The Dagger - NCAAB

Sunday was an exciting day for Ohio State because the Buckeyes defeated George Mason 98-66 to advance to the Sweet 16.

But for four Ohio State seniors, the day was extra special.

Prior to the game, after shootaround, and before any of the fans crowded the arena, David Lighty, Jon Diebler, Dallas Lauderdale and Nicola Kecman each received their diplomas in a makeshift graduation ceremony.

The team put this together because the four were scheduled to participate in winter graduation with the rest of the Ohio State students. However, with the NCAA tournament going on, the four Buckeyes had to miss the ceremony.

"Going through the whole five years of me being here and actually graduating is something that no one can ever take away from you," Lighty told media after the game. "And then to allow us to have our little graduation ceremony here in Cleveland on the court was special since we couldn't be down in Columbus."

In front of coaches, teammates and family, the four wore their red Ohio State practice uniforms with silver sashes around their necks and black graduation caps. After each received their diploma and were acknowledged as graduates, they all threw their caps in the air just like they would have had they been with the rest of their classmates.

One of the funnier moments was when Lighty, who is from the Cleveland area, screamed like a 5-year-old girl when one of the pointy edges of a tossed graduation cap headed straight for him on its descent.

But otherwise, it was a proud moment for all involved, including coach Thad Motta.

"Well, I wouldn't say it was emotional, but it was a proud moment, if you will," Thad Motta said. "And as Ms. Willis was giving them their degrees, you know, you just sort of stand back and look at them and you really -- it's probably like your own kids when you see them, you think back to moving them into the dorm their freshman year and how they've grown.

"To see those guys do that, and really just where our program has gone on the academic side, I'm very proud of that."

While the graduation was the highlight early, Lighty schooled George Mason with 25 points, including making all seven of his 3-point attempts. Diebler finished with 13 — all his field goals came on 3-pointers — and Lauderdale had six.

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