The Buckeyes used a three-point barrage on Thursday to avoid South Dakota State’s upset attempt in Boise, Idaho in the first round of the 2018 NCAA Tournament. Ohio State took a school-record 40 three-pointers against the Jackrabbits, hitting 12 of those triples. The 40 three-point attempts eclipsed the previous school record of 36 three-point attempts, which was set against Florida A&M in 2006, and shattered the Ohio State’s previous NCAA Tournament high of 26 three-point attempts in 2011 against George Mason.
The biggest three-pointer of the game for Ohio State came with the game tied at 70 with 1:36 to play. Kam Williams not only hit the three-pointer, but he was fouled and completed the four-point play to give Ohio State the lead for good. Next time down the floor, Williams attempted another three-pointer and was fouled again, hitting all three of his free throws to secure the victory for Ohio State. Williams finished with 22 points, which was only bested by Keita Bates-Diop’s 24 points.
Many thought there would be a team in Thursday’s game who would let loose from behind the arc, but many thought that team would be South Dakota State. One of the most surprising developments from Thursday’s game was freshman Kaleb Wesson only playing seven minutes in the victory. Chris Holtmann’s strategy to try and beat the Jackrabbits at their own game led to Ohio State using a smaller lineup. Andrew Dakich and Andre Wesson both saw 28 minutes off the bench for the Buckeyes.
Now, Ohio State will face a Gonzaga team who they saw in the PK80 Invitational in November. The Buckeyes were outmatched by the Zags in Portland, losing 86-59. The loss to Gonzaga was Ohio State’s first loss of the season, and one of just eight losses the Buckeyes suffered this year. Bates-Diop had one of his worst games of the season, scoring just seven points. C.J. Jackson and Jae’Sean Tate each scored 12 points in the loss, while Kaleb Wesson was the only other Buckeye in double figures with 10 points. The game was the true-freshman’s first start of his career.
Ohio State wasn’t the only team in Boise on Thursday afternoon to narrowly avoid the upset bug. Gonzaga needed a three-pointer from redshirt freshman Zach Norvell Jr. with 20.8 seconds left to break a 64-all tie and power the Zags to a 68-64 win over UNC-Greensboro. Jonathan Williams led Gonzaga with 19 points and 13 rebounds, while Josh Perkins added 16 points, and Norvell finished with 15 in the victory.
Gonzaga has now reeled off 15 straight wins, with their last loss coming to St. Mary’s in early January in Spokane, Wash. Aside from the loss to the Gaels, the only other losses that the Zags have suffered came against Florida in double overtime at the PK80, to Villanova in New York City in early December, and to San Diego State in Gonzaga’s final game before Christmas.
Tonight’s game will mark the second time Ohio State and Gonzaga have met in the NCAA Tournament. The two teams also met in the second round of the 2012 NCAA Tournament, with the Buckeyes leaving Pittsburgh with a 73-66 win over Mark Few’s squad. Jared Sullinger and Deshaun Thomas both scored a team-high 18 points in the win, while Aaron Craft added 17. The Buckeyes would go on to make the Final Four that year, losing to Kansas in one of the National Semifinals.
Numbers to know
In Thursday’s victory over South Dakota State, Keita Bates-Diop, Kam Williams, and C.J. Jackson all scored at least 20 points, giving Ohio State their first trio of 20-point scorers in a game since 2009. Evan Turner, William Buford, and Jon Diebler all scored at least 20 points in the 93-81 victory over Indiana in Bloomington. Ohio State needed all of those points from Bates-Diop, Williams, and Jackson on Thursday, as they were the only Buckeyes to reach double figures.
As Keita Bates-Diop goes, so do the Buckeyes. With his 24 points and 12 rebounds on Thursday, Bates-Diop registered his 13th double-double this year. Ohio State now has posted a 12-1 record this year when Bates-Diop records a double-double. The only game that Bates-Diop recorded a double-double and Ohio State failed to win came in the PK80 in November, where the Buckeyes lost 67-66 to Butler in overtime, after giving up a double-digit lead. Ohio State is now 18-1 all-time when Bates-Diop posts a double-double.
Not only has Gonzaga made 20-straight NCAA Tournaments, but the Zags have won their opening game in the tournament in each of the last 10 years. The last time Gonzaga failed to win their first contest in the NCAA Tournament was back in 2008, where the Zags lost 82-76 to Davidson. Gonzaga has won at least two games in the NCAA Tournament in each of the last three years, and last year made it all the way to the title game before falling to North Carolina.
Cast of characters
With the pace likely to be slower in tonight’s game, it is likely that we will see more of Kaleb Wesson against Gonzaga. Thursday’s seven minute performance from Wesson marked the first time this year that the freshman played less than 10 minutes in a game. The Buckeyes should try to establish Wesson on the block early and see if they can force Gonzaga into some foul trouble and put Wesson on the free throw line. In November’s matchup with the Zags, six of Wesson’s 10 points came from the stripe.
Despite fouling out with just under three minutes to play, Tate’s eight points in the game were enough to move him past the 1,500 point mark in his Ohio State career. Tate moved past Troy Taylor for 19th on Ohio State’s all-time scoring list, and if the senior is able to score 16 points against Gonzaga, he’ll tie Evan Turner’s 1,517 career points for 18th on Ohio State’s all-time scoring list. Tate scored 12 points in November’s loss to Gonzaga, and he’ll be hoping Saturday’s game against the Zags isn’t the final game of his college career.
The senior forward from Memphis is Gonzaga’s leading scorer and rebounder this year, averaging 13.8 points per game and 8.4 rebounds per game. Had it not been for Williams’ 19 points and 13 rebounds on Thursday, the Zags might already be home and watching tonight’s game on television. Williams has recorded a double-double in four straight games, and has posted 15 double-doubles so far this year.
Zach Norvell Jr.
After suffering a knee injury prior to last season, the redshirt freshman started this season coming off the bench for Gonzaga. In November’s win over Ohio State, Norvell played 19 minutes and scored four points. A few games later, Norvell entered the starting lineup and hasn’t looked back. Norvell’s three-pointer against UNC-Greensboro gave the Zags a late lead that they wouldn’t relinquish. The guard from Chicago is averaging 12.3 points per game, and has scored at least 14 in each of the last five outings.
How to watch:
Game time: 7:45 p.m ET
Radio: 97.1 WBNS-FM
Streaming: March Madness Live