Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann and select Buckeyes players held a press conference with reporters following No. 2 seed Ohio State’s 75-72 overtime loss to No. 15 Oral Roberts in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.
A season with so much promise ended on Friday afternoon. Fresh off a Big Ten Championship game berth and holding the No. 2 seed in the South Region, the Buckeyes appeared ready to make a deep NCAA Tournament run.
Fifteenth-seeded Oral Roberts had different ideas. The Golden Eagles led for more than 24 minutes as Ohio State had to rally in the final 10 minutes of the second half just to force regulation.
In overtime, Oral Roberts stretched its lead to 72-66 with 2:10 remaining. The Buckeyes had their chances to comeback with the ball in Duane Washington Jr.’s hands, but the junior shot 1-of-5 from the field and 1-of-3 from the free-throw line.
“As much as anything, you’re trying to bring some perspective to this season, which is hard to do,” Holtmann said about speaking to his players postgame. “We all have to be responsible for not quite getting it done, and that begins with me. Obviously you’re a No. 2 seed for a reason, you have a body of work that’s really good.
“By and large it was a special year with a conclusion, we’ve got to lean into. It’s incredibly disappointing.”
The nation’s leading scorer, Max Abmas, scored 18 first-half points and finished the game with 29. Kevin Obanor added 30 points, with seven in overtime.
The Buckeyes’ offense struggled all night. They hit just 36 percent of their 3-pointers and 31 percent from the field. They turned the ball over 16 times.
Ohio State’s loss marks only the ninth time in NCAA History a No. 15 seed beat a No. 2 seed. The last time it happened was in 2016, when Middle Tennessee State upset Michigan.
The last time the Buckeyes lost their opening game of the Big Dance was in 2014, when they fell to No. 11 seed Dayton, 60-59. The loss marks the first time Holtmann’s ever lost in the Round of 64.
“I think obvious that’s the next step for us, finding a way to get to the second weekend,” Holtmann said. “In past years, we were beat by teams that were higher seeds than us. … This has not happened to us in our four years together. But that, that doesn’t discount that I understand that’s where we need to be moving forward.”
Suddenly, Ohio State’s season is over. An expected run in the NCAA Tournament ends in just the Round of 64, and the Buckeyes enter a crucial offseason.