Jae’Sean Tate willed Ohio State for the first 37 minutes of the game and JaQuan Lyle closed out the final three, as the Buckeyes eked by North Carolina Asheville, 79-77, Thursday night.
The win for OSU (10-3) at Value City Arena did not come without adversity, though.
Senior forward Marc Loving and junior center Trevor Thompson both received technical fouls in the final six-plus minutes of the game. Loving was given one for responding to a personal foul called on him. Thompson was hit with a technical for swatting MaCio Teague’s shot after Thompson fouled him before the shot was taken.
“The one, I don’t know for sure, I think Marc said something,” OSU head coach Thad Matta said of the technicals. “I told our guys this, that’s inexcusable. The one on Trevor, I thought the guy traveled. Then they called a foul and he threw the ball up and Trevor blocked it into the stands, and that was a technical foul. I don’t know if that is or not but, obviously, it was tonight.
“I ripped them after the game. We’re not going to carry ourselves that way and get technical fouls and give them four free throws in a two-minute stretch.”
The hardships didn’t stop there, however, because both Tate and Thompson fouled out as well.
Lyle and Tate each had 17 points to pace the Buckeyes, with Tate making 7 of 10 shots. Lyle, meanwhile, scored eight straight points down the stretch to push OSU to the finish line.
The sophomore guard’s personal scoring spurt gave Ohio State a 75-71 advantage with 47 seconds left to play. The Buckeyes trailed the Bulldogs (8-5), 69-67, two minutes prior.
Lyle capped his streak with a layup, which proved to be the backbreaker for UNC Asheville.
“It was a one-possession game and Lyle made a big play,” UNC Asheville head coach Nick McDevitt said after the game. “His running layup with under a minute was a big play.”
Lyle said the success of the play came down to execution.
“It was a big-time play,” Lyle said. “I knew we needed a play. I think me and Keita (Bates-Diop) set a pick-and-roll and we got the switch that we wanted. I knew I had (the defender) going right, and once I got in front of him I knew where to put it on the backboard and it went in.”
With 32 seconds left, junior guard Kevin Vannatta had an opportunity to bring the visitors within one when he was fouled by Tate while shooting a three. The Upper Arlington, Ohio, native only made one of the three foul shots, however.
The Buckeyes led by just three at halftime but went on a 10-0 run early in the second half to build a 46-35 cushion. The Bulldogs, however, chipped away to finally knot things up at 64 when Vannatta hit a three at the 4:50 mark.
UNC Asheville connected on 11 of 24 three-point attempts (45.8 percent) for the game, dwarfing Ohio State’s 3-of-10 night from behind the arc.
Loving joined Lyle and Tate in double figures with 11 points. Despite fouling out, Thompson notched his second straight double-double and fourth of the season by adding 14 points and 10 rebounds.
Teague had a game-high 23 points on 7-of-15 shooting. The freshman guard made all seven of his free throws as well. Raekwon Miller poured in 15 for the Bulldogs, while Alec Wnuk had 10.
In terms of starting-lineup adjustments, Thompson made his second start in as many games after freshman big man Micah Potter rolled his ankle while jumping for the opening tip vs. Youngstown State on Tuesday night.
The injuries for the Buckeyes continued vs. UNC Asheville.
Junior guard Kam Williams hurt his knee late in the first half, but returned to the floor to open the second frame.
“I take a positive out of this because a couple weeks ago, we played Florida Atlantic,” Lyle said. “We got up by 11, they hit a run and they won the game. We got up 11 tonight, they made a run but we still fought through that and fought through adversity. We got the win so I’ll take a positive out of that. I think we got through adversity well, especially with the technical fouls.”
Ohio State will now open Big Ten play on New Year’s Day at Illinois (10-3).