Thanks to some late heroics from Kam Williams, No. 5 seed Ohio State beat No. 12 seed South Dakota State 81-73 in the first round of the 2018 NCAA Tournament in Boise, Idaho, on Thursday.
Williams scored a flurry of late points for the Buckeyes, who got off to a positive start in their NCAA Tournament return after a two-year absence. With the game knotted at 70 and 1 minute, 36 seconds to play, he converted a 4-point play then was again fouled while shooting a 3 on the subsequent possession. He made all 3 free throws to give the Buckeyes a 7-point lead in 30 seconds.
WHY OHIO STATE WON: Ohio State won a bit in spite of itself. South Dakota State made it a goal to push the pace, and the Jackrabbits sucked Ohio State into a high-tempo game with a staggering amount of 3-point shots (40 by Ohio State, 31 by South Dakota State). But the Buckeyes made enough of their shots from deep and kept Jackrabbits star Mike Daum contained well enough to pick up the victory.
WHAT IT MEANS: The Buckeyes picked up just their second NCAA Tournament victory in the last five seasons, the other coming in 2015. Ohio State gets to continue a surprising season that began with predictions of a bottom-four finish in the Big Ten but is a win away from the Sweet 16.
WHO STARRED: Keita Bates-Diop was his usual dependable self (24 points, 12 rebounds) and gave the Buckeyes enough to win. Williams delivered down the stretch to finish with 22 points and C.J. Jackson also added 20 points to help Ohio State’s cause.
WHO STUMBLED: Andre Wesson struggled from the field, finishing 0 for 6 from the field. And though it wasn’t his fault, Kaleb Wesson played less than 10 minutes as Ohio State tried to go small against the Jackrabbits. Having a starter reduced to a non-factor certainly wasn’t ideal. While he contributed some big defensive plays, Andrew Dakich also had a poor shooting day (1 for 7).
WHO IS NEXT: Ohio State will face No. 4 seed Gonzaga on Saturday at a time to be determined. The game time will be announced at the conclusion of the first-round games Thursday.
Ohio State 81, South Dakota State 73 pic.twitter.com/B24u7MXFgR
— Ryan Ginn (@rmginn) March 15, 2018