PORTLAND, Ore. — With the first defeat of the season still fresh in his mind, C.J. Jackson remained confident even as fans back home were waking up for Black Friday shopping.
“We’re still positive,” he told The Dispatch near the loading dock of Veterans Memorial Coliseum. “It’s early in the season. We know that.”
In other words, a 27-point loss to No. 17 Gonzaga in the opening round of the PK80 Invitational hadn’t deflated the spirits of the Buckeyes. Eighteen hours later across the walkway at the Moda Center, the same was true when Stanford built a 10-point lead late in the first half against a sluggish-looking Ohio State team.
This time, though, the Buckeyes rallied in a big way. Keita Bates-Diop sparked an 11-1 half-closing run that tied the game at the break, and Ohio State pulled away from the Cardinal in the second half for a 79-71 win that sets up coach Chris Holtmann’s self-described “worst-case scenario” for the tournament: a Sunday showdown with Butler, the team he was coaching less than six months ago.
Looking tired and probably showing the effects of having played only 18 hours earlier, the Buckeyes (5-1) struggled against Stanford’s zone and fell behind early. The Cardinal gradually built a 31-21 with 2:31 to play, but Bates-Diop got untracked and sparked the Buckeyes.
He answered two free throws by Josh Sharma with a three-pointer that started the Ohio State run to a 32-32 halftime tie. After the Buckeyes had made just nine of their first 26 shots from the floor (34.6 percent), they hit four of their final six of the half. Three were Bates-Diop three-pointers, giving him 12 points at the break after he had been held to a season-low seven by Gonzaga. He was perfect on his four first-half three-point attempts.
After hitting his final three-pointer of the half with seven seconds left on the clock, Bates-Diop thrust his fists in the air as he ran back up the court to defend a last-second Stanford shot.
The momentum carried over, as Jackson buried a three-pointer on the first possession of the second half to give the Buckeyes their first lead since the score was 8-7. The lead steadily grew, reaching an apex at 48-38 on a Bates-Diop basket exactly six minutes into the second half that completed a 27-7 Ohio State run and prompted Stanford to call a timeout.
Stanford (3-4) later got within five points on a pair of free throws, but Jackson answered with a deep three-pointer to push the lead back to eight with 5:18 to play.
Jackson led four Buckeyes in double figures with a career-high 22 points, while Bates-Diop had 18 points and 11 rebounds for his fourth double-double of the year. Jae’Sean Tate also had one, with 14 points and 10 rebounds.
After missing the Gonzaga game with a left-ankle injury suffered Sunday against Northeastern, sophomore center Micah Potter returned to action but not to the starting lineup.