COLUMBUS — William Buford gave everyone a glimpse of what the next few years might include at Value City Arena during Saturday’s game against Lakewood St. Edward.
But the Toledo Libbey senior and Ohio State signee also didn’t hold back the expectations for when he does become a Buckeye next season.
“Hopefully we can do what Greg Oden and them did last year and go to the national championship,” Buford.
Saturday’s glimpse might be enough to convince some — perhaps even those watching on ESPNU.
Buford and Libbey overcame St. Edward's hot start and it won 72-58 in a nationally-televised game that was part of National City’s Scholastic Play-by-Play Classic.
Buford, one of three Ohio State recruits — Canal Winchester’s B.J. Mullens and Northland’s Jared Sullinger were the other two — playing in the five games at Value City, was a feature attraction and he didn’t disappoint.
The 6-foot-5 senior finished with game-highs of 26 points, 11 rebounds and two steals and he added two fourth-quarter dunks that brought the crowd to its feet.
“He’s taken on the role of the leader and I challenged him to play better overall,” Libbey coach Leroy Bates said. “He’s a big-time player.”
Bates, however, was overshadowed early by the Eagles’ blistering start. They hit six 3-pointers in the first quarter and took a 21-15 lead.
With 6-8 Indiana recruit Tom Pritchard garnering most of the attention, St. Edward capitalized on a plethora of open looks.
But those quickly went away in the second and Libbey (10-1) made its run late in the half.
Buford scored seven points late in the quarter and Libbey’s defense started to pick up. Buford’s tip-in tied it at 31 and a late score gave Libbey a 33-31 halftime lead.
“We just had to continue to jump out at the ball,” Bates said. “We were getting there too late. Once we got there quicker, we kind of eliminated those shots.”
The third quarter was more of the same, with Libbey rolling because of its defensive pressure.
Libbey scored the first six points of the third and a 3-point play from Julius Wells made it 42-34.
Buford added a floater to make it 48-36 and Libbey led 49-42 after three quarters. It outscored St. Edwards 34-21 in the middle two quarters.
“I knew we had to pick it up in all aspects,” Buford said. “I just kept going to the hole. I rushed some shots early, but I started letting the game come to me.
“It’s always good to be here.”
Buford had 15 points in the second half, but he had plenty of support as well. Wells finished with 18 points and Brad Sandridge added 17.
Wells was also impressive defensively. Pritchard fouled out in 20 minutes and finished with just nine points.
“He did an outstanding job against Pritchard,” Bates said. “He was a difference-maker.”
Wells said he simply didn’t let up against the physical Division I recruit.
“I tried to front him and make sure he couldn’t catch the ball,” Wells said. “I tried to be aggressive with him.”
Conor Tilow led the Eagles with 22 points, but they had just four 3-pointers the final three quarters to finish 10-of-24 for the game.
Libbey controlled the fourth quarter, getting two highlight alley-oop dunks by Buford. The first came on a pass from Wells to make it 53-44. He caught the second one-handed and tomahawked a ferocious dunk to give Libbey 62-52.
“It took us a while to adjust to the environment, but we wanted to make sure the emphasis was on the defensive side of the ball,” Bates said. “The intensity was there in the third and it carried into the fourth.”
Libbey forced 16 turnovers and also went 19-of-26 from the line.