Matta put Thomas, Sullinger and Buford back in the game and the Buckeyes closed with an 8-0, the last six points on two 3-pointers by Buford, who had three of Ohio State’s five 3s.

Ohio State’s size advantage led to the Buckeyes outscoring Loyola 38-24 inside and had 15 second-chance points to six for the Greyhounds, who were outrebounded 16-5 on the offensive end.

The only stat that belonged to Loyola was turnovers. The Greyhounds committed 12, six less than the Buckeyes.

Loyola was one of two MAAC teams to make the tournament – only the second time it has done that – and the other was Iona, which set a tournament record by blowing a 25-point lead in a 78-72 loss to BYU in the opening round.

The Greyhounds set a school record with 24 wins, 23 more than they had eight years ago and Jimmy Patsos took over the program the next season.