This is one college reunion that will go on another weekend.
Scarlet & Gray, a team mostly made up of former Ohio State standouts, got all they could handle at Capital on Sunday afternoon as they rallied to advance to the Super 16 round of The Basketball Tournament.
In its first game Saturday, Scarlet & Gray rolled to a 31-point victory over the West Virginia Wildcats.
Things did not come as easily Sunday as it needed a huge fourth quarter from Jared Sullinger to finally knock out the Texas Tech Matadors 82-73 in front of another overflow crowd.
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“With the guys we have and the way we play, we understand who has the hot hand and who does not,” said Sullinger, who played for the Buckeyes from 2010 to ’12 and scored 11 of his game-high 28 points in the fourth.
“We go with the hot hand. We don’t have any egos around here.”
Said Scoonie Penn: “We were a little scattered, and I’ll take responsibility for that being the coach. But we got it together.”
Next up for Scarlet & Gray in the $2 million winner-take-all tournament is a regional semifinal in Atlanta on Friday against Primetime Players, a semi-pro team based in South Carolina that won at the buzzer on Sunday evening.
Last year, Scarlet & Gray created quite a buzz when it made a run to the semifinals of the nationally televised tournament without really being tested.
Sunday, they were.
“We didn’t face any adversity until the game we lost,” Penn said. “We cakewalked through the first four games. I told the guys (Saturday) this would be our toughest game. We knew they could break it … give us everything they had. We needed to be challenged.”
After taking a 3-0 lead on a long shot from David Lighty, the Scarlet & Gray found themselves in an unfamiliar spot.
The Matadors held a seven-point lead in the opening quarter and led by nine in the second before Scarlet & Gray started to take over.
With 10.7 seconds left in the half, Sullinger and Quincy Diggs got into an altercation at the Matadors bench. Diggs’ closed-fisted shove earned an ejection.
Scarlet & Gray went into the second half down 39-38, yet had momentum.
“That was a 2-million-dollar push right there,” said Sullinger, who had 20 rebounds to go with his 28 points. “I appreciate it.”
Said Penn: “We got a little fortunate because of their misfortune when (Diggs) got kicked out of the game. But he did it, so he deserved it.”
After shooting just 32.4 percent in the opening half, Scarlet & Gray got things going in the second half and opened on an 11-2 run thanks to six points inside from Sullinger.
Late in the third, Jon Diebler hit a pair of three-pointers — his first giving Scarlet & Gray their largest lead of the game at seven points.
The Matadors closed hard, however, and led 61-60 going into the fourth.
That’s when Sullinger took over.
The former Northland star scored Scarlet & Gray’s first seven points of the fourth and 11 of the first 13.
With 3:57 left and leading 75-70, Penn took a timeout to kick in the "Elam Ending": By tournament rule, the game clock was shut off and the target score to win the game became the leading team's point total plus seven — 82.
Diebler hit a three-pointer, William Buford drained a jumper and the game ended on an alley-oop from Buford to Lighty.
That set the overflow crowd into another frenzy.
“We knew it was going to be full, but I didn’t know how excited it would make me,” said point guard Aaron Craft, who scored 12 points. “We rode that wave.”
As for the next round, Sullinger is expected to play despite getting married next weekend.
“You never know,” Sullinger said. Penn alluded to trying to shift things around so “big man is playing.”
Center Byron Mullens, who missed Sunday’s game because of personal reasons, also could be back.
Greg Oden, who was the top pick of the 2007 NBA draft, practiced with the team on Monday but wasn’t around this weekend. Penn said the 7-footer is scheduled to be in Atlanta.
“I can’t wait for that,” Sullinger said.