William Buford, a senior guard on the Ohio State men’s basketball team, has had an inconsistent and frustrating career.
This has been especially true since last year’s NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Championship tournament, which ended in a 60-62 loss to Kentucky, a game in which Buford only managed nine points, and missed a three-point shot with two seconds remaining while the team was only down two points, resulting in the team’s loss.
The frustration has continued this season. OSU basketball suffered deja vu when Buford missed a 3-point shot against Indiana while the team was down two with nine seconds remaining, resulting in a loss. In February losses at home to Michigan State and on the road at Michigan, Buford only converted five of a combined 24 shot attempts for a total of 10 points.
But while Buford’s inconsistent play has been a source of frustration for the Buckeyes, it is only because followers of OSU basketball realize how good the senior player can be. Buford has scored 20 or more points in ten games this season, including 21 points versus Florida, 20 points versus Duke, 21 points in a tough loss to Kansas, and 29 points to lead OSU to victory in a close three-point win against Purdue.
Even with all of those performances taken into account, Buford had his best performance of not only his season, but his career, Sunday, leading the Buckeyes to a huge road victory over the Michigan State Spartans. Against the same team that held him to four points in Columbus, Buford had a great performance with a team-leading 25 points, converting eight of the 14 field goals he attempted.
Most importantly, the same player who had fallen short two times previously, broke a 70-70 tie with a game-winning 2-point shot just inside the 3-point arc, with one second remaining. One second was not enough time for MSU to score again, and the Buckeyes came up with arguably their biggest win of the season.
With the victory, the Buckeyes and Spartans finish the season in a three-way tie with Michigan for the Big Ten conference title. Not only do the Buckeyes now have a share of a regular-season conference title, but they go into the conference tournament with the best positive momentum they have had all season since their early-season win over Duke, which came more than three months ago on Nov. 29, 2011.
All season, the Buckeyes have had a problem coming up with big shots when the score is tight at the end of the game. Buford, a senior playing in his final regular-season game of his college basketball career, finally proved that he can make a big shot to win a big game.
The NCAA men’s basketball tournament is known for close games, so if the Buckeyes are to make a run at a championship, they must have a player who can step up in a contest’s closing moments, assume a leadership role and hit a big shot in a clutch situation. It has seemed doubtful all season that Buford could be that guy, and given his inconsistency from game to game, he could very well perform poorly the next time the Buckeyes need him to step up.
That said, Buford took over the game for OSU on Sunday on the road at MSU, their toughest test of the entire season, which gives reason for confidence that the senior may finally be ready to be the leader they need. March Madness has begun in college basketball, and if the Buckeyes are to finish stronger than they did last season, they need Buford to find consistency in his game, and continue his impressive play through the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments.