OSU's Thomas doesn't hold back: "I love to score"

By Howard Ulman

Associated Press

Published: Friday, March 23 2012 12:00 a.m. MDT

Ohio State's Jared Sullinger, left, laughs as teammate Deshaun Thomas speaks during a news conference in Boston, Friday, March 23, 2012. Ohio State will play Syracuse in an NCAA tournament East Regional final college basketball game on Saturday.

Elise Amendola, Associated Press

BOSTON — Deshaun Thomas' reputation as a shoot-first player is well known. Ohio State's high-scoring forward even apologizes for it.

"I love to score," Thomas said Friday, one day after leading the Buckeyes with 26 points — and no assists — in their 81-66 win over Cincinnati that put them in Saturday night's East Regional final against Syracuse.

At Bishop Luers High School in Fort Wayne, Ind., where he averaged 29.9 points in four years, "coaches had the ball in my hands 110 percent of the time. That's what I do," he said. "I love to score. I'm sorry."

No need to apologize.

Without the sophomore, Ohio State would have had a much harder time reaching the Elite Eight for the first time in five years. He's averaging 16.2 points this season but has just 33 assists in 37 games.

"He came in with the mentality of being a scorer," Buckeyes coach Thad Matta said. "We've talked a lot to him about (how) there's so many other ways that he can affect our team in a positive way."

He did that against Gonzaga in the third round of this year's tournament when he gave up his shot and passed to William Buford.

"He had a hot hand and he caught (the ball) in the corner and he had a good shot and he kicked it to Will for a wide-open shot," Matta said. "I kind of said to myself, 'He's arrived, he understands.'"

Of course, Thomas had just one assist in that 73-66 victory.

"I always joke with Will," Thomas said, "that one assist I have a game will be to him, and it would be a game-changer."

But he said it hasn't been that difficult giving the ball up more, especially when he sees teammate Jared Sullinger pass it from inside while being double-teamed.

"I'll be like, 'I want to do that. I want to pass the ball. Let me see who can make the shot. I want to get an assist,'" Thomas said with a smile, "and it will be to Will."

PITINO'S LESSON: It wasn't long ago that Louisville coach Rick Pitino was going through a difficult stretch in his life while dealing with the failed extortion attempt by the ex-wife of a team manager.

The married father of five acknowledged having a sexual tryst Karen Sypher several years ago and endured six painful hours on the witness stand during her federal trial in the summer of 2010. Sypher was convicted of trying to extort millions of dollars from Pitino last year and was sentenced to more than seven years in federal prison.

Pitino is enjoying himself with the Cardinals — a win away from playing in his sixth Final Four — but the memory of that ugly experience still lingers.

"I brought that upon myself, although I feel there's a lot of distortion," he said. "I learned a couple of things from that experience, and that is to turn the other cheek, just turn the other cheek. I got great advice when it comes to problems: Don't try to explain yourself, don't try to tell the truth, tell your side, just move on. I learned, too, my family was absolutely awesome. I learned my athletic director was awesome. They knew the truth."

FAMILIAR FACE: As Ohio State made its run to the regional final, a lot of people saw a man in a suit on the Buckeyes' bench and thought he looked familiar.

Ohio State's video coordinator is Greg Paulus, Duke's point guard from 2006-09 and Syracuse's quarterback — the football kind — as he pursued a Master's degree in 2009. After one season as an assistant basketball coach at Navy, Paulus joined Thad Matta's staff at Ohio State. Matta recruited Paulus out of high school when he was coaching at Xavier.

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