With just four games left in Ohio State’s regular season, redshirt senior guard Kam Williams was suspended indefinitely.
Against South Dakota State, Williams drilled the biggest shot of Ohio State’s season to extend both his team’s NCAA Tournament run and his career.
He made a 3-pointer and completed an and-1 to give the Buckeyes a 74-70 lead with 1:35 remaining. He was fouled again on another 3 and drilled all remaining free throws to put his team up 77-70 with 54 seconds left.
The late push by Williams helped the fifth-seeded Buckeyes survive a late push by 12th-seeded South Dakota State to win 81-73 in the first round of the tournament in Boise, Idaho, Thursday. Ohio State will face fourth-seeded Gonzaga Saturday.
After trailing early in the second half, Ohio State went on a 16-0 run despite several misses and a stretch of chaotic play by both teams to claim a 61-48 lead with 12:08 remaining in the game.
South Dakota State did not go away though. While the Buckeyes made just one of their next seven shots, the Jackrabbits went on an 8-4 run to bring their deficit back to single-digits at 65-56.
The Buckeyes continued to keep the Jackrabbits at bay, but back-to-back 3s from junior guard Brandon Key and junior center Mike Daum brought the game to 70-66 with 3:11 remaining. Key then dropped in another jumper to bring the score to just 70-68. Two free throws from senior forward Reed Tellinghuisen tied the game at 7 with under two minutes to play.
The two stars for both teams came out to play. Bates-Diop led the Buckeyes with 24 points and 12 rebounds while South Dakota State junior center Mike Daum dropped a team-leading 27 points, shooting 5-for-10 from 3.
It didn’t take long for Bates-Diop to take over the game. Though he had his fair share of misses, he accounted for 14 of the Buckeyes’ first 19 points. Uncharacteristically, most of his scoring came from beyond the arc during the span with him draining four 3s.
Bates-Diop was not along, for Ohio State strayed from its identity of strong post play, instead unleashing a season-high barrage of 40 3-pointers.
At first, even with wide-open looks from nearly every player, the Buckeyes struggled, beginning just 2-for-9 from beyond the arc. However, they made their next four 3-point tries, picking up points in bulk. That trend continued throughout the game, with the Buckeyes starting off 8-for-17 from 3. But they made only 4-of-23 triples the rest of the game.
Ohio State had no answer for the Jackrabbits on the other end with South Dakota State proved more efficient from beyond the arc, finishing the game 13-for-31 from 3.
The two teams combined to tie for the most 3-point attempts in a NCAA Tournament game.
The Buckeyes were able to take advantage of lackadaisical play early from the Jackrabbits, forcing South Dakota State — a team that entered the game 11th in the country with 10 turnovers per game — to turn the ball over 13 times.