Carmen's Crew notebook: David Lighty, former Buckeyes eventually shake off TBT hangover

Adam Jardy
The Columbus Dispatch

Call it a hangover. Call it the aftermath. Call it whatever you will, but for a little while the residual effect of last year’s TBT experience was lingering around Carmen’s Crew.

Last year’s attempts to repeat as champions in the $1 million, winner-take-all tournament quickly came up empty with an opening-round upset loss. Instead of remaining in the bubble environment in downtown Columbus, top-seeded Carmen’s Crew exited after just one game. Friday night, coach Jared Sullinger brought a tweaked roster mostly of former Ohio State players to the Covelli Center in the hopes of putting last year firmly in the past.

Instead, No. 16 seed Mid-American Unity led for most of the first half as the teams went into the break tied at 37, thanks as much to some opportune shooting as to the 11 turnovers committed by Carmen’s Crew. At the half, Sullinger offered some salty, expletive-filled exhortations to take better care of the ball, and the result was a 77-65 win that sent Carmen’s Crew into the second round.

So is the hangover over?

“I hope so,” David Lighty, who led all scorers with 19 points said. “That first half, we seemed a little tipsy, still. I hope it’s all out of our system now.”

David Lighty plays for Carmen's Crew in The Basketball Tournament at the Covelli Center on July 23, 2021

New look for Carmen's Crew

The new-look Carmen’s Crew started first-time additions Shannon Scott and Kosta Koufos, slotting them alongside returnees William Buford, Jeff Gibbs and Lighty. All but Gibbs, who went to Otterbein, are former Buckeyes.

Lineup mainstay Aaron Craft, who did not play professionally last season after entering medical school at Ohio State, came off the bench to play 11 minutes. He finished with one point, two steals, a rebound and two turnovers while not attempting a field goal.

“Craft is always going to run 100 miles per hour, whether he played basketball or he didn’t,” Sullinger said. “Craft just plays hard. It’s genetic at that point. These guys played well.”

Kosta Koufos debuts with Carman's Crew 

Koufos had 16 points on 7-of-8 shooting and hit two clinching free throws to reach the Elam Ending target score, adding 10 rebounds for a double-double. Buford, too, had a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds while Miami (Ohio) product Julian Mavunga finished with 10 points, eight of which came during the second quarter as Carmen’s Crew struggled to find traction.

He also flipped up a second-half driving layup that seemingly hung in the air for several seconds before swishing through the net, sending the pro-Ohio State crowd into a fury as it extended the lead.

“Julian made a hell of a layup,” Sullinger said, as Lighty and Koufos lobbied for it to be included on SportsCenter’s nightly top 10.

More:5 things about TBT as coach Jared Sullinger, Ohio State's Carmen's Crew prepares to play

David Lighty takes shot to the eye

The end of the first quarter saw Craft in vintage form, but it also sent Lighty to the medical staff for some attention.

After hitting a free throw with 2.8 seconds left, Craft snuck up behind Mid-American Unity’s Kevin Capers and popped the ball loose just as he was attempting a buzzer-beater from just past half court. In the process, Lighty wound up getting a swipe to the face that had him wearing a bandage over his right eyebrow and contemplating stitches after the game.

“Craft slapped at the ball, made the guy miss and he came down and slapped me in the face right before the end of the first,” he said with a smile. “Just get out of the way when Craft’s coming, basically.”

Kosta Koufos adapts to Elam Ending

Games in The Basketball Tournament follow a unique set of rules to settle the final score. The clock is turned off at the first timeout with less than four minutes remaining, and eight points is added to the score of the leading team. From there, the first team to reach that number, called the target score, is the winner.

Koufos, who scored six of Carmen’s Crew’s eight points during the Elam Ending, said it took a minute to acclimate himself to the new rules.

“They had to reiterate the Elam Ending, first team to eight points,” he said. “It’s cool. It is what it is. It’s different. I think next year they’ll come out with a four-point shot as well and have what Space Jam (has), a thousand points.

“I’m just kidding. It definitely adds more pressure to the shots.”

Sullinger, Lighty laugh at stat sheet

With Lighty on his right, Sullinger shared a glance at the final statistics and quietly chuckled as Koufos answered a question about the Ohio State fans making noise during Carmen’s Crew’s second-half run.

What was he looking at?

“Plus-minus,” Sullinger said. “Shannon (Scott) was plus-18. (Jeff) Gibbs was plus-14. Kosta was plus-19. Lighty was plus-10 and (Buford) was plus-19. When you look at those stats, you can tell we made an impact.”

Former Ohio State walk-on Joey Lane, now a co-host of the official TBT podcast, jokingly asked Sullinger about Jon Diebler’s plus-minus.

“Minus-4, with a bad three,” Sullinger said. “I’ve never seen him miss that.”

“We all know how good Jon is,” Koufos, who was Diebler’s roommate during his lone season at Ohio State, said. “Once he gets going, he’s one of the best shooters in the country. He’s definitely one of the biggest parts of our team. We’re going to need him big time in the next couple of games.”

Diebler had three points on 1-of-3 shooting from three in nine minutes of playing time.

ajardy@dispatch.com

@AdamJardy

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