There are four sets of stairs separating the sections of purple, plastic bleachers on either side of the court at Capital University’s The Capital Center.
For one day, one set of them might as well have been the Iron Curtain. On the East: Big X coach Andrew Dakich, flanked by an assistant on either side, finalizing game plans roughly an hour before tip. On the West: Evan Ravenel and LaQuinton Ross, preparing to suit up for Carmen’s Crew.
Former Buckeyes, all of them. But Saturday afternoon in the second round of The Basketball Tournament, they were enemies in the single-elimination event with winner-take-all prize of $2 million. And ultimately, the team with the most Buckeyes prevailed as Carmen’s Crew eliminated Big X, 89-75, in front of 1,997 fans.
It was clear who the scarlet-clad crowd was pulling for from the moments before the game. Carmen’s Crew earned the bulk of the applause when the lineups were announces, with Aaron Craft far and away receiving the loudest ovation. Carmen’s Crew coach Dallas Lauderdale followed Big X coach Andrew Dakich to the court without acknowledgement, and C.J. Jackson exchanged a pregame fist bump with David Lighty before the opening tip.
“A lot of people just keep saying they’re our little brother and we’re big brother, but for me that’s not the case,” Aaron Craft, who had 11 points for Carmen’s Crew, said. “We’re all a fraternity now. We want to hang out with them. It’s a lot of fun to play against C.J. and Key, and we’ll even throw Dakich in there. To be able to compete against them at a high level on TV, it doesn’t get much better than that.”
Five Buckeyes started the game, four of them for Carmen’s Crew: William Buford, Evan Ravenel, Craft and Lighty. Jackson started for Big X. In all, former Ohio State players scored 61.0 percent of the game’s points. During the fourth quarter, the crowd split itself into four sections to cheer “O-H-I-O.”
The matchup was one Dakich wanted last year when he was playing for Big X, but the team came up one point short. This year, he got his shot but from the sideline.
“For C.J. and Keyshawn, this meant a lot because they go up against those guys and hear about them all the time, the Ohio State tradition,” Dakich told The Dispatch outside his locker room. “It’s hard not to root for them, for sure, but I credit our guys. We were right there.”
Jackson and Woods each finished with 12 points. Jackson had four first-half turnovers but none during the second and added six rebounds, while Woods had five rebounds. Woods was often matched up with Diebler, at one point hitting a three-pointer in his face, while Jackson occasionally drew Craft or Lighty. Buford led all scorers with 24 points and Lighty had 12 while Diebler, Craft and Ross had 11 each and Ravenel added seven.
As they filed off the court, Lighty gave a quick hug to Dakich. Then both were off on their separate ways.