Everyone knew if freshman sensation D’Angelo Russell got hot, Ohio State could make a deep run in the 2015 NCAA Tournament. That happened Thursday as Russell scored 28 points and the Buckeyes knocked off VCU.
Ohio State needed another big performance from Russell on Saturday if it was going to upset No. 2 seed Arizona in the West Region, but the 6-foot-5 guard struggled against the Wildcats, who have the third-best adjusted defensive efficiency on kenpom.com.
Russell scored just 9 points on very poor 3-of-19 shooting. Although he dished out 6 assists and committed just one turnover, the lack of scoring kept the Buckeyes from pulling off the upset in a 73-58 loss.
This was Russell’s first single-digit scoring output since Nov. 18 against Marquette.
“(Arizona) had great length out there,” coach Thad Matta said. “Obviously they were committing two guys to him off the ball screen and did a really nice job. You know, with that length, it was a little bit difficult to see around. But I thought he had some great looks at the basket. Unfortunately it was kind of one of those days for him in terms of the shots not going down.”
The performance does not take anything away from Russell’s dominant season. The freshman will almost surely be a top-five NBA Draft pick should he choose to go pro.
But this team lived and died by his success this season. When Russell struggled Saturday, his teammates were unable to completely pick up the slack.
Senior forward Sam Thompson scored a team-high 18 points on 6-of-11 shooting. Senior point guard Shannon Scott was the only other Buckeye to reach double figures with 10 points, but he also had 1 assist and 4 turnovers.
As a team, Ohio State shot 38.5 percent from the field and 5-of-17 (29.4 percent) from beyond the arc.
“We were hoping, as he’s done so many times this year, he’s kind of caught fire and put us on his back,” Matta said of Russell.
Saturday’s matchup was billed as a battle between freshman with Russell and Arizona wing Stanley Johnson. Johnson also struggled with 4 points on 1-of-12 shooting.
All quotes transcribed by ASAP Sports.