Rough start dooms Ohio State
BOISE, Idaho — Zach Norvell Jr. had 28 points, Rui Hachimura added 25 and Gonzaga is headed back into the Sweet 16 with a 90-84 victory over Ohio State in the West Region on Saturday night.
Norvell hit the late tiebreaking 3-pointer against UNC-Greensboro in the opening round to help the Zags advance. The confident freshman made 6 of 11 from the arc against Ohio State to lead Gonzaga (32-4) into the Sweet 16 for the fourth straight season — two wins from a return trip to the Final Four.
The Bulldogs jumped out to a big early lead, withstood a second-half Ohio State charge and made the big plays down the stretch to earn a spot in the West Region semifinals against the Xavier-Florida State winner in Los Angeles.
The resilient-all-season Buckeyes (25-9) rallied from an abysmal start and an 11-point halftime deficit to take a brief second-half lead before Gonzaga went on an 11-0 run to snatch it back.
Keita Bates-Diop had 28 points and Kam Williams 19 for Ohio State.
Ohio State and Gonzaga met four months ago in the PK80 Invitational.
It did not go well for the Buckeyes.
The Zags shredded Ohio State’s defense while shooting 59 percent and held the Buckeyes to 35 percent in an 86-59 thrashing.
The Buckeyes said they are a better team now. Their record reflects it, too: 25 wins, a second-place finish in the rough-and-tumble Big Ten Conference and a return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2015.
The Zags looked a little rusty in their opening 68-64 win over UNC-Greensboro. They looked more like the team that blew out BYU in the WCC title game early against the Buckeyes.
Gonzaga scored the game’s first 15 points while hitting six of nine shots and blocking two of Ohio State’s. The Buckeyes had three of their first seven shots roll off the rim early and didn’t score until Jae’Sean Tate hit a 3-pointer at 14:18
Ohio State righted itself on offense, but struggled to slow the zigging Zags, who made 18 of 31 shots to lead 44-33 at halftime.
The Buckeyes got even more shots to fall coming out of halftime and forced a rash of Gonzaga turnovers during a 12-2 run to go up 58-54.
Gonzaga answered with an 11-0 run, going up 73-67 on Hachimura’s 3-pointer at the shot clock buzzer.
Ohio State came up short of its first Sweet 16 since 2013, but the season could hardly be considered a failure. The Buckeyes were picked to finish 11th in the Big Ten in coach Chris Holtmann’s first season, but ended up second and won a game in the NCAA Tournament.
Gonzaga did not play particularly well in its opening NCAA Tournament game, but looks like it could make another Final Four run after getting past the Buckeyes.
Gonzaga will face the Xavier-Florida State winner at the West Region semifinals in Los Angeles.
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