Ohio State's Greatest Sweet 16 Wins of All Time

Bruce Hooley

We associate that iconic line from Wide World of Sports --the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat -- with ill-fated Olympian Vinko Bogataj, crashing off the ski jump ramp.

But it applies just as seamlessly to the NCAA Basketball Tournament's Sweet Sixteen.

The pregnant possibilities of an attainable trip to within one win of the Final Four have been crushed in an eyeblink so many times in the history of the Big Dance.

Lingering in a tight game one second, defeated the next...out of the Tournament, banished to the bus home...so seemingly close to your dream, yet so immersed in the instant nightmare of defeat.

Ohio State has known both sides of that fate throughout its storied post-season history, but today we celebrate the top Sweet Sixteen triumphs in OSU annals.

5. No. 1 OSU 80, No. 4 North Carolina 73 (1992 Southeast Regional)

This one often vanishes into the ether because of what happened to the top-seeded Buckeyes two days later (don't ask...it's painful), but it was a great win for third-year coach Randy Ayers over UNC's legendary Dean Smith.

The final score belies how close this affair actually was.

You might remember Jim Jackson, Lawrence Funderburke, Chris Jent, Jamaal B
Brown and Mark Baker as the Buckeyes' starting five, but they wouldn't have advanced from this Sweet 16 match-up without the late heroics of backup Jamie Skelton.

His three-pointer with 2:15 left broke a 69-69 tie, and then he added a layup on OSU's next possession to move the lead to five. That completed a 14-point night for Skelton and delivered Ohio State to the Elite Eight and a third game that season against Michigan's Fab Five (I told you not to ask).

4. No. 2 OSU 73, No. 6 Arizona, 70 (2013 West Regional)

What's better than winning an NCAA Tournament game on a buzzer-beater?

That's easy...winning two in a row on buzzer-beaters.

Six years after Thad Matta broke his the heart of his successor at Xavier, Sean Miller, with an improbable comeback in the 2007 second round at Rupp Arena, Matta again got the better of Miller, who was now coaching at Arizona.

LaQuinton Ross's three-pointer with two seconds left made the difference, just days after Aaron Craft knocked down a triple just before the horn to eliminate Iowa State in the second round.

3. OSU 60, Marquette 59 (1971 Mideast Regional)

The Buckeyes relied on senior Jim Cleamons to galvanize a group of first-time-eligible sophomores Allan Hornyak, Luke Witte, Mark Wager and Dave Merchant.

OSU won the Big Ten but ran into the nation's No. 2 team in unbeaten Marquette, which won the NIT in 1970 and rode a 39-game winning streak into the regional semifinals in Athens, Ga.

The Warriors, relying on senior All-American guard Dean Meminger and sophomore center Jim Chones, led by five points with less than three minutes to play before Ohio State rallied.

Hornyak, OSU's leading scorer all season, sat out more than 10 minutes in the second half with foul trouble, but made two free throws with six seconds left to provide a three-point lead that withstood a Marquette basket at the buzzer.

2. No. 4 OSU 72, No. 1 Auburn 64 (1999, South Regional)

Jim O'Brien's second team in Columbus had already staged an amazing turnaround from the previous season, when it went 8-22 overall and 1-15 in the Big Ten.

The addition of Boston College transfer Scoonie Penn and the maturation of sophomore guard Michael Redd gave OSU hope when it ran into the nation's No. 4 team at the University of Tennessee.

The Buckeyes had dodged UCLA, upset by Detroit, in the second round and so how they'd fare against the SEC champs was unknown, particularly since Penn was still hobbled by a bruised gluteus maximus (yes, that's what you think it is) from the regular-season finale at Penn State.

Penn had to sit on his injury after gaining his fourth personal foul early in the second half, but O'Brien trusted him to return with 10 minutes left and he led the Buckeyes late comeback.

Auburn fell from a 61-61 tie in the last three minutes when SEC player-of-the-year Chris Porter fouled out. The Buckeyes closed on an 11-3 run, with Brian Brown's behind-the-back pass to Jason Singleton for a slam highlighting the getaway.

1. No. 1 OSU 85, No. 5 Tennessee 84 (2007, South Regional)

A week after escaping Xavier in overtime, it looked like the Thad Five would meet their demise in a blowout loss when Chris Lofton and Tennessee jumped to a 49-29 lead just before halftime.

Even with a three-point play from David Lighty before the break, the 17-point deficit presented a bigger hole than any team in NCAA history had ever overcome to win in regulation.

Ohio State, though, needed barely half the second half to forge a 64-64 tie with Ron Lewis and Mike Conley leading the way.

Control alternated from there, with the Buckeyes fighting to overcome foul trouble by center Greg Oden that limited him to just nine minutes in each half.

Tennessee owned a 79-76 lead with 2:44 left when Lighty hit a three-pointer from the right corner, his first since early January. He had missed 18 consecutive shots from beyond the arc before that one connected.

Conley's first of two free throws with 6.5 seconds left put OSU in front by one, and when Oden blocked Ramar Smith's desperation shot at the buzzer off a court-length drive following Conley's missed free throw, the Buckeyes survived.

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Comments (1)
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What makes that victory over North Carolina even more impressive is that UNC was loaded & beat Michigan the next year to win the national championship.


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