Buford set for senior night.

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Established October 31, 1996
Front Page Columns and Features
Last updated: 02/25/2012 10:38 PM

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Men's Basketball
Buford Set for Home Finale to Dangerfield-like Career
By Brandon Castel

COLUMBUS, Ohio — William Buford has heard it all during his four years at Ohio State.

He shoots to often or not enough, too early in the shot clock or with a defender too close.

William Buford
Photo by Jim Davidson
William Buford

When he is on, Buford is nearly uncontainable, and the Buckeyes are virtually unbeatable. In fact, they have lost only one game in the last two seasons when Buford scores double-figures and shoots at least 40 percent from the floor.

As he prepares for the final home game of his collegiate career against Wisconsin this Sunday, Buford is hoping that is how Ohio State fans will remember his four years in Columbus.

“I hope it's a good memory,” Buford said Friday.

“I know they hate me sometimes, but I hope it's a good memory.”

Ohio State fans don’t actually hate Buford, at least not the rational ones who have watched him progress from a shy young freshman who wanted to come in and do nothing other than shoot the ball.

But fans have grown frustrated with some of his untimely poor shooting nights, especially when it seems to be the difference between a championship caliber team and another Sweet 16 exit in the NCAA Tournament.

When he is off, it tends to be by a mile. At least it has recently. That is when the Buckeyes have struggled offensively without Jon Diebler and David Lighty this season.

William Buford
Photo by Jim Davidson
William Buford

Ohio State coach Thad Matta said it is not mechanics when Buford has a night like he has had recently against Michigan State (2-12) and Michigan (3-12), both Buckeye losses. Buford’s shot is unconventional. On a catch-and-shoot off a curl, it is one of the prettiest jump shots to come through this program.

Other nights it seems like Buford would prefer a hand in his face as he hits a fall-away three to put the game out of reach. But sometimes he falls in love with his own ability to make tough shots.

“Will’s a guy who has proven over time he can make difficult shots,” Matta said.

“(We told him) just have a gauge in your mind of what’s a good one, what’s a great one.”

Coincidently, it is the same discussion fans will have about Buford after his career at Ohio State comes to a close. There is no debating that he was one of the good ones. He is a guy who has averaged double-figure scoring in each of his four seasons at Ohio State.

“I do hope that William goes down—because he will in my mind –as one of the best Ohio State's had,” Matta said.

“The stats are there to prove that.”

The Toledo native is averaging a career-high 15.1 points per game this season (averaged 14.4 as a junior and a sophomore, and averaged 11.3 as a freshman), and is now closing in on a spot in the top-five on the school’s all-time scoring list (he currently sits at No. 6 heading into Sunday).

Along with Jim Jackson, Evan Turner and David Lighty, Buford is one of four players in school history with more than 1,000 points, 500 rebounds and 300 assists. And he did it within the framework of the team.

Buford may have been a selfish player when he got to Ohio State, but the Toledo Libbey product has matured into a real teammate who is averaging nearly five rebounds and three assists per game this season.

He is a bit eccentric, often aloof, and always hard to read. He openly admitted Friday that he never planned to stay at Ohio State all four years when he got here, but said he decided to stay because he was having the best time of his life.

“Being with him for four years, I know he cares, I know he wants to play well,” Matta said Friday.

“If I thought differently, then I’d have major concerns. But nobody wants him to play his best basketball as much as he does, and I’m probably second in line there.”

Buford would like to play his best basketball on Sunday, as the Buckeyes continue to battle for a chance at another regular season Big Ten title. They would likely have to win out, beating Michigan State in East Lansing on the final day of the regular season to have a chance.

Buford would also have a chance to put an exclamation point on his career at Ohio State, much like Samantha Prahalis did in her final home game with the OSU women’s basketball team Thursday. The unconventional point guard scored an OSU women’s record 42 points, which is also a Value City Arena record.

Don’t expect Buford to have that mark in the back of his head Sunday.

“No, my bar is set to win the game,” Buford said.

And maybe earn a little respect in the process.

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