Men's Basketball

Ohio State holds off upset with two clutch shots, gets ‘revenge game’ with Gonzaga

Ohio State’s Kam Williams advances Buckeyes on bracket after win in Boise

It's a new tradition at the NCAA Tournament: A player from the winning team "advances" his team on the bracket.
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It's a new tradition at the NCAA Tournament: A player from the winning team "advances" his team on the bracket.

South Dakota State turned the game into what it wanted — a 3-point contest.

But Ohio State’s length, athleticism and pedigree allowed the Buckeyes to power past the upset-minded Jackrabbits 81-73 on Thursday in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in Boise and earn a rematch with Gonzaga.

West No. 5 seed Ohio State (25-8) will face No. 4 Gonzaga (31-4) in the second round at 5:45 p.m. Mountain Time Saturday at Taco Bell Arena. Gonzaga beat the Buckeyes 86-59 on Nov. 23 in the PK80 Invitational.

“We’re nowhere near the team we were back then,” Ohio State senior guard Kam Williams said. “We’ve progressed in so many different areas. And the whole team is excited for this one. We’ve been wanting this matchup ever since the bracket came out. It’s a revenge game.”

[Related: Gonzaga hangs on to beat UNC Greensboro]

No. 12 seed South Dakota State (28-7) overwhelmed the Buckeyes early with a barrage of 3-pointers, enticing the Buckeyes into taking a season-high 40 shots from behind the arc. Ohio State only made 12 (30 percent) and trailed the Jackrabbits early in the second half.

But Ohio State broke the game open with a 16-0 run midway through the second half, holding the Jackrabbits scoreless for 5 minutes, 5 seconds to build a 13-point lead. South Dakota State then rallied all the way back to tie the game at 70 when Reed Tellinghuisen sank a pair of free throws with 1:54 left to put the crowd firmly behind the Jackrabbits.

“I think we anticipated a road-type environment,” Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann said. “I don’t know that we anticipated that it would be quite as loud as it got.”

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South Dakota State forward Mike Daum drives the baseline past Ohio State’s Mich Potter (0) and Andrew Dakich for a slam dunk Thursday in Boise. Darin Oswald

But Williams put the game away with two clutch plays behind the arc.

He converted a four-point play 18 seconds after South Dakota State tied the game, sinking a 3 from the wing and hitting the and-one free throw. After South Dakota State’s Reed Tellinghuisen missed a 3 to answer, Williams drew another foul on a missed 3 on the next trip down the court. He sank all three free throws to turn a tied game into a seven-point lead with 1:04 left.

“We were struggling there late,” Holtmann said. “We were saying, ‘Somebody has to make a play, and someone has to take an open look and make an open shot.’ And he’s that kind of a kid. He wants the ball in his hands in those moments. And he’s got that look in his eye.”

Keita Bates-Diop, the Big Ten Player of the Year, led Ohio State with 24 points and 12 rebounds. Williams added 22 points and C.J. Jackson scored 20, including 16 in the second half, to set up a rematch with Gonzaga.

Junior forward Mike Daum poured in a game-high 27 points for South Dakota State, which ended its third straight trip to the NCAA Tournament with a first-round loss. The Jackrabbits are 0-5 in program history at the tournament.

Daum, a potential NBA Draft pick, said he has not decided if he’ll return for his senior season.

“I’ve got to kind of let this settle in for me,” Daum said. “I’ve got to finish my school this year, make sure I get my credits all done, and I’ll worry about it when it comes down the line a little bit later.”

Michael Lycklama: 208-377-6424, @MichaelLycklama