CLEVELAND (AP) – Once Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger declared it was over, it was over.
David Lighty made all seven of his 3-pointers and scored 25 points, Sullinger added 18 after informing one of George Mason’s players “it’s over” and top-seeded Ohio State made 16 3s to advance in the NCAA tournament with a jaw-dropping 98-66 win Sunday.
With thousands of fans chanting “O-H-I-O” at every opportunity, the Buckeyes (34-2) took apart the Patriots (27-7), who created some March mayhem a few years ago and hoped to follow Butler’s lead by taking out a No. 1 seed in this tourney.
Ohio State destroyed any upset plans and moved closer to its first national title since 1960. The Buckeyes will meet Kentucky (27-8) in the East regional semifinals Friday in Newark, N.J. Ohio State is 5-0 in NCAA tournament matchups with the Wildcats.
After falling behind 11-2, the Big Ten champions used their devastating inside-outside attack to post the most lopsided tournament victory in school history.
William Buford scored 18 and freshman guard Aaron Craft had 15 assists for Ohio State.
Cam Long scored 16 points to lead George Mason.
The challenge was daunting enough for the Patriots and then they found out before the game that they would face the Buckeyes without Luke Hancock, one of their best players. The sophomore guard had food poisoning and remained with a trainer at the team’s hotel.
Hancock, who averages 10 points, scored 18 and hit a decisive 3-pointer with 21 seconds left in George Mason’s win over Villanova in the second round.
But even he probably couldn’t have helped. The Patriots were in way over their heads against the Buckeyes.
Early on, the Patriots weren’t fazed and came right at Ohio State. They opened with an 11-2 run capped by a basket from Ryan Pearson, a junior from New York who started jawing with Sullinger. Ohio State’s laid-back big man took exception to a few of Pearson’s words and responded with a prediction.
“It’s over, yo,” he said, waving his hands.
And it was, yo.
The Buckeyes closed the first half by outscoring the Patriots 50-15, unleashing every weapon in their overstocked offensive arsenal. They scored on backboard-quaking dunks. They made nine 3-pointers. They dropped floaters, layups and shots from every angle.
Lighty, the fifth-year senior from Cleveland who was on OSU’s national runner-up team with Greg Oden and Michael Conley in 2007, made all five 3s and scored 17 points during the opening half of his final college game in Ohio. Sullinger chipped in with 13 and Diebler nine.
At one point, Buford and Diebler were a combined 2 of 9 from the field and Ohio State was still ahead by 15.
There was nothing the Patriots could do.
After Lighty made his fifth 3-pointer, Diebler, the Big Ten’s career leader in 3s, finally got one to go. Buford then hit another 3 and Diebler, who perfected his jumper in the summer by making 1,000 shots per day, closed the first half by swishing one of his patented line-drive 3s.
He let out a primal scream and ran off the floor with the Buckeyes.
It was over, all right, and on to New Jersey.
There was still a second half to be played and Ohio State showed the Patriots no mercy. The Buckeyes made seven more 3-pointers and finished 16 of 26 from behind the arc. In the closing minutes, coach Thad Matta cleared his bench, allowing OSU’s seldom-used reserves to get a taste of tourney action.
Earlier in the day, Lighty, Diebler and Dallas Lauderdale received their diplomas. They had to skip Sunday’s winter commencement ceremony in Columbus to face George Mason, and the trio posed at midcourt for photos after the morning shootaround wearing their caps.
The Buckeyes, graduates and all, have advanced.