OMAHA, Neb. — This wasn’t the 1997 NBA Finals, and most nights nobody would mistake Keyshawn Woods for the second coming of Michael Jordan.
In the Gavitt Tipoff Games, the Ohio State graduate transfer shook off a flu bug that prevented him from practicing only two days prior, scored 15 of his 19 points during the first half to help the Buckeyes weather the early storm and made the assist on C.J. Jackson’s go-ahead three-pointer with 2:10 to play to power a 69-60 win in front of 17,146 at the CHI Health Center Omaha.
“I was just confident,” said Woods, who had 11 points in his first two games. “My teammates have been on me the last two games about staying confident, staying ready at all times. When you’ve got guys like that supporting you, you’re going to have a game like this.”Join the conversation at Facebook.com/BuckeyeXtra and connect with us on Twitter @BuckeyeXtra
Asked if this was Woods’ “Flu Game,” a nod to when Jordan scored 38 in a critical Game 5 win against Utah, Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann said with a smirk, “Apparently, yeah. He’ll call it that. Let’s hope he gets the flu more regularly.
“He was phenomenal. I thought Keyshawn’s shot-making and decision-making was phenomenal.”
Against a team that had won 24 straight nonconference home games and hadn’t lost a home game to a Big Ten team since Illinois in 1968, the Buckeyes (3-0) built a 37-25 halftime lead but faltered in the opening minutes of the second half.
Three turnovers on their first four possessions stirred the locals, and the volume only grew as a 14-2 Creighton run left the score tied at 48 with 9:47 to play. The Bluejays (2-1) took the lead at 55-54 and led 60-56 with 2:57 remaining when Ohio State flipped a switch.
Defensively, Holtmann said they changed how they were defending ball screens. Offensively, players made shots and the momentum shifted. Woods’ drive allowed Jackson the necessary space to hit the go-ahead three-pointer in front of the Ohio State bench, even after he double-clutched on the shot, and Kyle Young added a slam to make it a four-point lead on the next possession.
And when Luther Muhammad knocked the ball loose for a Creighton turnover with 1:07 to play and the lead at 64-60, he screamed and flexed his muscles at halfcourt.
It came in stark contrast to the home crowd, which started filing to the exits with the sound of freshman Duane Washington Jr. bellowing from the bench during the final seconds reverberating off the gray seats as Ohio State closed the game on a 13-0 run.
The Buckeyes won despite Jackson committing five turnovers and going scoreless for the first 37:50 of the game and sophomore Kaleb Wesson limited to nine points and three turnovers after coming down with flu symptoms shortly before the game. Muhammad was limited to 24 minutes while dealing with foul trouble.
And yet, Ohio State found a way.
“We knew the coaches put together a pretty tough schedule for us and we knew … we want to play the best,” Jackson said.