Ohio State v. (4) Denver
Denver progressed to Championship Weekend for the fourth time in the last five seasons following a 15-13 dispatch of Ohio State in the quarterfinal round of the NCAA Tournament. The Pioneers will face Notre Dame on Semifinal Saturday at Lincoln Financial Field while the Buckeyes have closed an impressively odd season with a 12-7 record and opponent splits that bend even the most flexible of minds.
The first two periods of the game featured spectrum poles: The first quarter was an exhibition from Ohio State, the Buckeyes building a 6-1 advantage in the game's first 15 minutes after shooting 46 percent in the initial frame while scoring on two-thirds of its estimated offensive possessions; the second period promoted the elastic nature of lacrosse leads with Denver yielding the quarter's first goal but slamming through the next five goals of the stanza in fewer than six minutes, the rush from the Pioneers coming after an almost 18-minute scoring drought. The momentum swings that Brutus and the Pioneers generated were defining moments in a half that were alternate timelines in the same narrative, the residue reflecting Ohio State scoring on about half of its 14 offensive opportunities while Denver cashed in on just north of 35 percent its 17 estimated offensive possessions in the first half hour. It wasn't an exceptionally hectic first half -- there were an estimated 31 total opportunities over the first two quarters -- but it was highly surgical: The teams combined for only seven turnovers and shot almost 40 percent on a combined basis, the Buckeyes receiving combustion from Jesse King (the senior midfielder had three goals and three assists with no turnovers in the first half) while the Pios were led by Wes Berg (the weapon had three goals and an assist on three shots on goal with no turnovers prior to the intermission).
The third period helped define the scope of the game: Riding the momentum earned in the second quarter, Denver rushed toward a 10-9 edge prior to the start of the final frame, scoring nine consecutive goals stretching back to the 9:10 mark of the second quarter while Ohio State suffered through an interminable 25:55 scoring drought that didn't break until Colin Chell breached Ryan LaPlante's cage with 1:30 remaining in the penultimate quarter-hour. The production of the two teams in the period out of the break was eerily similar to what Ohio State and Denver did in the second stanza: Denver shot about 50 percent in both quarters and registered goals on about 45 percent of its estimated offensive opportunities, blowing the ball past Tom Carey en route to five- and four-goal outputs on 20 total estimated offensive possessions; Ohio State, contrastingly, could not raise its offensive efficiency above 25 percent and failed to shoot above 20 percent in either quarter, limiting turnovers but feeling the effect of Ryan LaPlante holding identical 75.00 save percentages in the middle half-hour of the game. The Bucks were within one with 15 to minutes remaining in regulation, yet the Pioneers had generated sufficient momentum and control of the game to put Ohio State into its trunk so that it could be pitched into a ditch at some bend in a country road.
The Buckeyes would make things interesting in the last quarter -- Ohio State would gestate four goals in the period, including three of the game's last four tallies -- but the push that Denver made in the final 45 minutes of the game was the epitome of the finely-tuned destruction that the Pioneers have leaned upon all season in the team's pursuit of its first national championship: The Pioneers held an estimated seven-possession advantage, made the scoreboard blink on half of their 28 estimated offensive adventures, yielded goals on a third of their defensive opportunities, shot 53.85 percent as a group, and witnessed Ryan LaPlante stop over 61 percent of the shots that he was asked to turn away. Denver is flawed, but the Pioneers are so clinical in their approach that it becomes difficult to swamp the Pios, even with the kind of margin that the Buckeyes built early in the game.
|Estimated Possession Margin||-4 (30)||+4 (34)|
|Estimated Raw Offensive Efficiency||43.33||44.12|
|Raw Offensive Shooting Rate||30.95%||50.00%|
|Estimated Turnover Rate||23.33||29.41|
|Team Save Percentage||25.00%||50.00%|