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Thomas’ career night leads Ohio State past Greyhounds

NCAA Basketball Tournament -  Loyola v Ohio State

PITTSBURGH, PA - MARCH 15: Deshaun Thomas #1 and Jared Sullinger #0 of the Ohio State Buckeyes react after a play against the Loyola Greyhounds during the second round of the 2012 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at Consol Energy Center on March 15, 2012 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

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Going into Thursday’s game against 2-seed Ohio State, Loyola (MD) head coach Jimmy Patsos expressed concern about the Buckeye tandem of Jared Sullinger and Deshaun Thomas. The Greyhounds don’t have that kind of size, clearly putting them at a disadvantage in the paint.

And that’s exactly what happened as Thomas scored a career-high 31 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, leading the Buckeyes to a 78-59 win that ended up closer than the final score would indicate down the stretch.

“I said I was worried about Deshaun Thomas, he had 31 and 12. Jimmy doesn’t just bar tend, he knows basketball, too,” remarked Patsos. “Because I was with Gary Williams. I let the media get away with that because it’s a great story. But I’ve been coaching for 25 years, and Deshaun Thomas is a great player.”

Ohio State managed to shoot 44.8% from the field but it was their work on the glass that made the difference, as they out-rebounded the Greyhounds 45-23 on the night. Being that dominant on the glass will cure a lot of ills, one of which being Ohio State’s 18 turnovers.

Erik Etherly led Loyola with 19 points, seven rebounds and four blocked shots but they didn’t have the horses in the paint and shooting 35.4% from the field put them in a hole they were unable to climb out of.

After a pair of Etherly free throws cut Ohio State’s lead to 24-18 with 9:39 remaining in the first half the Buckeyes went on a 13-4 run to push their lead out to 15 (37-22), and they wouldn’t lead by less than 11 the remainder of the contest.

But that shouldn’t be taken as a sign that the MAAC tournament champions decided to lie down, as Loyola continued to fight and even forced Matta to bring his starters back in to finish off the game.

Next up for the Buckeyes is a Gonzaga team that looked very good in their beating of West Virginia, and the Bulldogs have the size needed to make things more difficult for the Ohio State big men.

But if Thomas can continue to play as he did on Thursday night, a trip to the Final Four is more than possible for Thad Matta’s squad.

“Deshaun was excellent on the boards and also scoring the basketball,” said Sullinger of his teammate. “He pretty much carried this team. I don’t think we would have won it without him.”