Buckeyes win their first round NCAA game, 62-59, behind 21 points and 12 rebounds from Kaleb Wesson and 19 points from Keyshawn Woods.
Columbus – The Big Ten is sending seven of its eight teams that landed berths in the NCAA Tournament to the second round, and here’s a not-so-wild guess that many people would have put down good money that Ohio State would be that odd team out.
Why not think that way?
The Buckeyes finished seventh in the conference, lost five of their last seven games and were seeded 11th as one of the last of the 68 teams making the tournament.
Today, though, they are a little bit sleepy and really sore but probably still on a natural high in preparing for a game against Houston at 8:40 p.m. Sunday.
Ohio State had to extend its hotel reservation after Kaleb Wesson totaled 21 points and 12 rebounds and Keyshawn Woods totaled 19 points, four rebounds and zero turnovers in a nip-and-tuck 62-59 victory over Iowa State on Friday at the BOK Center in Tulsa.
A photo of Justin Ahrens of Versailles celebrating with a scissor kick on the sideline already has been on television and web sites all over.
It was the seventh loss in as many games against the Buckeyes (20-14) for the sixth-seeded Cyclones (23-12).
“Players win games and our guys stepped up and made so many key plays,’’ coach Chris Holtmann said. “To beat them as well as they were playing is a credit to our guys. I think our guys were really locked in to what they do as far as the game plan. I thought we played really hard and were committed to what they were trying to do.’’
The winning edge was provided when Wesson made two free throws with 1:59 left for a 60-56 lead and Woods, an 82 percent free throw shooter, hit nothing but net with two throws with 18.7 seconds left for a 62-59 lead.
Iowa State had a chance to force overtime when guard Nick Weiler-Babb took a pass behind the three-point line, but he clanked a long three-pointer at the buzzer. The ball hit the left side of the rim and bounced away.
But the game wasn’t won because of Ohio State’s offensive efficiency. It shot 39.7 percent – 25 percent from behind the three-point arc – only because of Wesson and Woods picked others up in going a combined 15-for-31. C.J. Jackson was 1-for-8, Andre Wesson 1-for-7 and Duane Washington 1-for-5.
This game was won with grit, sweat and even some blood. Andre Wesson had gauze stuffed in one nostril after getting smacked. Musa Jallow twice had to have a bloody elbow bandaged after being knocked to the floor.
Iowa State, which won the Big 12 tournament, entered as the No. 9 team nationally in offensive efficiency.
What Ohio State did was turn the Cyclones into a three-man show with Big Ten style hard defense. Marial Shayok led with 23 points. After that Lindell Wigginton scored 14 and Cameron Lard 12.
“It came down to our preparation,’’ Kaleb Wesson said. “Defense is something you can’t question. We miss shots, but the defense is always going to be there.’’
What did he have to say about his scoring?
“I imposed myself because of preparation,’’ he said, adding that his teammates pushed him hard in practice.
Iowa State usually is a lights out three-point shooting team, but it never got into a comfort zone from long range and never had one of its signature runs. It was 6-for-22 from three.
Another key was Holtmann wisely seeing the moment was too large for his freshman guards, Washington and Luther Muhammad, and gave them limited minutes in favor of Jallow.
Jallow, a sophomore, made all five of his shots and had six rebounds. More importantly, he had three steals and superb defensively.
There were several checkpoints when it was obvious that the Buckeyes were tuned in as well as they have been all season at the defensive end. At one point, Iowa State fizzled on 15 straight possessions.
“We knew we had to get stops,’’ Woods said. “That’s what we pride ourselves on – defense.’’
But you still have to score a little bit to win, and there was there were several spectacular plays by Ohio State. Jallow dunked off the fast break on a lob by Woods to make it 38-32 with 14:02 left to play. With 10:12 left, Andre Wesson dunked on a pass from Kyle Young for second chance points to make it 49-41.
It sure looked to be a tortoise and hare race, especially after Shayok hit a three-pointer to give the ever-creeping Cyclones a 54-53 lead with 3:36 left.
But Ohio State looked like a team that has been toughened by 20 games in a conference that has been called the best nationally from top to bottom.
“You could say it validates the committee’s decision (to seed Ohio State),’’ Holtmann said of the victory. “I think the league generally has prepared us for this moment. It’s the best league I’ve ever been part of top to bottom.’’
First, Woods hit a jumper in the lane to get the lead back. Then he took a cross-court pass and banged in a three to make it 58-54 with 2:42 left.
Lard had a tip-in and, after a missed shot by the Buckeyes, the Cyclones had a chance to tie or take the lead. But the Wesson brothers trapped Shayok on the sideline in the backcourt and forced a turnover with 19.6 seconds left.
There was an anxious moment when the Buckeyes had to burn a timeout because they couldn’t inbound the ball. They got it right on the second try, and Woods was fouled and made both free throws.
More drama followed when Shayok, who was fouled after Iowa State almost threw the ball away, missed the front end of a one-and-one with 11.8 seconds left.
“We just couldn’t execute down the stretch,’’ Shayok said.
Wesson rebounded, was fouled, but missed the front end of his one-and-one with 10.9 seconds left.
Iowa State hustled the ball up the court and Weiler-Babb wound up getting a wide-open look. But he was at NBA range and didn’t look comfortable upon releasing the ball.
Iowa State coach Steve Prohm credited Ohio State.
“I thought they were able to keep the pace of the game they wanted and there were a couple of reasons for that,’’ he said. “Tonight wasn’t our best night and Ohio State had a lot to do with it. We just weren’t good enough.’’
Prohm thought his team was a threat to advance to the Sweet 16 next week.
“The finality came a lot quicker than I was thinking,’’ he said. “I really thought we had a chance to do something.’’