TULSA, Okla. — Ohio State left no doubt that it belonged in the NCAA Tournament.
Turns out, the Buckeyes are also good enough to stick around in it.
In a physical, grinding, Big Ten-style matchup, Ohio State proved that it was worthy of its invitation on Friday night in a slugfest with No. 6 seed Iowa State. And coach Chris Holtmann kept on overachieving, squeezing every last bit out of the Buckeyes as they pulled the upset in a 62-59 victory at the BOK Center.
There’s much more coverage to come from Lettermen Row on the ground in Tulsa. But it all starts right here with Three Points on the enormous victory for the Buckeyes over the Cyclones.
Ohio State defensive effort continues to impress
There will come a time in the Chris Holtmann Era when he has a roster capable of scoring more easily and consistently. And if can keep getting that from the Buckeyes alongside the defensive effort this current team provided throughout the season and in a remarkable first half bottling up Iowa State, the program is headed for some truly bright days. Ohio State was only credited with four steals while building its narrow lead heading into the locker room, but it was seemingly challenging every shot, scrapping for rebounds and routinely getting deflections to challenge the Cyclones. Holtmann’s emphasis on building his team on that end of the floor should keep on paying dividends down the road, particularly when he has a deeper roster to unleash.
Tip cap to Buckeyes supporting cast
For so much of the year, it was seemingly Kaleb Wesson alone who was determining the ceiling for the Buckeyes, a point driven home during his three-game suspension to close the regular season and the three losses that accompanied it. But Ohio State showed its mettle during a key six-minute stretch late in the first half with Wesson on the bench with two fouls, maintaining its lead and keeping Iowa State on its heels while guys like Keyshawn Woods, Musa Jallow and Duane Washington took turns delivering important contributions. Jallow, in particular, flashed with some of his best basketball in a while on both ends of the floor, which marks another important step in his development as he continues to grow.
Kaleb Wesson capable of taking over games
As for that star who was so notable in his absence a couple weeks ago, Kaleb Wesson left no doubt on Friday night that he’s a post player Ohio State can keep using as a foundation for more success in the future. Obviously he has to avoid foul trouble and whatever caused that late-season absence in the first place, but the sophomore is growing into a monster in the post even while taking an absolute beating from Iowa State. The Cyclones had no chance of slowing him down with any kind of normal defense, so it resorted to all kind of mugging, shoving and hooking to try to limit his effectiveness — with no real success. The ceiling for the Buckeyes can keep being raised as Wesson continues to get better.