Ohio State beat South Dakota State in the first round of the NCAA tournament on Thursday, 81-73 in Boise, Idaho. The Buckeyes blew a late lead but recovered quickly and forcefully.
They had a 66-56 lead with just under seven minutes to play. But the Jackrabbits got to chipping away from there, and they tied the game with two Reed Tellinghuisen foul shots with 1:54 to go. It took the Jacks 4:49 to wipe out their 10-point deficit and set up the finish.
The Buckeyes hit back, though. Kam Williams converted a four-point play on the possession immediately after SDSU tied the score. After a stop, SDSU again fouled Williams on a three-pointer, and he converted all three free throws to further extend Ohio State’s lead.
To recap: That was a 14-4 South Dakota State run in 4:49, followed immediately by a 7-0 Ohio State run in 32 seconds. That’s how the Buckeyes survived this scare.
Ohio State played a weird game, though. Almost historically weird.
Here’s a stat, first tipped off by ESPN: Ohio State shot 40 three-pointers. That hadn’t happened in a tournament game since 2008, when Drake chucked up 42 of them against Western Kentucky in the round of 64. Since 2011, just 23 teams have shot more than 30 in a tournament game, and none has shot more than 37. Shooting 40 is extreme.
The Buckeyes made 12 of them. That’s terrible! A 30 percent three-point shooting game is bad if you only shoot, like, 15 three-pointers. And Ohio State shot 40 of them. Ohio State entered the day averaging 19 triple attempts per game, and it had only shot more than 30 once.
Ohio State is a deeply average three-point-shooting team in general. The Buckeyes entered the day making 35 percent of them for the year, 149th out of 351 Division I teams this year. They were seventh out of 14 Big Ten teams in three-point percentage, too.
So, how the hell did they win a game in which they missed 28 threes?
It came down to offensive rebounding. Really, that’s almost the full extent of it. The Buckeyes and Jackrabbits were close to even everywhere except there.
Ohio State had a 15-8 offensive rebounding advantage, which translated to a 19-9 edge in second-chance points. Both teams shot 38 percent from the field, and South Dakota State’s three-point percentage was only a few ticks higher (42 percent over 30, on a couple fewer shots). But the Buckeyes attempted nine more total shots and won by 8 points.
The Buckeyes got offensive rebounds on 33 percent of their opportunities. The national average is about 29 percent, and OSU’s seasonal clip is about 30 percent.
That’s about it. Such is the advantage of having power-conference recruits and playing against a team from the Summit League. OSU star Keita Bates-Diop had five offensive boards all on his own, while seven Buckeyes had one or two, and the “team” got one.
It’s cool that the Buckeyes got away with such a bad shooting day.
But in the second round against Gonzaga, they’ll probably have to do better. Gonzaga allowed just a 23 percent offensive rebounding rate to other teams this season, a top-20 mark nationally. Playing the Zags is not like playing South Dakota State.