An 80.8 percent free-throw shooter during his four-year career at Ohio State, William Buford stepped to the stripe with $2 million on the line Tuesday night.
Buford calmly made both, giving Carmen’s Crew a 66-60 win against team Golden Eagles in the championship game of The Basketball Tournament at Wintrust Arena in Chicago.
“I’ve been preparing for that moment for a long time, and I came through,” Buford told ESPN. “It’s always great to win with my brothers. I love these guys to death.”Get the news delivered to your inbox: Sign up for our BuckeyeXtra newsletter
His clutch shots capped a tense, frenetic finish to a game that felt like a heavyweight prize fight. Down 60-58 during the fourth quarter, Carmen’s Crew scored the final eight points of the game. The first four came from former Otterbein player Jeff Gibbs before a Jon Diebler layup set the stage for Buford’s free throws.
After the Golden Eagles tied the score three times during the fourth quarter, an Aaron Craft free throw with 4:19 left gave Carmen’s Crew a 58-57 lead that it held when the Elam Ending target score was set at 66.
Buford opened the game with a jumper, and Carmen’s Crew quickly built a lead that grew to 20-10 when Diebler made a three-pointer with 8:01 left in the second quarter. But from there, the Golden Eagles rallied with a quick 8-0 run.
They finally reclaimed the lead at 25-24 on a drive from Maurice Acker with 3:25 left in the quarter, and they handed Carmen’s Crew its first halftime deficit of the tournament with a 31-29 lead.
After hitting that opening jumper, Buford had missed three of his final four shots in the half. Diebler led all scorers with nine points but had to leave because of an injury to his left hand with 1:59 remaining in the half.
Before the injury, Diebler was 3 of 4 from three-point range. He didn’t attempt another shot until his steal led to a layup that pushed Carmen’s Crew within two points of victory.
David Lighty led Carmen's Crew with 17 points.
After being hired by the NBA’s Memphis Grizzles as an assistant coach, Scoonie Penn — who had helped assemble this Carmen’s Crew team and coached it the previous two seasons — was in attendance, as were fellow former Buckeyes Keita Bates-Diop, Joey Lane and Jantel Lavender.