Led by freshman star D'Angelo Russell, the Ohio State Buckeyes pulled a mild upset of the VCU Rams in the NCAA tournament.
If someone told you before the West Regional game between No. 7 VCU and No. 10 Ohio State that a Buckeyes freshman would hit a pair of monster threes late in the game, you would have assumed D’Angelo Russell was just doing what he has done all year. You would have been wrong.
Russell was the best player on the floor, scoring a game-high 28 points, but it was Ketia Bates-Diop who hit the two biggest shots of the game in Ohio State's 75-72 win on Thursday. They were the only two shots Bates-Diop made in the game. One came late in regulation and gave OSU a two-point lead with three and a half minutes left. The second came in overtime to break a 68-68 tie and give the Buckeyes a lead they would never relinquish. Ohio State will take on No. 2 Arizona on Saturday.
For most of the game, Russell was the star, adding six rebounds. Shannon Scott took over Russell’s role as facilitator, racking up 10 assists to go along with nine points.
VCU took control early, building a 25-13 lead with seven minutes remaining in the first half. Ohio State's zone slowed the Rams and prevented them from being able to get into their pressure defense. The Buckeyes closed the half on a 16-5 run, with Russell scoring 10 of those points,
The second half was played entirely within a 10-point window, with both teams holding five-point leads at different stages of the game’s final 20 minutes. After the Buckeyes went up 64-60 with 2:43 left, Melvin Johnson hit back-to-back threes to give the Rams a two-point lead. Ohio State tied it on an Amir Williams dunk, assisted by Bates-Diop. VCU had the final shot in regulation, but Treveon Graham missed a tough driving layup, resulting in the first overtime game of the 2015 NCAA tournament.
Unfortunately for the Rams, they went into overtime without Mo Alie-Cox, who had fouled out late in regulation. They did score first in the extra period, but Russell tied it with a fast-break layup, right before the aforementioned three by Bates-Diop. The Rams got a great look for Graham for a potential game-tying three, but it clanked off the rim. Appropriately, Russell sealed it with a pair of free throws.