The Ohio State Men’s Basketball team defeated the No. 17 Alabama Crimson Tide 92-81 in the first game of the bracket portion in the Emerald Coast Classic in Destin, Florida. The Buckeyes defeated Western Michigan 73-56 in the campus game of the tournament in Columbus last Sunday.
Coming into the contest, Alabama was averaging over 101 points per game and was listed as the No. 1 offense in the country, according to KenPom. Mark Sears, Grant Nelson, and Aaron Estrada led the team in scoring.
The Buckeyes were led into this one by sophomore guards Bruce Thornton and Roddy Gayle. Zed Key and Jamison Battle were also averaging double-digits in scoring coming into this one.
To start the game, Ohio State turned the ball over three times in the first minute, and Alabama went up 6-0. However, the Buckeyes answered with an 11-2 run to make the game 11-8 at the under-16 media timeout.
The teams traded baskets throughout the first half, as the Buckeyes settled down eventually and stopped turning the ball over. They did record 10 first-half turnovers that led to 12 Alabama points.
In the second half, the Buckeyes found a groove playing Alabama’s style of basketball. The Buckeyes quickly pushed their lead to double-digits, the first time Alabama had trailed by double digits all season.
With eight minutes remaining in the game, Ohio State led 63-56, and Bruce Thornton knocked down two three-pointers and made two free-throws to push the Buckeye lead to 71-56.
Alabama answered with an 11-5 run to cut the Buckeye lead to single digits, as a Mark Sears three-pointer made the score 76-67.
With just under five minutes, Ohio State switched to a defensive-minded lineup, bringing in Dale Bonner and Evan Mahaffey for Jamison Battle as they led by 10 points.
After two free throws from Roddy Gayle and two free throws from Ohio State, the Buckeyes took an 83-69 lead.
After two free throws with 1:24 left in the game from Grant Nelson, the Crimson Tide made the score 85-78.
But an and-one from Roddy Gayle gave the Buckeyes a 10-point lead again.
The Buckeyes would make their free throws to close out the game and go on to win 92-81.
Bruce Thornton led the Buckeyes with 29 points on 6-for-12 shooting. He added four assists and three rebounds. Roddy Gayle added 23 points on 8-for-11 shooting, four rebounds and two assists. Grant Nelson led Alabama with 20 points.
Ohio State shot 28-for-30 from the free-throw line, while the Tide was 20-for-26. Both teams shot well as the refs decided to call things much closer after halftime. In the first 20 minutes of action, the teams combined for only 16 fouls, but after the intermission, the two teams were whistled for 34 fouls.
Here are some key moments from the game:
Trouble watching? You weren’t alone.
This was the season's most anticipated game this far for the Buckeyes, and if you were trying to watch it live, you missed the entire first half. The Utah State and New Mexico football game was going long in regulation and to make matters worse, the game went to two overtimes. All you could do was watch the game on the CBS Sports Mobile App, but not on the TV app or the computer.
When the game finally ended, there was 1:08 left in the first quarter of the Buckeye game.
Sloppy play to start
The Buckeyes turned the ball over three times in the first 53 seconds of the game and four times in its first six possessions. I don’t have to explain why that is not ideal to start a game. However, they still held the first-quarter lead.
Scotty does it himself
Freshman wing Scotty Middleton came into the game and provided a huge spark, knocking down a three-pointer and then getting an offensive rebound and a putback.
Taison Chatman makes his debut
Taison Chatman is a highly regarded freshman guard who underwent surgery in the offseason and has not played yet this season. However, he checked into the game for under a minute in the first half to help give Bruce Thornton a breather. He was not in for long, but it was great to see that he is healthy enough to give them any minutes in-game action. He will play more as the non-conference schedule progresses.
Bruce Thornton’s hot first half
The star sophomore for the Buckeyes had 14 points, two assists, and two rebounds in the opening half. He led the way for the Buckeyes to hold the lead heading into halftime, and most importantly, he bounced back from some early turnovers and did a good job setting down the Ohio State offense.
In the second half, the whistles came early and often, as Ohio State committed seven team fouls in the first eight minutes to put the Crimson Tide in the penalty and shooting free throws with 12 minutes left in the game.
Ohio State was not far behind, as they entered the bonus with eight minutes left in the game.
Thornton gets hot
Just as it seemed that Alabama might be turning the momentum in their favor, Bruce Thornton went on an 8-0 run by himself to turn a seven-point Buckeye lead into a game-high 15-point lead. He recorded two three-pointers and two free throws during the run.
Bruce Thornton and Roddy Gayle sets career high
Roddy Gayle has looked better and better each game on offense, and this was his best game in a Buckeye uniform. Every time a basket was needed, Gayle was there with an answer. Gayle recorded a career-high 23 points on 8-for-11 shooting.
His backcourt counterpart Bruce Thornton also set a career-high in points, recording 29 in the contest.