No. 3 Ohio State Beats Notre Dame 64-61

Ohio State Beats Wisconsin For B10 Title (Image 1)

It looked like Ohio State's winning streak
to start the season was over.

The third-ranked Buckeyes were down eight
points to Notre Dame with less than 2 minutes to play and their offense was
nowhere to be found.

They still had their
tough defense and somehow they were able to turn the game completely around and
beat the Fighting Irish 64-61 on Saturday night in the BlackRock Gotham Classic
at Madison Square Garden.

“I don't really
know what happened. It was a big blur,” Ohio State senior guard Aaron Craft said. “We never stopped. We
never gave up. Guys were running around getting tips and guys made big free
throws.”

While a few players
did come up with big defensive plays, it was mostly one guy who made the free
throws for the Buckeyes
(12-0).

Lenzelle Smith Jr.
scored seven of his nine points in the final 33 seconds – including going 5 of
5 at the line – to lead the rally.

“I'm still
trying to figure out what happened,” Ohio State coach Thad Matta said. “My mind was fixated on if we
wanted to foul with the time situation or do we play it out defensively and all
of a sudden it was closer and closer and closer and we get the lead. It happened
quick, It was a great win.”

The Buckeyes went 9:10
without a field goal and at one point were 6 of 21 from the field as Notre Dame
(8-4) opened what seemed to be a comfortable lead late.

Jerian Grant hit a
3-pointer as the shot clock was expiring to give the Fighting Irish a 58-50
advantage with 1:54 to play.

“I am so
thoroughly disappointed,” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. “We had
such a good chance at such a great win.”

The Buckeyes turned up the
defensive intensity and they converted consecutive steals into a 58-56 deficit
with 40 seconds to go.

Demetrius Jackson
made two free throws for Notre Dame a second later.

Smith was fouled
taking a 3-pointer and he made all three free throws to bring Ohio State within 60-59 with
32 seconds left.

Steve Vasturia, who
was in the game because point guard Eric Atkins had fouled out, missed the
front end of a 1-and-1 with 31 seconds left, his first free throw attempt of
the season.

Smith scored down low
on a nice pass by Craft to give the Buckeyes a 61-60 lead with 16 seconds to go. After a Notre Dame
turnover, Smith made two free throws for a 63-60 lead with 9.8 seconds left.

Grant made one free
throw with 6.7 seconds left and Craft made one free throw with 3.3 seconds
left.

Jackson missed a
potential tying 3 as the buzzer sounded.

“They really
turned the heat up on us and flustered us. We had a hard time doing anything
right,” Brey said. “We didn't have Atkins but the other guys should
have handled it better.”

LaQuinton Ross had 16
points and 11 rebounds for Ohio State
while Amir Williams had 13 points and Shannon Scott and Craft both added 10.

Grant had 18 points
for Notre Dame, which committed five of its 13 turnovers in the final 2
minutes, while Garrick Sherman had 14 and Pat Connaughton 13.

“I'm a senior
and I have to find a way to not turn the ball over when we didn't have our point
guard in there,” Grant said.

The Buckeyes shot 34.5
percent in the second half (10 of 29, including missing all nine 3-point
attempts). They went 9:10 without a field goal in the second half, and that's
when Notre Dame opened a 52-44 lead with 5:33 to play.

Williams dunked on
the next possession to end Ohio State's
long drought.

“They packed
that zone in and I don't think we were trusting the system as much as we needed
to,” Craft said. “We took some bad shots and didn't attack. We were
letting the missing offensively affect us defensively and let that get tied together
and that's not what good teams do.”

Notre Dame opened the
second half on a 9-2 run that tied the game at 35. The run was started by a
3-pointer by Atkins, the Fighting Irish's first in seven attempts from beyond
the arc.

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