LOS ANGELES — Ohio State could not pick up where it left off against Wichita State ... a half-century ago.
Couldn’t do its usual thing against mid-majors, either.
OSU fell to 3-2 all-time against the Shockers while its air of invincibility against the underdog shattered in a 70-66 loss in a regional final at Staples Center.
Never had an OSU team so favored under coach Thad Matta fallen like it did Saturday night. When the No. 2-seed Buckeyes have it going, they usually stick it to the little guy.
Ohio State began the night with only three losses to teams from outside the six power conferences during the last eight seasons — its most recent loss coming in 2009 while without national player of the year Evan Turner against a Butler team that made the national championship game. The Buckeyes also lost to Siena as a No. 8 seed in the first round of the 2009 tourney and at Butler in a rebuilding 2007-08 season.
As for the Buckeyes’ history against Wichita State, their four previous meetings against the Shockers came from 1960 to 1963, with OSU 3-1 in the miniseries. Ohio State breezed to double-digit wins in 1960, 1961, and 1963 while unranked WSU stunned the No. 2 Buckeyes 71-54 in Wichita in 1962.
The strange home-and-home games came with both programs at or near their historic peaks.
Ohio State was coming off the 1960 national championship in the first meeting while holdover stars Jerry Lucas and John Havlicek led the Buckeyes back to the Final Four in 1961 and 1962. The Shockers countered with All-American Dave Stallworth in two of the games, finished the 1963 season ranked fifth in the Associated Press poll, and had in place the foundation for the school’s first trip to the Final Four in 1965.
BACK TO EARTH: Buckeyes super sub LaQuinton Ross gave both sides an early lift.
Two days after scoring 17 points off the bench and hitting the game-winning shot in Ohio State’s 73-70 victory over Arizona, he opened and closed his first half with scores — the first a 10-foot bank shot on his first possession, then a pair of free throws after he was fouled on a 3-point attempt with 3 seconds left.
But his defense made him a liability. The sophomore forward was on the floor for back-to-back open 3s that nudged the Shockers ahead 25-15. Ross finished the first half with four points on 1-of-5 shooting and, after a late burst of offense, finished the game with 19 points.
NO HARM MEANT: Officials needed little time to determine an elbow to the head that leveled Wichita State forward Carl Hall was inadvertent.
Deshaun Thomas drilled Hall on a baseline drive in the opening minutes of the second half and was whistled for the charge, though replays showed the OSU forward made the contact in the natural act of shooting. Hall lingered on the ground before he walked slowly to the bench.
CASHING OUT: Matta failed to cash in with the loss.
On top of $100,000 in postseason bonuses already collected, he could have gained $20,000 for guiding the Buckeyes to a second straight Final Four. Matta, signed through 2019 with a $3.2 million annual salary, also would have earned $100,000 if the Buckeyes won the national title.
Wichita State’s Gregg Marshall, meanwhile, reaped a $136,000 bonus that pushed his haul in performance bonuses this season to $380,000, though the sixth-year Shockers coach could rake in far more if next weekend proves to be his final one at Wichita State. Marshall, who makes $1.15 million annually, is a fixture on the annual carousel of candidates for big-time jobs.
“I’ve been a head coach for 15 years, and at least 10 of those years there’s been conjecture like that,” said Marshall, who is 139-69 at Wichita State. “I’ve made one coaching move in 15 years, so I’m not a jumper. I’m very pleased to be the coach at Wichita State, content, happy, and you can’t buy happy.”