In a day where there have been many great games to start the tournament, this one did not disappoint either, as Ohio State knocked off TCU in overtime, 75-72.
The first half was a tale of two parts. The first part went to VCU as they dominated defensively and pushed the pace to where they wanted it. Two blocks on back-to-back fast breaks by Jordan Burgess had the Rams on fire. Then came the second part of the first half. The Buckeyes settled into a zone and were able to slow the pace of the game some. D’Angelo Russell started to heat up and the lead went from 12 to just 1 at the break.
The second half was close throughout. After back-to-back 3s by VCU with 1:33 left, the Rams led, but Ohio State answered the bell and tied it with 1:17 left. After a miss at the buzzer by Treveon Graham, the game was sent to overtime. Until there were 5 seconds to go in overtime, no one knew who would come out a victor.
Russell, just a freshman, would not be denied in this one today. He led his team to a victory that looked in doubt in the beginning of the first half. If not for his spark to the offense, the Buckeyes may have been packing their things tonight. He started only 1-of-4 from the field, but was able to finish 10-of-20. He denied any chance that the Buckeyes were going to go home after his first tournament game of his career. Time after time he came up with a big shot. He was also impactful even when he did not have the ball as a decoy. The defense would focus on him and leave other players wide open under the basket. Not even an elbow to the face that resulted in gushing blood could keep Russell out of the game. He was even able to shoot the 2 free throws afterward. Russell is a fighter.
The Buckeyes’ forward Keita Bates-Diop was able to hit back to back 3-pointers in overtime take the lead for good. VCU was not able to overcome these points. It was time for someone to step up, and Bates-Diop did exactly that for his team. This game was down to the wire and the outcome was in question, but the Buckeyes persevered.
Strange, Yet True
The Buckeyes had a 6:21 stretch in the first half where they did not score a point, yet they still won.
No. 10 Ohio State moves on to the Round of 32 to face the Arizona Wildcats on Saturday.
VCU’s season comes to an end as the A-10 tournament champ and a 26-10 record.