The Ohio State men’s basketball team seemed to be on a completely different level from Gonzaga in the first half. The Bulldogs found easy paths to the basket, were beating the Buckeyes consistently in the paint and maximizing every forced turnover.
The second half was a different story, however. The Buckeyes took a lead with less than 10 minutes remaining and outscored Gonzaga 34-18 in the first 13:47 of the second half.
The fourth-seeded Bulldogs managed to reclaim their lead on a 28-17 run to close out the game and eliminate the fifth-seeded Buckeyes from the NCAA Tournament, winning 90-84 in Boise, Idaho, Saturday night.
In a back-and-forth second-half, Gonzaga tied the game at 62. But Ohio State redshirt junior forward Keita Bates-Diop made a pair of free throws and drained a 3-pointer to put his team up 67-62. After a 3-pointer by Gonzaga guard Josh Norvell, sophomore center Killian Tillie made a layup and drew an and-one to pull the Bulldogs ahead 68-67.
Gonzaga added five more points to stake out to a 73-67 lead with an 11-0 run. Though Ohio State added another basket, five more points from Norvell put the Bulldogs ahead 78-69 to all but seal the victory for his team.
Norvell led all players with 28 points, with 6 makes on 11 3-point attempts, and 12 rebounds. Bates-Diop was tied with Norvell with 28 points.
Ohio State struggled to get much going in the first half, but came out of the second half on fire. It went on a 10-2 run that included six points in the paint that pulled them within two points, down 48-46 with 17:27 remaining in the game.
The Buckeyes kept tacking on points. The Bulldogs added four points after the run, but Ohio State went on a 12-2 run over the next 4:39 with redshirt senior guard Kam Williams contributing five points to put Ohio State up 58-54.
Ohio State could not have gotten off to a worse start in the first half. Gonzaga slowly chipped away at the Buckeyes to break out to a 15-0 lead, holding Ohio State scoreless until senior forward Jae’Sean Tate drained a 3 nearly six minutes into the game.
From there, Ohio State began to find an offensive rhythm, making each of its next three field goals after Tate’s basket. It especially began to find space outside and start to pull back with five first-half 3-pointers.
The Buckeyes trailed 27-13 with 9:55 remaining in the half and managed to go on a 10-3 run to draw Gonzaga’s lead to under double-digits, but they failed to make up more ground.
Throughout the first half, Gonzaga’s strong interior play forced Ohio State to attack defensively when a Bulldog drove to the basket, freeing up guards like freshman Josh Norvell to shoot wide-open 3s with incredible consistency. Gonzaga finished the game outscoring the Buckeyes 40-32 in the paint and shooting 41 percent from 3.
Gonzaga’s strong interior play extended to the defensive side of the ball as well, with them preventing Ohio State from getting high-percentage looks inside. The Buckeyes were forced to look outside for shots and found success, making 11-of-26 3-point attempts. Made shots from beyond the arc accounted for 39.3 percent of Ohio State’s total points