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The 6-foot-5 swingman was a cornerstone of the next team that went 24-13 and won the NIT. Freshman Kosta Koufos starred on that team, and then went in the first round of the NBA draft after one season.

A consummate lockdown defender against a guard or even a center, Lighty was an integral part of teams that went 22-11 in 2008-09 and 29-8 a year ago. This year, the Buckeyes are 34-2, ended the season ranked No. 1 and won their first two NCAA tournament games by a combined 61 points.

Mixed in there were broken bones in his feet that cost him all but the first seven games of the ‘08-09 season and most of this past summer after he sustained the same injury in May, requiring surgery and another grind of rehab.

Despite all the friends who have moved on to bigger and better things, he does not feel left behind.

“No, not at all, because of the person that I am,” he said. “I know people’s dreams, people’s goals, and I’ve gotten to know those guys personally. So, I have no regrets of them leaving. No animosity towards them leaving. I never felt that I was left behind or anything. My time here has been great for me. I’ve grown as a person on and off the court. For me, it’s just what I needed to do, staying here.”

In Ohio State’s 98-66 rout of George Mason in Sunday’s third round, Lighty was the marquee player _ or one of them, anyway. He was a spotless 7 for 7 on 3-pointers and scored 25 points. It was a rare moment in the spotlight, in the Cleveland native’s hometown no less.

Still, he is only the fourth-leading scorer at 12.1 points a game. And he doesn’t lead the Buckeyes in assists, rebounds, blocked shots or anything else.

Oh, except for wins.

“Your always are going to need Dave,” Buford said. “He brings a lot of energy to this team. He’s the most talkative guy on the floor. He’s the heart and soul to this team.”

There’s that phrase again.

Lighty is expected to be taken in the NBA draft, perhaps in the second round, later _ by a round and maybe a few years _ than some of his former teammates. But he’ll leave Ohio State as one of the most decorated _ three Big Ten championships, four trips to the NCAA tournament and one NIT trophy _ ever.

The point is, he doesn’t feel as if he’s been lost in the shuffle. Even if he has.

“Maybe sometimes, I guess you could say,” he said. “But I get my due when we get a win. When I’m out there and I’m doing something to help my team win, that’s just enough for me.”