Bruce Thornton

Buckeyes Headed To NIT Quarterfinals Following 81-73 Win Over Virginia Tech

COLUMBUS — Ohio State forward Jamison Battle scored a game-high 21 points on just two made field goals in the Buckeyes’ (22-13) 81-73 win over Virginia Tech (19-15) Saturday night in the second round of the 2024 National Invitational Tournament.

Battle was 2-of-8 from the field and a rare 0-for-5 from three-point range, but he made 17 of his 18 free throws attempt, including all six in the game’s final minutes to keep the Hokies at bay. Battle also added a game-high 10 rebounds for the Buckeyes.

Four other scorers were in double figures for Ohio State as center Felix Okpara added 13 points, guards Bruce Thornton and Dale Bonner each dropped in 12, and guard Roddy Gayle scored 11. Both Gayle and Thornton had to leave the game for long stretches with injuries.

Thornton missed the final 1:44 of the game on the bench nursing a right leg injury. Gayle had to leave the game with a right wrist injury, but he did eventually return.

The game began with a very football-like 7-3 score, which began as a run of seven-consecutive points from the Hokies. Center Lynn Kidd scored the first four of those points, then guard MJ Collins added in the next three before Gayle got the Buckeyes on the board with a three-pointer from the wing.

Bonner followed that three-pointer up with one of his own to make it a one-point game with 15:00 to play in the half. Ohio State’s first lead of the game came from a left-handed hook by Zed Key, making it 14-12. The next OSU possession was a fastbreak alley-oop from Thornton to Gayle with just over nine minutes to play in the half.

Tied at 19-19 with 6:21 remaining, the Buckeyes went on a quick 7-0 run thanks to a three from Taison Chatman, a jumper from Devin Royal, and a dunk by Battle. Hokie guard Hunter Cattoor stopped the run with a jumper, but the Buckeyes add eight more from Battle, Okpara, Royal, and Gayle to make it 34-21 with 1:49 left in the half. Cattoor again stopped the run, this time with a three-pointer.

Ohio State went to the half with a 36-26 lead. After a slow start from the field, the Buckeyes shot 15-of-32 (46.9%) in the first half. Virginia Tech managed just 11-of-30 from the field (36.7%) and 2-12 (16.7%) from three-point range.

Virginia Tech took an OSU 12-point lead and knocked it down to eight points until Okpara started a fastbreak by blocking a shot, and then finished it by slamming home an alley-oop pass from Thornton. An and-one situation for Thornton extended the lead to 45-32 with 16:25 remaining in the game.

Over the next eight-plus minutes, however, the Hokies whittled that 13-point deficit down to just four points, including 10 points from Sean Pedulla over a three-minute stretch. Following a pair of free throws from Battle, a three-point play from Lynn Kidd made it 67-64 Ohio State with just 4:51 left in the game.

Virginia Tech could get no closer, however, as the Buckeyes hit 10-of-12 free throws down the stretch and scored on seven of their final eight possessions.

The Buckeyes shot 29-of-32 (90.6%) from three free throw line.

Ohio State will next play Tuesday night at 7:00 pm against the winner of Sunday’s matchup between Georgia and Wake Forest (4:00 pm ESPN2). Should Wake Forest win, the Buckeyes will play at Wake. If the Bulldogs win, they will come to Columbus.

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