DAYTON, Ohio -- A clutch three-point shot a year ago lifte Georgia Tech to the Final Four, but in his team's upset bid against Ohio State yesterday, Kenny Anderson -- playing perhaps his last collegiate game -- was out of miracles.
The sophomore All-American had 25 points, but struggled in an 8-for-28 shooting performance, as the eighth-seeded Yellow Jackets (17-13) were eliminated by Ohio State, 65-61, before a sellout crowd at University of Dayton Arena.
Ohio State All-America forward Jim Jackson also struggled, hitting just five of 17 from the field on the way to 16 points. But the fifth-ranked Buckeyes got a big performance from center Perry Carter (19 points, 18 rebounds) and rode the strength of their huge front line and 20 offensive rebounds. The result is the first trip to the Sweet 16 since 1983 for Ohio State (27-3), the top seed in the Midwest.
"This is real important to us, especially for our seniors, whose careers can end with our next loss," Carter said. "Hopefully, we'll be there for the big dance at the end."
Anderson made it to the big dance last year, where Georgia Tech was eliminated by Nevada-Las Vegas in the semifinals (Ohio State also was eliminated by the Runnin' Rebels, losing in the second round). The Yellow Jackets have relied on the 6-foot-2 point guard's scoring all season, but Anderson never got untracked while the team was cutting a 10-point deficit to two in the final minutes.
"We hung in there and had all the chances in the world," said
Anderson, who was superb in Friday's 31-from point performance against DePaul. "I got some wide-open shots that I just didn't hit."
Anderson was four of 15 from the field in the second half, when Georgia Tech was making its run. With Tech trailing, 55-45, with a little more than nine minutes left in the game, Anderson did score six points during a 10-2 run that pulled Georgia Tech within 57-55 after a layup by Jon Barry with 3 minutes, 39 seconds left.
But Georgia Tech went scoreless for the next three minutes, with Anderson missing three of the team's four field-goal attempts in that span. The Yellow Jackets still were within 60-58 after a layup by Barry with 19 seconds left, but Ohio State -- held without a field goal for the final 6:24 -- hit five of its final six free throws for the win.
"[Treg] Lee and Carter really asserted themselves on the boards," said Ohio State coach Randy Ayers. "Any time you get 50 rebounds, you have to like the effort."
After closing the regular season with two losses, the Buckeyes ++ have won two straight, including Friday's 97-86 victory over Towson State. Still, the Buckeyes, matching their fourth-lowest scoring output of the season, looked far from the confident group that roared through the Big Ten early en route to sharing that league's regular-season title.
"Right now, they have the pressure to succeed," Georgia Tech coach Bobby Cremins said. "If they cannot worry about that, they're fabulous. They need to go out and just play, and not worry about winning or losing."
Lee, who scored nine and grabbed 13 rebounds, agreed the team is not where it was -- but said it's getting there.
"Right now, it's a mental thing for us," Lee said. "We tend to go out sometimes and get a little lackadaisical. It's a matter of staying focused every game."
For Anderson, the next time he focuses on a game may be in the National Basketball Association. With two-thirds of Georgia Tech's "Lethal Weapon 3" from last year's Final Four team gone, Anderson had to take the scoring load this season in averaging 25.9.
"I had a roller-coaster year, and it was very frustrating," Anderson said. "Right now, I'm just going to go back to school and think about my academics. Then me and coach will sit down and see where we go from there."
Ohio State's Jackson, a good friend of Anderson's, said that path probably will lead to the upcoming NBA draft.
"He told me that if he could go in the top five of the lottery, he would," Jackson said. "It's best for him and his family, because his mother is disabled. He really wants to take care of them."