Across the first 31 minutes of action against Oakland, Ohio State led for a total of 61 seconds.
The Golden Grizzlies didn't come into Value City Arena intimidated and showcased as much with staunch defense and a strong first-half shooting performance from distance.
To stave off a heart-crushing season-opening upset, the Buckeyes needed someone to take charge. That man was Roddy Gayle Jr.
With Ohio State trailing 52-47, Gayle embarked on a personal 9-0 run to give the Buckeyes a lead they never relinquished, but that didn't mean there weren't further tense moments.
Oakland cut Ohio State's lead from two scores to one five times in the final seven minutes, seeing the margin as close as 76-73 with 22 seconds left.
But between the efforts of Gayle, Bruce Thornton and Zed Key, who each scored exactly 17 points, the Buckeyes survived the Golden Grizzlies' upset bid in 79-73 fashion.
Guard Jack Gohlke led the way for Oakland, scoring 18 points, all on 3-pointers.
Ohio State outrebounded Oakland 42-30 but the Golden Grizzlies hit 40 percent of their shots from deep as opposed to the Buckeyes' 28 percent. Ohio State outshot Oakland 46 percent to 39 percent overall from the field, however.
It took nearly 18 minutes for the Buckeyes to obtain their first lead on Monday.
A turnover is never a good omen to open a half, and that was the result of Ohio State's opening possession. Soon the Buckeyes were trailing 6-0 out of the gates against Oakland after a pair of contested threes by guards Jack Gohlke and Blake Lampman.
Ohio State's offense remained on ice for a while thereafter. It opened 2-of-10 from the floor as Oakland pulled out to an 11-5 lead. Then it was the defense's turn to struggle.
While Jamison Battle hit his second three and Scotty Middleton showed some hustle getting into prime position to score his first two baskets as a Buckeye, the Golden Grizzlies hit five field goals in a row to maintain a 21-14 lead with less than 12 minutes left in the period.
Prior to a pair of free throws that made Oakland's lead just that, however, Zed Key made a play that hit the ignition for the Value City Arena crowd. A steal led to a fast break for the Buckeyes and Dale Bonner found the center near the rim. Key slammed it home and did his signature "raise the roof" celebration to generate the loudest pop from Buckeye fans thus far on the evening.
Two more dunks from Felix Okpara drew similar reactions, one on the back end of an alley-oop from Roddy Gayle, but that still wasn't enough to pull the Buckeyes even until 2:41 remained in the first half. A hook shot from Key on a fourth-chance opportunity tied things at 31.
Finally, it was Bruce Thornton who gave Ohio State its first lead of the evening, canning a triple from the right wing to make it 34-33 Buckeyes with 2:05 left in the first half. A quick jumper in response from Trey Townsend and a slow end to the period made for a 35-34 Oakland lead at halftime, however.
Both teams dealt with some foul trouble down low, as Okpara picked up two fouls and sat out the final five minutes of the half, then Key picked up his second with four minutes left in the frame. Townsend, Oakland's top returning scorer from a year ago, did the same.
He was surpassed by fellow starting forward Chris Conway and backup big man Aundre Polk, who each collected three personals.
Oakland shot 50 percent from three in the first half, a big contributing factor to its early success.
|24-52 (46%)||FGM-FGA (PCT.)||24-61 (39%)|
|7-25 (28%)||3PM-3PA (PCT.)||14-35 (40%)|
|24-30 (80%)||FTM-FTA (PCT.)||11-15 (73%)|
Shortly after committing a rough-looking turnover while inbounding uncontested, Okpara picked up his third foul of the game. Guard Tone Hunter sank a triple for Oakland and it led 40-36 with 17:37 to play.
A stretch of 2:20 without a basket was broken by a 3 from Middleton to cut the lead to 42-41, but Oakland continued counter-punching with a layup from Hunter to make it a 44-41 game. Middleton responded with another make from distance to even the score at 44-44 with 13:09 to play.
That bled into back-to-back 3s canned off open looks for Oakland, the first from guard DQ Cole and the second from Gohlke. The Golden Grizzlies led 50-44.
After an exchange of baskets, Gayle took control for a bit.
Following up a jumper with a clean floater from just outside the paint, Gayle became the recipient of an alley-oop feed from Bruce Thornton.
Then, on a drive to the basket, Gayle drew a foul from Conway that removed him from the game, as it was his fifth. He of course made the shot too and converted the following free throw to make it 56-52 Ohio State with 7:58 to play.
Polk followed Conway in fouling out 26 seconds later.
Key's star turn followed. His post spin move proved a deadly weapon against Oakland, as he used it to free himself up for a slam and another raising of the roof that made it 60-54 with 7:03 left.
Gayle responded to a Gohlke three with a floater of his own, Gohlke hit another triple and Key used that same spin to get himself another dunk, this time with an and-one and a finger-gun celebration at Ohio State's bench that drew a raucous reaction from the nearby student section. Key hit a pair of free throws after a defensive rebound soon thereafter to make it 67-60 Ohio State with 5:19 remaining.
Still, the Golden Grizzlies kept bearing down. Gohlke capped a miniature 7-1 run with his sixth 3-pointer of the game and cut the Buckeyes' lead to 68-67.
Thornton caught a pass wide open in the left corner as Ohio State ran down the floor for its next possession and sank a triple to extend the edge to 71-67 with 2:05 to play.
And again, Oakland simply wouldn't die. Five made free throws over a long span made it 76-70, but another triple from Lampman made it 76-73 with 22 seconds left.
Finally, a pair of free throws from Middleton gave the Buckeyes their final two-score lead of the contest with 10 seconds left. Middleton hit one more free throw before things closed for a 79-73 victory.
Ohio State stays in Value City Arena for a matchup with No. 15 Texas A&M on Friday. Tipoff is at 7 p.m. on Peacock, NBC's streaming service.
- Three players four Ohio State reached four fouls in Okpara, Mahaffey and Key, but none fouled out as both Conway and Polk did for Oakland.
- The Buckeyes had 14 assists against 13 turnovers.
- Key's 17 points came on an efficient 5-of-7 from the field.
- Four different Buckeyes had at least seven rebounds against the Golden Grizzlies, contributing to their +12 advantage on the boards.