Ohio State played without two of its best players in the first round of a tournament that serves as second fiddle to the Big Dance, but won anyway to extend its season.
Two Kam Williams layups in the final 3 minutes coupled with missed shots by Akron led the Buckeyes past the Zips 72-63 in overtime in the first round of the NIT Tuesday at the Schottenstein Center.
Williams' steal and layup made it 66-63, then he found space on the baseline to extend Ohio State's lead to five with just more than a minute remaining. Akron failed the score at the other end, and two Marc Loving free throws put the finishing touches on the victory.
The Buckeyes played without starting forward Keita Bates-Diop, who sat out with an illness, while sophomore Jae'Sean Tate has been out since undergoing labrum surgery on his left shoulder Feb. 26.
Williams entered the starting lineup for the first time in his career and responded by tying for the team high in points with 18. Freshman JaQuan Lyle and Loving also both added 18, while the latter corralled a career-high 13 rebounds. Lyle grabbed a team-high 14 boards.
Reggie McAdams buried a 3-pointer from the wing while being fouled by Lyle and made the ensuing free throw to tie the game at 52 with 7 minutes to play in regulation.
Lyle's steal and bucket tied it at 62 with 2:15 left, but he missed from the baseline in the final seconds after a series of shots by both teams to send the game to overtime.
|23-67 (34)||FGM-FGA (PCT.)||23-70 (33)|
|5-21 (24)||3PM-3PA (PCT.)||9-42 (21)|
|21-23 (91)||FTM-FTA (PCT.)||8-20 (40)|
Akron entered Tuesday's game second in the country in 3-point field goal attempts per game and didn't disappoint. The Zips hoisted 42 of their 70 shots from beyond the arc, but connected on just nine. Akron also struggled the free-throw line, making only 8-of-20 attempts while the Buckeyes finished 21-of-23.
Three-pointers by Jake Kretzer and Noah Robotham helped turn a 22-21 deficit into a 29-22 lead late in the first half, Akron's largest of the game.
A free throw by Loving and runner by Lyle cut the lead before the first half horn, but the Zips still led 29-25 at the break.
Isaiah Johnson led Akron with 16 points and 12 rebounds, while McAdams added 12 points and 11 boards. Jake Kretzer hit four 3-pointers off the bench for 12 points.
Mickey Mitchell added nine points for the Buckeyes, including his first career 3-pointer. He also made all four of his free throw attempts.
Ohio State advances to the second round of the NIT to play Florida, the No. 2 seed. The game is scheduled for Sunday at noon at Value City Arena because Florida's home arena is undergoing construction, according to an Ohio State spokesman.