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Men’s Basketball: Ohio State alumni return to Columbus for The Basketball Tournament

Forward Jared Sullinger scores a basket for Scarlet and Gray during its 82-73 win over the Matadors on July 22, 2018.
Credit: Colin Gay | Sports Editor

The goal was the same as last year: to win The Basketball Tournament and take home the two-million dollar prize. However, as the Scarlet and Gray team played its first two games of the 2018 tournament, it seemed to mean more.

As a No. 1 seed, the Scarlet and Gray hosted the first two rounds of the tournament at the Capital Center in Columbus, Ohio. The sold-out crowd seemed to love the taste of nostalgia, roaring as former Ohio State players led the team to two victories over the West Virginia Wildcats and the Matadors.

With the home-court advantage, guard Aaron Craft said he knew that the atmosphere would be there. But, what he did not know was the amount of energy it would bring to him and the team as a whole.

“I think we all knew it was going to be full,” Craft said. “I didn’t realize how excited it was going to make me to be able to do that again just because you just don’t think you will be able to have the opportunity when school’s out.”

Some players are trying to use the opportunity of playing in the TBT to their advantage.

After averaging 16.8 points and 9.2 rebounds per game in the 2017 tournament, forward Jared Sullinger has been the only player to record at least 20 points for Scarlet and Gray this tournament, shooting 63.3 percent from the field.

Sullinger has been the leading rebounder in each of the first two games of the tournament as well, recording 20 rebounds in Scarlet and Gray’s 82-73 win over the Matadors Sunday.

“We just go with the hot hand,” Sullinger said. “We don’t have no egos around here. Whoever has it, has it. Whoever don’t, play defense.”

Craft has made five of seven shot attempts, leading the team with nine assists in two games. After struggling offensively in the first game against the Wildcats, guard David Lighty made five of eight shot attempts from the field, recording 15 points, four assists and three steals against the Matadors.

After two games in Columbus, Scarlet and Gray will travel to Atlanta for the Round of 16. Last season, in its first appearance in the TBT, the team lost in the semifinal to Team Challenge ALS.

However, general manager Scoonie Penn said his team had not faced adversity prior to that loss last season, calling Sunday’s win against the Matadors a hard-fought victory.

Even as Scarlet and Gray travel down south for the next part of the tournament, Penn said he believes that Columbus proved it is a hotbed for basketball over the past two games, saying the TBT saw what is possible in this city.

For Penn, he doesn’t see Scarlet and Gray going away any time soon.

“I can see going forward that this will grow,” Penn said.  “Even as these guys get older and I get pushed out, whatever it is, as long as TBT keeps doing it, I think there will be enough guys in this area, enough Buckeyes that will continue to carry the torch.”

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