The Buckeyes were bloodied, but avoided the knockout punch in overtime in their first game of the NCAA Tournament.
Despite suffering a cut next to his eye, Ohio State freshman guard D’Angelo Russell scored 28 points to lead 10th-seeded Ohio State (24-11) to a 75-72 win against seventh-seed Virginia Commonwealth University (26-10) on Thursday in Portland, Ore. The win sends the Buckeyes to the round of 32, where they are scheduled to face two-seed Arizona on Saturday.
The game was tied at 66 at the end of regulation before the Buckeyes outscored the Rams, 9-6, in overtime.
OSU capped the first half on a 16-5 run, with Russell scoring 10 points in the final 5:07.
The Louisville, Ky., native totaled 12 points in the opening 20 minutes while senior guard Shannon Scott tallied six assists and VCU shot just 29.4 percent from the field.
The Buckeyes were called for a technical foul early in the first half because senior center Trey McDonald’s number was registered incorrectly in the official score book, leading to a point at the free throw line for VCU.
Russell tied the game with a free throw less than a minute into the second half, then gave their Buckeyes their first lead since it was 2-0 with a 3-pointer at the 17:22 mark. Scott added a layup moments later, making it 40-37.
VCU sophomore guard Doug Brooks responded to OSU’s run with three 3-pointers of his own to give the Rams a 48-47 advantage.
After the teams traded blows and Russell recovered from his cut, VCU took a 66-64 lead on consecutive 3-pointers from junior guard Melvin Johnson. OSU senior center Amir Williams tied it at the free throw line and the Rams failed to score on the final possession of regulation, sending the game to overtime.
OSU freshman forward Jae’Sean Tate fouled out on a double-foul after each time picked up a bucket in the extra period, leaving the Buckeyes without a starter for the final 3:01 of the game. VCU threw the ball away on the ensuing inbounds play and OSU freshman forward Keita Bates-Diop connected on a 3-pointer to put the Buckeyes ahead.
The teams traded baskets, but VCU would cut the OSU advantage before Russell made two free throws to ice the game with 4.9 seconds to play.
Russell’s outing made him the highest scoring freshman in OSU history.