Stunned: Ohio State falls to No. 15 seed Oral Roberts in NCAA Tournament

Adam Jardy
Buckeye Xtra

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — The look was from straight on. The shot would’ve given Ohio State the lead.

It stuck between the backboard and the rim and went no further.

The three-point attempt from Duane Washington Jr. with 3:51 to play in overtime didn’t sink No. 2 seed Ohio State, but it foretold what was to come. A season of promise, one that came just short of a Big Ten tournament title and a loss or two from a No. 1 seed, flamed out in the first round of the NCAA Tournament with a 75-72 loss to No. 15 seed Oral Roberts.

After leading by four with 2:34 left in regulation, Ohio State missed its final three shots, turned it over twice and missed the front end of a one-and-one as the Golden Eagles would force overtime on a pair of Kevin Obanor free throws with 14.9 seconds left. Washington’s shot that lodged itself came with Oral Roberts ahead 66-64.

Ohio State forward Zed Key (23) and guard Duane Washington Jr. leave the court after an overtime loss to Oral Roberts.

One possession later, Obanor collected a miss, scored while being fouled and converted the three-point play for a five-point lead with 2:55 left and Ohio State (21-10) was done.

It would come down to the final buzzer, though: Justin Ahrens and Washington both missed three-point looks in the final five seconds that would have forced double overtime.

Obanor finished with 30 points, and Max Abmas — the nation's leading scorer — had 29 for Oral Roberts. The rest of the Golden Eagles combined to shoot 6 for 25 from the floor and 1 for 13 from three.

According to ESPN, Oral Roberts was a 16-point underdog, making it the largest NCAA Tournament upset since No. 16 seed UMBC beat No. 1 seed Virginia in 2018.

The loss is Ohio State’s third against a double-digit seed and first since a 60-59 defeat to No. 11 seed Dayton on March 20, 2014. It’s also the first time the Buckeyes have not won a game after making the NCAA Tournament since that season.

Tied at 60, Musa Jallow gave the Buckeyes the lead with a free throw. Washington added a swish on a jumper off an out-of-bounds play on the next possession to push it to three, and E.J. Liddell, who led Ohio State with 23 points, hit a free throw on the next one to give the Buckeyes a four-point lead on the Golden Eagles (17-10).

Oral Roberts would fight back, and after Liddell missed the front end of a one-and-one with 36.3 seconds left and the lead at 64-62, Jallow fouled Obanor with 14.9 seconds left.

He hit both free throws to tie the game, and Washington would miss a three at the buzzer to force overtime. After going ahead 64-60, the Buckeyes missed their final three shots, turned it over twice and missed a free throw.

Ohio State trailed by as many as seven points on two occasions and was down 51-45 with 10:23 to play in regulation before it started to get some offense going. The Buckeyes scored on three straight possessions for the first time during the second half to take a 54-53 lead on a Washington floater with 6:57 to play. Oral Roberts answered with an Obanor three, though, to immediately reclaim the lead.

Ohio State forward E.J. Liddell battles for the ball with Oral Roberts' Kevin Obanor (0) and forward Francis Lacis.

After spotting Oral Roberts the first seven points of the game, Ohio State scored on four straight possessions to take a 10-7 lead and looked to be settling into the game. That continued as the lead climbed to 17-12 when Liddell found Jallow for a layup with 14:15 left in the half, but things would get consistently cooler from there.

It started with a miss for Washington, who had 11 of Ohio State’s first 17 points, including a pair of three-pointers. The Buckeyes would then miss 10 of their next 13 shots, and although that didn’t allow the Golden Eagles to immediately climb into the game, it kept Ohio State from creating distance.

As the Buckeyes went cold from the field, Oral Roberts went even colder. The Golden Eagles would miss 14 of 15 shots during one stretch until Obanor snapped the streak with a three-pointer with 7:16 left in the half that pulled them within 23-18, and it would be the start of a 14-2 run for the upset-minded Golden Eagles. Obanor scored the first eight points of the run and Abmas the following six on a pair of threes, the second of which forced Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann to call timeout with 3:41 to play and his team trailing 29-25.

It didn’t stop Oral Roberts, which would push its lead as high as seven points on an Obanor layup with 2:44 put the Buckeyes in a 34-27 hole. Liddell would close the half from there by assisting on a Justice Sueing slam dunk, collecting a CJ Walker miss for a layup and scoring in the paint. That gave Oral Roberts a 36-33 halftime lead.

Abmas had 18 at the break on 6-of-13 shooting. Washington led the Buckeyes with 11 at the half.