Fueled by their incredible 3-point shooting ability, Oral Roberts just delivered the biggest knockout blow of the national tournament early on Friday afternoon.
Kevin Obanor and Max Abmas led the Golden Eagles to an overtime victory over Ohio State, denying one of the best teams in the nation an early round victory. Ohio State had two shots to tie the game before time expired, but neither one went home and the Scarlet and Gray lost 75-72.
Abmas and Obanor led the way for Oral Roberts. Abmas posted 29 points, while Obanor's monster second half and overtime showing gave him a game-high 30 points.
E.J. Liddell led the Buckeyes with 23 points. Duane Washington Jr. added 18 points and Justice Sueing had just seven.
After hitting his first four shots of the game, Washington went just 3-for-17 the rest of the day. The Buckeyes were 5-for-23 from 3-point range and 9-for-18 from the line in the overtime loss.
The loss ends Ohio State's season with a record of 21-10 and squashes their dreams of a Final Four run. The Golden Eagles became just the ninth No. 15-seed to beat a No. 2-seed in the history of the tournament. To date, No. 2 seeds have a record of 132-9. The last time a No. 2-seed lost an opening round game came in 2016 when Middle Tennessee St. knocked out Michigan State.
ORU also just won its first NCAA Tournament game since 1974.
The Buckeyes had a 23-15 lead with 9:17 to play in the first half - and frankly could have had a much larger lead - when things started to go south.
Oral Roberts pieced together a 19-4 run over a 6:33 stretch and suddenly the Buckeyes found themselves down by seven points. Max Abmas had a terrific first half with 18 points (the rest of the team scored 18 points).
Those respective margins represented the largest leads each team had in the first half. While the game was played within a fairly tight window, Oral Roberts made it very clear that they were ready to play under the brightest spotlight in the sport.
Meanwhile, the Buckeye offense continued to look stagnant. While they converted at a higher percentage during the beginning of the second half, Ohio State was too turnover-prone. They turned it over seven times in the first 11 minutes of the half.
Even when Oral Roberts couldn't get it rolling offensively, the Buckeyes were struggling to tighten things up. E.J. Liddell hit a lay-up and the free throw he earned to cut the deficit to 51-50 with 8:34 to play ... but ORU had missed eight of its nine shots during that several minute stretch.
Meanwhile, Duane Washington Jr. had a brutal start to the second half. He was scoreless through the first 12 minutes with a foul and two turnovers. His 11 points in the first half kept the Scarlet and Gray in it when Abmas was hitting shots from all over the floor.
Finally, on Washington's first basket of the second half, he gave the Buckeyes a 54-53 lead with 6:57 to play.
The game really tightened in the latter part of the second half as the Buckeyes size wore down ORU. After Liddell's aforementioned lay-up, neither team led by more than one possession until Liddell hit a foul shot with 2:34 to play to put the Buckeyes up 64-60.
Then Liddell made a sweet, LeBron James-esque trail block with less than two minutes to play, denying Abmas an easy fast-break lay-in.
After a pair of free throws cut the OSU lead to 64-62, Liddell grabbed an offensive rebound after Washington Jr. missed a lay-up. Liddell was fouled and missed the 1-and-1, giving it back to ORU with a chance to tie or take the lead.
Kevin Obanor drove inside with 14.9 seconds left and earned a trip to the stripe. He hit both to tie the game at 64-64. Washington Jr. took a fadeaway 3-ball as time expired to try and win the game, but his miss came up short and the game went to overtime.
In the extra session, Obanor kick-started Oral Roberts with an early basket. After building a 70-66 lead, the Golden Eagles forced Ohio State into a 15th turnover. Abmas converted a pure jumper from the right wing on the other end to extend the lead to 72-66 with 2:05 left in the game.
With their hopes running on fumes, Washington was fouled while hitting a layup. He hit the free throw to pull within three. Then Obanor missed a 3-ball at the other end and Washington got to the line again with 37 seconds to go, but he missed both fouls shots. The Buckeyes at that point still trailed 72-69.
The difference in overtime came down to the free throw line and the 3-point line, as is often the case in March Madness. Down 75-72 with the clock ready to expire, the Buckeyes had looks at 3's from both Justin Ahrens and Washington Jr. to tie the game, but both misfired. They finished overtime 1-of-5 from deep and 1-of-3 at the stripe, while ORU hit 5-of-8 free throws to pull off the upset.
More to come after Chris Holtmann's postgame press conference, which you can stream live on our YouTube channel.
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