BOISE, Idaho (AP) Kam Williams made a tiebreaking four-point play with 1:36 left, then added a trio of free throws after being fouled on another 3-point attempt, lifting Ohio State to an 81-73 victory over South Dakota State in the West Region on Thursday.
Fifth-seeded Ohio State (25-8) built a 13-point lead by reeling off 16 straight points midway through the second half of a game that featured 71 combined 3-pointers.
South Dakota State made a late run at the Buckeyes, scoring 10 straight points to tie it at 70-all.
Williams answered – by being fouled on a pair of 3-pointers. He finished off the four-point play for a 74-70 lead and made all three free throws on the second, making it 77-70 with 64 seconds left.
Keita Bates-Diop had 24 points and 12 rebounds for the Buckeyes, who will face Gonzaga in the round of 32 on Saturday.
Ohio State went 12 for 40 from the arc.
No. 12 South Dakota State (28-7) hit 13 of 31 from 3-point range and Mike Daum scored 27 points.
Ohio State was one of college basketball’s biggest surprises in coach Chris Holtmann’s first season. He didn’t take over the program until June and the Buckeyes were picked to finish 11th in the in Big Ten.
Yet behind Bates-Diop, the Big Ten player of the year, Ohio State finished second in the conference behind Michigan State to earn its first NCAA Tournament berth since 2015.
The Buckeyes were favorites in the NCAA opener, but also a popular pick to be upset in the No. 12-over-5 seed mold.
The Jackrabbits headed into the NCAA Tournament on an 11-game winning streak and had Daum, the two-time Summit League MVP.
The Dauminator was on his game against the Buckeyes, scoring 17 points in the first half. So was Bates-Diop, who had 17 points by halftime of a 43-all game.
Ohio State survived the upset to get a shot at another upset survivor, Gonzaga.
South Dakota State had itself in position for the upset, but wrecked its chances with the two late fouls on 3s.
Ohio State faces Gonzaga on Saturday.
South Dakota State’s season is over.
Jae’Sean Tate #1, Senior Forward
You guys took a lot of three’s tonight; was that part of the game plan?
“Yeah, It just kind of happened. The way they were guarding, they were going under a lot of screens, so we just popped back and at first, they weren’t falling but we continued to shoot in the second.”
Getting first win under belt
“It feels great. Any opportunity to keep playing in March is great. There’s only a select few teams that are able to experience this. It’s really an enjoyable time.”
On C.J. Jackson‘s role during the game…
“He was the engine today. I think he did a great job playing that point guard position and just keeping us under control. Being the floor general, there were times when we were a little rushed, but he calmed us and gave us the burst we needed to get the win.”
Andrew Dakich #13, Graduate Guard
On importance of guard play
“First thing you want to take care of the ball and limit turnovers and put our guys in the right position to succeed. Coach told us if we are going to win, our guards needed to play well and we did that today.”
C.J. Jackson #3, Junior Guard
On the confidence they had in Kam Williams at the end of the game when the score was close to hit the shot that put them ahead…
“Once that play was drawn up, we already knew that it was good because that’s just what he does. This goes back to the days when we were in the gym all day in the summer playing five-on-five. He hits big shots. That’s just what he does.”