The 5-seed Ohio State Buckeyes (25-8) take on the 4-seed Gonzaga Bulldogs (31-4) Saturday evening in the second round of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. Tip is scheduled for 7:45 pm.
The Buckeyes enter the game coming off of an 81-73 win over 12-seed South Dakota State. Gonzaga, meanwhile, had their hands full in a 68-64 win over 13-seed UNC-Greensboro.
Who: No. 5 Ohio State (25-8) vs. No. 4 Gonzaga (31-4)
What: Men’s Basketball
Where: Boise, Idaho — Taco Bell Arena (12,644)
When: Saturday, 7:45 pm (CBS)
Why: Because revenge has worked so well for the Buckeyes this season…
Line: Gonzaga -3.5
Three Point Territory
Ohio and Gonzaga have played twice previously, a 73-66 win for the Buckeyes in the 2012 NCAA Tournament at the CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh March 15 and earlier this season in the PK80 Invitational in Portland, Oregon. The Zags won that game 86-59. Gonzaga was ranked No. 17 in the first meeting. Ohio State is 7-6 all-time vs. teams currently representing the West Coast Conference. Gonzaga is the last WCC team to face the Buckeyes.
[The Cold November Rain]
Johnathan Williams had 21 points and No. 17 Gonzaga was boosted by an enthusiastic crowd during an 86-59 victory over Ohio State in the Phil Knight Invitational back on Nov. 23. Josh Perkins added 20 points for the Bulldogs. C.J. Jackson and Jae’Sean Tate each scored 12 points for Ohio State. The Buckeyes took an early 14-10 lead in this one on Jackson’s 3 pointer, but Gonzaga responded with an 11-2 run to go up 21-16, capped by Perkins’ 3. Ohio State climbed back into it, pulling briefly in front 22-21 on Kam Williams’ 3-pointer. It didn’t last long and the Zags pushed their lead to 33-27 on Williams’ dunk. Perkins’ 3-pointer at the end of the first half put the Gonzaga fans on their feet and the Bulldogs went into halftime with a 44-31 lead.
Ohio State has not made it to the Sweet 16 since 2013, which was the fourth year in a row the Buckeyes made it that far. That year, OSU advanced to the Elite Eight, but lost to Wichita State. In 2012, the Buckeyes made it past both the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight, but lost 64-62 to Kansas in the Final Four.
What You Should Know
+ Gonzaga is one of only two teams to win its opening-round NCAA Tournament game each of the last 10 seasons, Kansas is the other. The Bulldogs are 21-14 all-time as a single-digit seed, with a 12-2 record in first round games as a single-digit seed, and 7-7 in the round-of-32.
+ Johnathan Williams averages 11.6 points and 7.3 rebounds in his seven NCAA Tournament games, all with Gonzaga. He is shooting 57.9 spercent from the field. Williams blocked six shots in last season’s NCAA Tournament. Josh Perkins has started in all 10 of his NCAA Tournament appearances for the Zags. He has dished out 26 assists and averages 8.0 points in the NCAA Tournament. Silas Melson has appeared in a team-high 12 NCAA Tournament games. He has 47 points in the NCAA Tournament.
+ During the last 13 games, Johnathan Williams has scored a total of 181 points (13.9) and grabbed 136 rebounds (10.5). He also has a team-best 18 blocks over the last 13 contests. He currently ranks ninth in the nation in career rebound total among active players with 1,000. The Memphis, Tenn. native has double-doubles in 10 of the last 12 games. He has 28 double-doubles in his career, 15 coming this season.
+ Zach Norvell Jr. is becoming synonymous with hitting clutch shots for the Zags in crunch time. His list of big shots at the end of close games grew from Creighton to San Diego to the first round win over UNC-Greensboro. This season, Norvell Jr. has scored a team-high 88 points in the final five minutes of games. He has made 25-of-41 (61 percent) from the field during the last five minutes this season, including 11-of-21 (52.4 percent) from behind-the-arc. The redshirt freshman has also made 27 of his 31 free-throw attempts in the last five minutes this season. Also in the last five minutes this season, Norvell Jr. has thrown nine assists to one turnover, with eight steals.
+ Killian Tillie was named the West Coast Conference Tournament Most Outstanding Player after an unforgettable three-game performance
inside the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas. He finished the tournament with 72 points (24.0 ppg), shooting an incredible 28-of-36 (77.8 percent) from the field. Tillie made 13 of his 14 three-point attempts in the event, including a streak of 11-straight. The sophomore scored a game-high 22 points on 9-of-13 shooting from the field in the championships. Tillie made all five of his three-point attempts against Loyola Marymount in the WCC Tournament quarterfinals, before making all five again from deep versus San Francisco in the semifinals. Tillie jumped up to first in the WCC shooting 48.8 percent from three-point range and third at 58.9 percent from the field.
After averaging 24 points per game in the West Coast Conference tournament, Gonzaga forward Killian Tillie scored just two points in the Bulldogs’ first-round win over UNC-Greensboro on 1-of-6 shooting. He was not the only Zag to struggle from the field, which is how UNCG was able to stay close throughout the game. Greensboro went 0-13 from three-point territory in the first half of the game, so it’s not like they played an outstanding game and that’s how they almost pulled off the upset. I have said all of this to say this — Gonzaga’s first win over Ohio State four months ago is meaningless. The Bulldogs are not all-powerful. They’re just a 4-seed, after all. The Buckeyes’ ability to play different styles should help them here. We will see more from freshman center Kaleb Wesson in this game, as opposed to the small-ball lineup OSU went with against South Dakota State. It will still come down to how well the Buckeyes shoot from deep, and I don’t think it’ll be good enough.
Gonzaga 69 – Ohio State 63