CLEVELAND – Close to home, Ohio State lived up to its No. 1 billing.
William Buford scored 18 points, freshman Jared Sullinger added 11 before getting some extended rest, and Ohio State looked every inch the part of a No. 1 overall seed in rolling to a 75-46 win over Texas-San Antonio in the second round of the NCAA tournament Friday.
Playing a two-hour drive from their Columbus campus, the Buckeyes (33-2) were cheered on by more than 15,000 fans, who made Quicken Loans Arena feel just like home. Ohio State built a 16-point halftime lead, ballooned it to 38 in the second half and were never threatened by the No. 16 seed Roadrunners (20-14).
The blowout allowed Ohio State coach Thad Matta to rest his starters for Sunday's East region matchup with George Mason, a 61-57 winner over Villanova.
Devin Gibson scored 24 to lead UTSA, which beat Alabama State on Wednesday night for the right to face the powerful Buckeyes, who are seeking their first national title since 1960.
Melvin Johnson III scored just five after getting a career-high 29 in UTSA's opening-round win.
Matta warned his players about what could happen if they weren't careful.
In 1996 he was an assistant for No. 16 seed Western Carolina, which came within a missed last-second shot of stunning No. 1 seed Purdue in the tourney. Matta didn't want the Buckeyes, as loose a group as you'll find, to be overconfident against an inferior opponent.
Ohio State's win makes No. 1 seeds 107-0 against No. 16s since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985.
With 12:12 remaining and the Buckeyes ahead by 23, Matta pulled Sullinger, who added nine rebounds in his NCAA tourney debut. Moments later, the fab frosh was joined on the sideline by seniors David Lighty, Buford and Jon Diebler, who made four 3-pointers and scored 14.
In the closing minutes, Matta cleared his bench, even giving senior walk-on and OSU fan favorite Eddie Days some minutes.
UTSA's strategy was to slow the game to a crawl. This group of Roadrunners had no intention of going "beep-beep" and taking off.
Coach Brooks Thompson was content to have senior point guard Devin Gibson dribble the ball deep into the 35-second shot clock on each possession before heading toward the basket. It worked for a few minutes, and when Ohio State freshman guard Aaron Craft picked up his second foul — on a reach that upset Matta — UTSA's plan seemed to have some merit.
But the Roadrunners began missing shots and the Buckeyes got hot — ridiculously hot.
Diebler, the Big Ten's career leader in 3-pointers, buried two long ones and Buford hit another as Ohio State went on an 18-4 run to open a 23-13 lead. Gibson and Stephen Franklin shook free for layups to keep the Roadrunners within striking distance, but that's when the Buckeyes began pounding the ball down low to Sullinger, their 280-pound wide body.
Thompson promised to "throw the kitchen sink" at Sullinger, but the Roadrunners didn't have anyone capable of slowing Ohio State's bulky big man.
Sullinger muscled in for consecutive buckets, and when Diebler drilled a 3-pointer from just inside the Cuyahoga County line, the Buckeyes were up 36-19. On UTSA's bench, Thompson dropped his head in resignation. This was what he was afraid might happen.
Johnson, who lit up Alabama State for 25 first-half points in Dayton, was held to three on 1-of-6 shooting in the opening 20 minutes.
The Roadrunners knew it would take a perfect game, or one very close to flawless, to pull off an upset of historic proportions.
Showing no fear, UTSA started strong, making four of its first five shots, and reached the first TV timeout leading 9-7. The few dozen supporters wearing blue and orange were high-fiving, with a few raising their eyebrows as if surprised by the early lead.
It didn't last.