Ohio State is back in the Final Four for the first since 2007, when it advanced to the national championship game and lost to Florida. The 2011-12 journey was an up-and-down one. Along the way, the Buckeyes were ranked as high as No. 2 and also struggled through a 2-3 funk in February. But they were at their best when it mattered most, winning eight of their last nine en route to making the Final Four. Now that Ohio State is off to New Orleans for the national semis, BTN.com’s Brent Yarina takes a look back at the key moments and plays that have the Buckeyes in this position.
Nov. 29: In the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, then-No. 3 Duke visited Value City Arena, and the Buckeyes won so easily it prompted this quote from Coach K: ”Sometimes you just get your butt kicked.” Indeed. (BOX | AP RECAP)
Dec. 31: It came in Ohio State’s first Big Ten loss of the season, but freshman Sam Thompson threw down one of the best dunks of the 2011-12 season. He went on to have a few other similar jaw-dropping slams, including a similar one in the Elite Eight against Syracuse.
Jan. 15: In a rematch against Indiana, Lenzelle Smith Jr. introduced himself to the nation, with a career-high 28 points on 10-of-12 from the field. Smith, who had scored in double digits just once in his career, was averaging 5.1 points entering the contest. (BOX | AP RECAP)
Jan. 25: In a rout of Penn State, Aaron Craft threw a halfcourt alley-oop pass in Sam Thompson’s direction, only to see it go in for three points.
Jan. 29: It’s that Lenzelle Smith Jr. guy again. After scoring a total of two points in the previous two games, Smith scored 17 points and grabbed a career-high 12 rebounds, including eight on the offensive end, to lift Ohio State past rival Michigan. (BOX | AP RECAP)
Feb. 4: In an arena where Ohio State rarely has success, Jared Sullinger posted a double-double (24 points, 10 rebounds) and added three steals as the Buckeyes won in Madison for the first time since 2000. (BOX | AP RECAP)
Feb. 29: A season after escaping Evanston with a narrow victory, Ohio State did it again at Welsh-Ryan Arena, this time on a late Jared Sullinger bucket to break the tie and keep the Buckeyes alive in the Big Ten title chase. (BOX | AP RECAP)
March 4: Needing a victory to grab a share of the Big Ten title on the season’s final day, Ohio State traveled to first-place Michigan State and stunned the Spartans on a late William Buford jumper. (BOX | AP RECAP)
March 10: In the Big Ten tournament semifinals, Jared Sullinger scored eight of Ohio State first 10 points and finished with 24 en route to destroying archrival Michigan and leading the Buckeyes to their fourth consecutive Big Ten tourney title game. (BOX | AP RECAP)
March 17: In the third round of the NCAA tourney, Aaron Craft compiled the best game of his career, including his first double-double (17 points, 10 assists), in leading Ohio State past Gonzaga. The sophomore also shot 7-of-9 from the field and tallied three steals. (BOX | AP RECAP)
March 22: In the Sweet 16, Ohio State used a late 17-1 run to down instate foe Cincinnati — which it was playing for just the second time since the 1962 national championship game — and advance to the Elite Eight for the first time since 2007. (BOX | AP RECAP)
March 24: With a trip to New Orleans on the line, Ohio State, behind four players in double figures, held off No. 1 seed Syracuse to advance to its first Final Four since 2007, when it lost to Florida in the national championship game. (BOX | AP RECAP)