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Ohio State advances to Elite Eight with an 81-66 win over Cincinnati

Posted by Gary Dzen, Boston.com Staff  March 22, 2012 11:59 PM

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Ohio State took care of business against sixth-seeded Cincinnati in the nightcap of a Sweet 16 doubleheader Thursday night, efficiently picking apart the Bearcats, 81-66, to set up a showdown of heavyweights Saturday for a trip to the Final Four.

While Syracuse struggled to take care of business against Wisconsin in the first game, Ohio State proved against Cincinnati that the Buckeyes might be the team to beat in this regional. Sophomores Jared Sullinger and DaShaun Thomas, ranked No. 1 and No. 2 on the team in scoring respectively, combined for 30 points in the first half. Thomas has made more than 50 percent of his career field goals, and he exceeded that mark by hitting 8 of 12 shots before halftime. Sullinger chipped in by hitting 5 of 9 shots, adding nine rebounds as the Buckeyes cleaned up on the glass and took a 37-25 lead at the break.

For their part, the scrappy Bearcats did not go quietly, mounting a charge to start the second half to pull even on a floater by Jaquon Parker with 15:07 remaining. Baskets by Cashmere Wright and Dion Dixon gave the Bearcats their first lead since early in the first half. In total Cincinnati stretched their run to 21-6, putting a scare into the region's No. 2 seed. Cincinnati started the first half hitting 11 of their first 15 shots, while Ohio State made just 6 of their first 15 attempts.

It wouldn't last. The Buckeyes settled into their game, and all of the things that make them a good team -- sticky defense, rebounding, and offensive execution -- began to pay off on the scoreboard as well. A 3-pointer by Lenzelle Smith Jr. with 7:53 left put Ohio State up five, and another three less than a minute later by Aaron Craft gave the Buckeyes some breathing room. The sum of the damage was a 17-1 run that turned a deficit into Ohio State's second and final commanding lead of the game.

Sullinger finished with 23 points, while Thomas finished with 26. Bearcats big man Yancy Gates was held to 7 points and 5 rebounds.

Ohio State will play Syracuse Saturday at TD Garden at 7:05 p.m.

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