After falling behind by double digits in the first half, Ohio State regrouped to only head into halftime down by just one point. A wild second second half followed which saw the Buckeyes and Rams deadlocked after 40 minutes of play. A three-pointer for Keita Bates-Diop with 2:34 left in overtime gave the Buckeyes a 71-68 lead, and from there on out Ohio State would trial, giving them a 75-72 lead over VCU.
While D'Angelo Russell took the headlines with his 28 points in the game, Bates-Diop might have hit the biggest shots for the Buckeyes. Not only did the freshman hit the three-pointer to put the Buckeyes ahead in overtime, but his three-pointer with 3:36 left in the second half was big as well, as at the time it gave Ohio State a 62-60 lead. Those two three-pointers by Bates-Diop were the only two shots he took in the game.
The two freshman played a huge role in Ohio State's victory, but a couple seniors also had a large impact in the effort. Shannon Scott dished out 10 assists, with the last of those coming on Bates-Diop's overtime three-pointer. It marked the fifth time this year, and eight time in his career in which Scott has recorded at least 10 assists. In those games Ohio State is 8-0.
After coming into the VCU game with just eight points in eight career tournament games, Amir Williams woke up on the offensive end, recording 13 points for Ohio State. The center started off the game with a dunk early on, and he was able to provide a presence in the paint for the Buckeyes. Even more impressive for Williams was he hit five of his six free throw attempts.
Today's game will mark the second time in three years that Ohio State has matched up with Arizona in the NCAA Tournament. In 2013 in the West Regional Semifinal, a three-pointer from LaQuinton Ross with two seconds to go clinched a 73-70 win for Ohio State. The only other time the two schools had met prior to that meeting was in December of 1971, with the Buckeyes taking a 90-47 win over the Wildcats. Both of the previous games between the schools happened in Los Angeles.
Arizona easily navigated much of their season, with Sean Miller's team compiling a 32-3 record. The Wildcats not only clinched their second Pac-12 title in three seasons, and third in their last five, but also went on to win the Pac-12 Tournament for the first time in 13 seasons. The tournament crown was the fifth in school history.
What sets Arizona apart from most teams is not only do they have a mixture of veteran leadership to go along with talented youth, but they also have great size and athleticism. Senior point guard T.J. McConnell is a steadying force for the Wildcats, while Stanley Johnson and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson have had a tremendous impact in their first season in Tucson.
Yet again the Buckeyes will go up against a tough defense, but it won't be quite the same defense as they saw on Thursday. VCU used their Havoc defense to pressure the Buckeyes and put them in an early hole in Thursday's game, but Arizona will use their length to try and shut down Russell and the rest of the Buckeyes. Of the five starters for the Wildcats, Arizona features four players that measure at least 6-7. The length Arizona possesses has allowed them to register a decided rebounding advantage over many of their opponents this year.
The Wildcats are nearly a double-digit favorite of the Buckeyes, but this could be one of the more interesting matchups in the Third Round of the NCAA Tournament. The contrast in styles of play should be fun to watch, with Ohio State wanting to get out and run on their opponents, while most of the season Arizona has wore down opponents with their size and tenacity on defense.
Numbers To Know
This game marks the 19th time Thad Matta has matched coaching wits with one of his former assistants. Sean Miller took over for Matta after the now-Buckeyes coach left Xavier. So far Matta is 2-0 against Miller, with both wins coming in the NCAA Tournament. In 2007 the Buckeyes took home a 78-71 victory in overtime over Miller and Xavier in a Second Round matchup, and they last met two years ago Ohio State's 73-70 win over Arizona.
When he suits up and plays for the Buckeyes today, Sam Thompson will be competing in his 146th game in an Ohio State uniform, which will break a tie with William Buford for most games played by a Buckeye. Thompson will be hoping to have a performance much like his last game against Arizona, where the then-sophomore scored 11 points and grabbed eight rebounds. Thompson has 983 points in his Buckeye career.
Arizona ranks second in the country in rebounding margin, outrebounding their opponents by nine board a game. The Wildcats rarely lose when holding the rebounding edge, posting a 28-1 record when doing so this year. Their 77.6% defensive rebound percentage is tops in the country. Four of the five starters for Arizona are averaging at least five rebounds per game for the Wildcats.
Cast of Characters
The fabulous freshman lived up to the hype in the game against VCU, recording a game-high 28 points in the win. The scoring effort allowed him to pass Michael Redd for most points by an Ohio State freshman. Redd registered 638 points in his first season in Columbus. The 16th 20-point game by Russell this year gives the Louisville product 666 so far this year for the Buckeyes.
Ohio State is going to need another effort from Williams like they got on Thursday afternoon. The 13 points against the Rams gave the senior his second highest scoring output of the season, only surpassed by the 21 points he scored in the blowout of Wright State in late December. The two blocks by Williams gave him 186 in his Ohio State career, which currently puts him fifth all-time in Ohio State history. With two more blocks Williams will move past Brad Sellers for fourth place.
Ohio State may have D'Angelo Russell, but Arizona has a stellar freshman of their own in Stanley Johnson. The Pac-12 Freshman of the Year was also named to the Pac-12 All-First Team after averaging 14.3 points and 6.5 rebounds on the year. The 22 points Johnson scored in the win over Texas Southern on Thursday matched a season-high for the freshman. Johnson might not have shoulder as much of the load for his team like Russell, but he has been consistently good for the Wildcats throughout the season.
The senior point guard has ran the show for the Wildcats this season, and is averaging nearly 10 points per game to go along with 6.4 assists per game. In his final year in Tucson McConnell's performance throughout the season was good enough to not only earn him Pac-12 First Team honors, but he was also named to the Pac-12 All-Defensive Team. His 3.17 assist-to-turnover ratio ranks sixth in the nation. Between Shannon Scott and McConnell, expect to see plenty of dimes dished out.
How to watch:
Time: 5:15 p.m. ET
TV channel: CBS
Radio: 97.1 The Fan
Live streaming online: CBSsports.com