Thursday was a day filled with action around the country and there were two Big Ten games that lived up to the hype on the first day of the Round of 64.
Game of the Day:
- #10 Ohio State Buckeyes 75 - #7 VCU Rams 72 OT
D'Angelo Russell is the undisputed star for the Ohio State, and he played like it on Thursday evening. He scored 28 points, and came out with a battle scar for his troubles. Ohio State started the game a bit sluggish, scoring only 13 points in the first 14 minutes of the game, including a 6 minute scoring drought. It was none other than Russell who got them out of the slump, scoring 8 straight points over an 88 second span. Ohio State finished the first half on a 16-5 run that put them down only 1 going into the half at 30-29.
The 2nd half started with Russell and VCU's Doug Brooks trading three pointers. Brooks hit three pointers in three straight possessions early in the half that brought VCU from down 6 to up 1. The rest of the half was back and forth for the rest of the half, and the most notable play in the game happened with about 5 minutes left in the game. Brooks got a breakaway after a steal and he was one-on-one with Russell. Brooks went up for the contested layup, which he missed, but his elbow connected with D'Angelo Russell right above the left eye that left Russell very bloodied. While Ohio State was patching up Russell, the referees reviewed the play and called a flagrant 1 on Brooks, and Russell ended up making 1 of 2 free throws. Then, with 2:30 left, Ohio State was up 4, but Melvin Johnson hit back to back threes to put VCU up 2. Amir Williams responded on the next possession with a dunk that tied the game at 66, and that score would hold for the rest of regulation. Treveon Graham missed a contested layup at the buzzer and the game headed for overtime.
In the overtime period, Keita Bates-Diop hit a huge three pointer to put OSU up 3 with 2:30 left, and the Buckeyes hit their freethrows and didn't allow VCU to score until it was too late, and Ohio State escaped with the victory. Shannon Scott had 10 assists for the Buckeyes, and Jae'Sean Tate led the team with 8 rebounds. Melvin Johnson led VCU with 17 points, Brooks had 14, and Treveon Graham had a double double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
- #9 Cincinnati Bearcats 66 - #8 Purdue Boilermakers 65 OT
This game was back and forth the whole way with neither team able to lead it by more than 5. Early in the 2nd half, Cincinnati's Octavius Ellis took a swing at A.J. Hammons underneath the basket, and Ellis was ejected from the game. The punch caught Hammons by surprise, and he did a fantastic job of letting it go and not retaliating. It was a big moment in the game that seemed to give Purdue the edge, but things didn't fall that way. Purdue went up by 7 with less than a minute left after a Dakota Mathias three. The way the game played out, it seemed like this lead would be insurmountable. But Kevin Johnson came back and hit a quick three for Cincinnati. Then Purdue turned the ball over on the inbound play, and Cincinnati's Troy Caupain got three the old fashioned way after getting fouled on a layup. Suddenly, Cincy was down 1 with 39 seconds left. The Bearcats then fouled Hammons, and he knocked down both free throws. Cincy responded with a layup, and fouled Jon Octeous, who missed the front end of a one-and-one. Cincinnati then threw the ball out of bounds on their next possession, and fouled Octeous again. This time Octeous hit 1 of 2, leaving the door open for Cincinnati. Caupain then went the length of the floor and put up a layup as time expired. The ball danced around the rim for what seemed like an eternity, but it finally fell through and the game headed to overtime.
Both teams traded early baskets in the overtime period, but then both teams fell victim of shots that touched every part of the rim, but didn't fall through. Missed free throws ended up dooming Purdue, as well as their horrendous three point shooting (15.4%). Cincy went up 3 with 30 seconds left, and Octeous made a short jumper after a Purdue offensive rebound. Cincy left the door open by missing the front end of the one-and-one, but a last gasp three fell harmlessly to the ground, and the game was over.
NCAA Tournament Game Of the Day:
- #14 Georgia State Panthers 57 - #3 Baylor Bears 56
Baylor jumped out to an early lead in the game, going up 10 only 6 minutes into the game. Georgia State fought back quickly, and the game went back and forth until Baylor pulled away to go up 12 with 2:43 left. Georgia State then got a few quick turnovers, and pulled to within 3 only 1:20 later. With 15 seconds left and Baylor up 2, Baylor's best free throw shooter, Kenny Chery went to the line. He missed the front end of the one-and-one and R.J. Hunter, son of coach Ron Hunter, hit a long three to send GSU up 1, and sent the elder Hunter to the floor as he fell out of his rolling chair on the sideline celebrating his son's three. It is the play of the Tournament so far, and an early contender for best play of the entire tournament.