TULSA, Okla. — The long hallway leading from the locker room to the court at the BOK Center was full of Buckeyes.
There, just out of sight of a boisterous crowd of 12,443, Ohio State’s players circled up around senior walk-on Joey Lane. Hovering nearby was athletic director Gene Smith, who had just fist-bumped most of the team. And in the middle of the huddle, Lane gave a message that was short but sweet.
“We’ve been counted out our entire lives,” he yelled. “That’s what makes this group special. This ain’t our last night playing, baby. This ain’t it, baby. We’re the more connected team. Family on three.”
Then the No. 11 seed Buckeyes went out against No. 6 seed Iowa State, traded blow after blow in an NCAA Tournament thriller and lived to play another day. Behind a monster performance from Kaleb Wesson, heady, veteran play from graduate transfer Keyshawn Woods and the best game of Musa Jallow’s career, Ohio State knocked off the Cyclones 62-59.Get the news delivered to your inbox: Sign up for our BuckeyeXtra newsletter
The Buckeyes (20-14) will face No. 3 seed Houston at 8:40 p.m. Sunday in the second round of the Midwest Regional.
Iowa State (23-12) brought one of the nation’s most electric offenses to the court. It just hadn’t tangled with a defense like Ohio State’s in some time. With the Cyclones ahead 54-53 with 3:37 to play, Woods immediately answered with a running shot in the lane that rolled around the rim and fell through.
After Jallow jumped a pass and came up with the steal on the next possession, Woods finished the possession with a three from the left corner to push it to a 58-54 lead. Iowa State pulled within one on a Lindell Wigginton three-pointer with 21.1 seconds left, and the Cyclones called timeout to set up their defense.
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It worked. They deflected the first inbounds pass out of bounds, then forced the Buckeyes to burn their final timeout trying to inbound it again with 19.6 seconds left before getting the ball to Woods, who was immediately fouled.
He hit them both, giving him 19 points. And it was just enough. Wesson finished with 21 points and 12 rebounds, and Jallow had 11.
The Buckeyes jumped out to an early 11-2 lead, but the sizeable Iowa State contingent in the crowd roared as the Cyclones came roaring right back with a 15-2 run. That built a 17-13 lead during which the Buckeyes missed 6 of 7 shots sandwiched around back-to-back turnovers, but a Wesson basket from the left block ended the drought and helped settle the Buckeyes.
Then the defense kicked in. Contesting every shot and chasing down seemingly every loose ball, the Buckeyes forced the Cyclones to miss 11 straight shots for a field goal drought that lasted for 9:43 punctuated only by three free throws. Controlling the tempo and often milking the clock, Ohio State started to impose its will on the game and forced Iowa State to play at its pace.
In the process, the Buckeyes turned the 17-13 deficit into a 26-20 lead, even after Wesson picked up a second foul with 6:31 left and sat the remainder of the half. A Marial Shayok three-pointer that snapped the 0-of-11 streak and a free throw from Lindell Wigginton set the halftime score at a 26-24 Ohio State lead.
The 24 points were the fewest scored in a half by the Cyclones, who entered the game averaging 77.4 points.