Buckeyes Advance to Round of 32, Top Jackrabbits
Ohio State got all it could handle from the pesky South Dakota State Jackrabbits, but ultimately prevailed by a final score of 81-73. In a tie game with just under 2 minutes remaining, Kam Williams drilled a triple from the right wing while being fouled and calmly buried the free throw to give the Buckeyes a 4-point lead and South Dakota State could not get any closer as Ohio State advances to the round of 32. The win also gives them an opportunity at a rematch against a Gonzaga team that beat Ohio State way back on late Thanksgiving night in Portland, Oregon, for a trip to the sweet 16.
The first half was hotly contested early as the Jackrabbits got out to an early 4 point lead but Ohio State would answer with an 8-0 run and went into the under 12 media timeout with a 4 point lead of their own. Utilizing length and athleticism on both ends of floor, and 3 straight forced turnovers by Andrew Dakich, the Buckeyes were able to extend the lead to 9 after a three by Keita Bates-Diop off a steal by Dakich, forcing South Dakota State to call a timeout with just under 5 minutes to go in the first half. Back to back 3’s from the Jackrabbits cut the Buckeye lead to just 3 out of the timeout forcing Chris Holtmann to call a timeout to calm his team down. The teams would ultimately go into the break deadlocked at 43 with the main men on both sides leading the way. Bates-Diop led Ohio State with 17 and Mike Daum led South Dakota State with 17 as well. The Jackrabbits hit 9 of 16 from deep in the first 20 minutes but the story was the Buckeyes, who attempted 24 3’s in the first half, hitting 9. The 24 attempts exceeded their total attempts in 28 games this season.
The game went back and forth early in the 2nd half and a key moment early as Jae’Sean Tate picked up his 4th personal foul just 4 minutes into the half and had to go to the bench. With the Buckeyes utilizing a small lineup for the majority of the game, they would have to count on Andre Wesson to pick up the slack defensively and he answered the bell. Led by C.J. Jackson and Kam Williams, the Buckeyes went on a 16-0 run midway through the half, gaining a 13 point lead and seemingly had control of the game. A triple from the Jackrabbits would end the run and cut the advantage to 10 and South Dakota State would not go away. A banked in three from the top and a Daum triple in transition was part of a 14-4 run that had the Jackrabbits believing with the Buckeye lead cut to just 2. Not long after, Tate picked up his 5th personal and South Dakota State had all of the momentum. After a pair of free throws tied the game with just under 2 minutes remaining, the play of the game took place with the big 4 point play from Kam Williams. After a Jackrabbit missed 3, Williams rose from the top of the key and was fouled. He calmly nailed all 3 free throws to give the Buckeyes a 7 point lead and it was all but over. Bates-Diop led the Buckeyes with 24 points and 12 boards, while C.J. Jackson added 20 points, 9 rebounds and 5 assists. Kam Williams also came up big, scoring 22 points and pulling down 5 rebounds of his own. The Buckeyes took a season high 40 3’s, hitting 12 and outscoring South Dakota State 18-2 on fast break points.
The game plan in this one forced Ohio State to play small for much of the game which limited Kaleb Wesson’s minutes, and the quickness bothered South Dakota State and kept them out of sync for much of the game. The small lineup forced 13 turnovers, many of which turned into fast break opportunities for the Buckeyes and they took advantage. The Jackrabbits forced Ohio State to the perimeter where they struggled to get much of any rhythm in the half court but they made enough plays when they needed to in order to survive and advance. Look for a different game plan against Gonzaga, who struggled to survive an upset bid by UNC-Greensboro prior to the Buckeye game. If they can take care of the basketball and execute in the half court, they have a chance to get to the sweet 16. In order to do so, they need Tate to stay on the floor and not commit silly fouls. We’ve said it before, but who would’ve thought this year’s Buckeye team would be on the doorstep of the sweet 16? Only the defending National runner-up stands in their way. A tall task indeed, but these guys have surprised us all year, who’s to say they can’t do it again.
Ohio State will face Gonzaga on Saturday in Boise for the right to go to the sweet 16. Tip time TBD.
– Jason Harris