Ohio State blows lead then pulls away in final couple of minutes for first-round win
BOISE, Idaho (AP) - Ohio State is not a 3-point shooting team. The Buckeyes don't take a lot, don't make a lot.
Back in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in three years, the Buckeyes went all-in on the 3, casting it up 40 times. The last couple they tried, both by Kam Williams, helped push Ohio State into the round of 32.
Williams made a tiebreaking four-point play with 1:36 left, then added a trio of free throws after being fouled on another 3 attempt, lifting Ohio State to an 81-73 victory over South Dakota State in the West Region on Thursday.
"As soon as I let it go I felt like it was going to go in and it just went in," said Williams, who had 22 points. "It just felt great and everything just kind of got rolling from there."
Fifth-seeded Ohio State (25-8) traded 3-point attempts with South Dakota State — 71 combined in all — before reeling off 16 straight points to build a 13-point second-half lead.
The scrappy Jackrabbits fought back with a late run, scoring 10 straight points to tie it at 70-all.
Williams answered — by being fouled on a pair of 3-pointers. He finished off the four-point play for a 74-70 lead and made all three free throws on the second, making it 77-70 with 64 seconds left.
Ohio State, which was tied for 287th nationally with 612 3-point attempts, went 12 for 40 from the arc.
"It's not really who we are," Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann said. "It wasn't the game plan. It's really difficult because they're literally giving you tee-up 3s."
Keita Bates-Diop had 24 points and 12 rebounds for the Buckeyes, who will face Gonzaga in the round of 32 on Saturday. The Zags steamrolled Ohio State 86-59 at the PK80 Invitational in November.
"The whole team is excited for this one," Bates-Diop said. "We've been wanting this matchup ever since the bracket came out."
No. 12 South Dakota State (28-7) hit 13 of 31 from 3-point range and Mike Daum scored 27 points. The Jackrabbits had their first NCAA Tournament win within grasp, only to watch it slip through their fingers by fouling Williams on the late 3-point attempts.
"They're very well-schooled and disciplined, and those guys stepped up and made big plays throughout the second half," South Dakota State coach T.J. Otzelberger said. "But none stand out more in my mind than the ones Kam made that separated them to get the victory."
Ohio State was one of college basketball's biggest surprises in Holtmann's first season. He didn't take over the program until June and the Buckeyes were picked to finish 11th in the in Big Ten.
Yet behind Bates-Diop, the Big Ten player of the year, Ohio State finished second in the conference behind Michigan State to earn its first NCAA Tournament berth since 2015.
The Buckeyes were favorites in the NCAA opener, but also a popular pick to be upset in the No. 12-over-5 seed mold.
The Jackrabbits headed into the NCAA Tournament on an 11-game winning streak and had Daum, the two-time Summit League MVP.
The Dauminator was on his game against the Buckeyes, scoring 17 points in the first half. So was Bates-Diop, who had 17 points by halftime of a 43-all game.
After the run-trading second half, the Buckeyes found a way to make the plays down the stretch, leaving the Jackrabbits 0-5 all-time in the NCAA Tournament.
"It's always going to hurt that we could never get a W in this environment," said South Dakota State's Reed Tellinghuisen, who had 10 points and seven rebounds.
Ohio State survived the upset to get a shot at another upset survivor, Gonzaga.
South Dakota State had itself in position for the upset, but wrecked its chances with the two late fouls on 3s. The Jackrabbits finish with a school-record 28 wins, but still none in the NCAA Tournament.
OHIO STATE ON THE O-GLASS
The Buckeyes had a size in advantage inside — outside of Daum — and used it to their advantage on the offensive glass. Ohio State grabbed 15 offensive rebounds, leading to 19 second-chance points.
JENKINS' NCAA DEBUT
South Dakota State freshman David Jenkins Jr. had 16 points in his NCAA Tournament debut, but had to work for it. He had success getting inside early before the Buckeyes closed down his driving lanes. Jenkins finished 4 for 17 from the floor and 2 for 3 from the 3-point arc.
- Ohio State faces Gonzaga in a second-round game on Saturday.
- South Dakota State's season is over.