The situation might have filled Ohio State fans with trepidation, but JaQuan Lyle insisted he had no concerns down the stretchThursday night. With the Buckeyes struggling to hold on at home to UNC Asheville, it was the sophomore point guard who took over the offense in the final moments. With the Bulldogs ahead 69-67 with 2:51 to play, Lyle drew a foul on Kevin Vannatta and converted both free throws to tie the game with 2:35 to play.
The situation might have filled Ohio State fans with trepidation, but JaQuan Lyle insisted he had no concerns down the stretchThursdaynight.
With the Buckeyes struggling to hold on at home to UNC Asheville, it was the sophomore point guard who took over the offense in the final moments. With the Bulldogs ahead 69-67 with2:51to play, Lyle drew a foul on Kevin Vannatta and converted both free throws to tie the game with2:35to play. Then he scored the next six points for the Buckeyes to help fend off the upset attempt, and it was his final bucket that got the attention of UNC Asheville coach Nick McDevitt.
"Obviously it was a one-possession game and Lyle made a big play," he said. "His running layup was a big play."
>>> Video: JaQuan Lyle after the win
He's right. A layup from Will Weeks with1:16to play answered a Lyle pull-up and made it a 73-71 Ohio State lead when Lyle dribbled the ball along the left wing. According to the sophomore, he read the play off a pick-and-roll with teammate Keita Bates-Diop, spied his opening and cut through the paint to the right side of the rim.
There, he used plenty of spin and a little body language to lay it in off the glass with 47 seconds to play and push the lead back to four points. It would prove too much to overcome, and free throws from C.J. Jackson and Kam Williams in the final 12 seconds helped finish off the win.
Lyle's final basket tied him for the team lead with 17 points. It also erased some memories of missed baskets in the final seconds of losses to Virginia and Florida Atlantic.
"Shots coming up short or not, the ball's always going to be in my hands because my teammates and coaching staff believe in me and have confidence in me," he said, "but nothing really felt different besides just the shots going in."
Lyle opened the game by assisting on four of Ohio State's first five baskets. He only finished with six assists and said he feels out the game to decide when he needs to switch from distributor to scorer.
Coach Thad Matta said he told Lyle to start being more aggressive to the basket long ago.
"We did (tell him)," Matta said. "Starting backOctober 1andtonighthe finally did it. It was good to see. Those were some big shots, and we felt like, they really went small down the stretch there and getting inside the paint was a good thing for us."
Ten of his points came during the second half.
"Early on I try to get my teammates involved and in the second half when it's crunch time they'll probably play in the gaps where not to help off because they thought I was going to pass but this time I'll keep it and score," he said. "It's just playing basketball and having a high IQ."