Pittsburgh, PA (Sports Network) - Jared Sullinger netted 18 points, including six down the stretch, as Ohio State earned a trip to the Sweet 16 for a third consecutive year with a 73-66 triumph over Gonzaga.
After posting a career-high 31 points against Loyola (MD) in the second round, Deshaun Thomas followed that performance with 18 points and seven rebounds for the second-seeded Buckeyes (29-7), who haven't advanced past the Sweet 16 since 2007 when they advanced to the national title game before falling to Florida.
Aaron Craft added 17 points and 10 assists. Ohio State will play the winner between Florida State and Cincinnati in the East Region semifinals next Thursday in Boston.
"We didn't shoot the ball particularly well in the second half, but we knocked the shots down, and everybody made a big shot here and there. We were able to get the stops. One of the biggest keys in the game was taking away their transition offense. I thought we did a pretty decent job with that," Ohio State head coach Thad Matta said.
Gary Bell Jr. had 18 points, five assists and four rebounds and Elias Harris tallied 16 points and seven rebounds for seventh-seeded Gonzaga (26-7), which has lost three consecutive Round of 32 confrontations.
"Ohio State's a heck of a team," Gonzaga head coach Mark Few said. "They have a lot of weapons. We picked our poison. Wanted to hit some jump shots, cover down on the bigs. They did a great job of stepping out and hitting them."
The Bulldogs eroded a 10-point bulge with a 13-3 run to tie the contest at 61 with 4:05 remaining. Bell poured in nine straight points for Gonzaga during the surge and Harris capped the burst with a three-pointer from the right corner.
But Ohio State clamped down defensively, holding the Bulldogs without a bucket for the next 3:53. In the midst of Gonzaga's drought, the Buckeyes tallied the next seven points to regain control of the contest.
Sullinger netted six during the mini run.
He started it with a tough hook shot along the right baseline. After Thomas made 1-of-2 from the line, Sullinger powered up over Robert Sacre from the low left block. He then nailed a pair from the charity stripe for a 68-61 Ohio State advantage with 33 seconds left.
"I just wanted to score the basketball, and I knew that throwing my body and creating contact wasn't going to work in this game. So I kind of just went with a little bit of finesse and just tried to get off-the-body contact and try to go up and finish," Sullinger said of his strategy in the closing moments.
Bell banked in a three with 11 seconds to go to pull Gonzaga within 70-66, but William Bufored split a pair and Lenzelle Smith added two free throws to seal the win for the Buckeyes.
A 9-2 flurry propelled the Bulldogs to a 27-20 advantage midway through the opening half, only to see the Buckeyes respond with a 14-7 push to close the stanza.
Thomas tallied 10 consecutive Ohio State points during the stretch and Craft's runner right before the first-half buzzer gave the Buckeyes a 39-37 lead entering the locker room.
Ohio State shot 61.5 percent in the opening half, but Gonzaga outrebounded the Buckeyes on the offensive glass, 9-2, and attempted five more shots than its counterparts.
Craft took over for the Buckeyes in the early stages of the second frame, putting in seven straight Ohio State points to start the stanza. A bit later, Buford's trey gave the Buckeyes a 52-42 lead with 14:22 left.
Ohio State lost to Tennessee in the Sweet 16 in 2010 and fell to Kentucky last March in a regional semifinal...The Bulldogs outrebounded the Buckeyes 34-31 and 13-9 on the offensive boards...Gonzaga defeated West Virginia in the second round on Thursday...Gonzaga fell to BYU in the third round last year and lost to Syracuse in the Round of 32 in 2010.
03/18 11:04:52 ET