(Photo courtesy NCAA; TNT)
Spoiler Alert: The Buckeyes ALMOST blew this one too when Lindell Wigginton for the Iowa State Cyclones hit a three with :51 seconds remaining in the game to pull within one. Momentum appeared to quickly shift their way.
Now back to real time ….
The Buckeyes are heading to the second round of the NCAA Tournaments after pulling off what is being called an upset of the Iowa State Cyclones 63-60 in Tulsa on Friday night.
It will be the second straight season that the Buckeyes have advanced to the second round. This win also gives Buckeyes head coach Chris Holtmann five straight wins in the first round. The only other coaches included in this memorable category are Mike Krzyzewski, Jay Wright, Mark Few, Bill Self, Roy Williams and John Calipari.
“Last year…as a coach you know how hard that game’s going to be,” Holtmann said. “But you expect to pull that one out, (but) we almost didn’t. This one is maybe as sweet as any opening round win I’ve had.”
Everything was needed from the Buckeyes (20-14, 8-12 Big Ten) in order to secure this upset, and move on.
Let’s be honest – the game was ugly from start to finish. But that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
For all of us Buckeyes fans, the ups and downs are part of the game, any basketball fan truth is told – it was a fun one to witness.
Both the Buckeyes and Cyclones combined for a shooting percentage of 41.4 from the field. The Cyclones had nearly a four-minute stretch in the first half where they made just one of 13 shots. The Buckeyes had a similar stretch as well, not to be out-done – in the second half, making just one of 10 shots. There were 23 turnovers in the game and the physical play was very reminiscent of a Big Ten game.
These two teams play two different brands of basketball and Holtmann understood that whoever controlled the tempo would have the upper hand. The Buckeyes tried to make this an ugly, defensive basketball game and it worked – nicely I should say.
“To come here and play as well of a defensive game that we played,” Holtmann said. “Our guys were tremendous. Players win games and our players attacking their responsibilities in terms of our game plan, was tremendous.”
The Buckeyes pushed the ball only at times where it led to direct scores. Any other forced turnover or defensive rebound was met with patience in the half court until a shot was found, and or wanted. That usually resulted in putting the ball in the hands of Kaleb in the post.
“We knew we weren’t going to win unless he imposed himself physically for as many minutes as we could ride him,” Holtmann said. “You’re never sure, when you’re watching film, if you can attack them in certain areas until you’re actually playing. We did feel like we could get the ball in spots. Our guys did a great job getting it to him and he did an excellent job imposing himself.”
Kaleb was Kaleb – Thank Goodness.
There is no team on Iowa State’s schedule that has a player anything like Kaleb Wesson. He’s big, strong and skilled. That type of combination can cause problems for a team that is possessive of weapons operating only on the perimeter. Because of that Wesson punished them down low.
“My teammates were finding me and they were hitting shots so it made for easy one-on-one basketball down there,” Wesson said. “Having the ball in your hands, being able to feel it and get your touch right. That helps a lot in finding you groove.”
Wesson hit 15 of his 23 points in the second half cataloging his fifth double-double of the season. He also, shock-a-roo, played the entire second half.
long as he stayed out of foul trouble — which he did as he didn’t pick up his third foul until the 7:36 mark of the second half and would not be called for another the remainder of the game. Kaleb was also dynamite at abusing any defender Iowa State tossed in his path – as he maturely awaited to make his moves and shots.
“I feel like that helped a lot,” Wesson said. “Just being able to play and not have to worry about ticky-tack fouls.”
Let’s talk Keyshawn:
Woods had been looking forward to getting the opportunity to play in the NCAA Tournament and on Friday night he took full advantage of it. Woods hit for 19 points playing all but one minute in the match. He buried a vital shot at the end to secure the win for the Buckeyes.
When Iowa State took its only lead of the second half, it was Woods who responded with a shot in the paint to give the Buckeyes back the lead.
When Iowa State pulled within one with 2:42 left to play, it was Woods who knocked down a corner three to push the lead to 58-54.
This is his first time playing in the actual NCAA Tournament — he lost in the First Four In round with Wake Forrest in 2017 — and his playing quite well of late. The Buckeyes couldn’t ask for more.
“Now I just want to keep playing,” Woods said. “I want to keep playing with my brothers, I want to keep winning games and keep going as long as we can.”
And how about Musa?
Musa Jallow has had an up and down season in blunt talk reference playing time. There have been moments where he played 30 minutes as a starter, but he’s also been sitten down – as well as he should have been. Yet against Iowa State Jallow was perhaps the perfect fifth starter.
“I just feel like I was ready for it,” Jallow said. “The coaches talking to me after every single game. (There were) just in my ear to stay ready and what I can do to prepare for the next game. They really helped me with that.”
The sophomore guard spent the night guarding the Cyclones’ leading scorer Marial Shayok who finished with 23 points, but Jallow came up with timely defensive walls that slowed Shayok some – who was certainly capable of adding onto his totals. Musa was essential in preventing this possibility.
His biggest play of the game came following Woods’ shot to retake the lead when he intercepted a Iowa State pass and drew a loose-ball foul. That defensive play set up Woods’ corner three.
“I thought he was terrific today with exception of his turnovers, which I kindly let him know,” Holtmann said jokingly. “His steal late was a momentum changer for us.”
Jallow ended the night with a stat line of 11 points — making all five shots — six rebounds, three steals and a block.
As I mentioned the Buckeyes are moving on in the dance. They now will meet up with the 3rd seeded Houston Cougars, who are a solid basketball team. Tip-off is scheduled for Sunday @ 8:40 p.m. on TNT. Grab a Guinness and a favorite snack and snuggle up on the couch for what I am predicting …. Ah! Must I?