That was the case Wednesday night at Value City Arena, where Ohio State watched visiting Furman hit on 9 of 13 three-pointers in building a 36-32 halftime lead.
But the Buckeyes rallied in the second half and, behind a timely three-pointer of their own from Tony Stockman with 44.5 seconds left, held on for a 70-68 win over the Paladins before an announced crowd of 12,248.
Furman (4-4) had only been hitting 28.2 percent of its three-point shots and averaging six made threes per game coming in.
"It surprised me a lot," said OSU coach Jim O'Brien, whose team improved to 5-3 after winning its third straight game. "But regardless, we need to do a significantly better job at guarding guys behind the line. The thing that was really bizarre to me was I have never seen where a team has 12 baskets in the first half and nine of them were threes."
Stockman came off the bench to lead OSU with 21 points. He was 7 of 18 shooting and also had four steals and two assists against one turnover in 35 minutes of action.
"I think Tony is making some really good progress," O'Brien said. "It is hard to not be so picky, but he did take a couple of ill-advised shots. Those are things we have to live with at times. He's not perfect, but he played a lot better.
"When it's on the line, I don't think he has any fear. He has no problem. He wants to be the guy who helps the team win and it's nice having a guy like that."
Brandon Fuss-Cheatham also stepped up and delivered a career-high 13 points to go with four assists in 34 minutes of action. The showing followed his previous career-best of 11 points against Samford on Saturday.
"I thought Fuss was the big difference in the game," Furman coach Larry Davis said. "Stockman scored a lot of points, but several times late in the shot clock, Fuss got the ball into the paint and either made the shot or dumped it off. I would say we probably didn't do as good a job as we needed to do to control him."
Furman extended its zone defense to the perimeter, giving Fuss-Cheatham creases to get the ball to the lane and even the basket at various times.
"That's my game, driving to the hole," Fuss-Cheatham said. "I was getting some chances in transition and also against the zone."
Terence Dials added 12 points and seven rebounds, while J.J. Sullinger had 12 points and six boards. Velimir Radinovic added nine points and seven rebounds.
Eric Webb, who was 6 of 8 behind the arc, finished with a team-high 20 points for Furman.
The Paladins cooled off in the second half, hitting "just" 3 of 9 three-pointers to finish 12 of 22 (54.5 percent) from behind the arc.
Furman's Nick Sanders made a bank shot to tie the game at 66-66 with 1:13 left. OSU called a timeout, leading to the possession where Fuss-Cheatham fed a wide open Stockman for the go-ahead three-pointer.
"I just tried to stay confident," Stockman said. "We were running Fist and the guy in the zone on my side dropped all the way to the block. Fuss saw me open. He got it to me and I shot it."
The trey put OSU up 69-66. Furman's Maleye Ndoye, who had 11 points, then lost the ball on the dribble. But Sullinger missed the front end of a one-and-one with 21.6 seconds left. Furman's Moussa Diagne then made a layup with 8.9 seconds left to cut the lead to 69-68.
Stockman was fouled on the inbounds play. But Stockman, an 87.5 percent free throw shooter, made just 1 of 2 free throws to put OSU up 70-68 with 7.7 seconds left. Furman rushed the ball to the frontcourt, where Ndoye missed a 10-foot bank shot. Sullinger corralled the rebound at the buzzer and then rolled around the floor in celebration … or relief.
"This is a team that had the last shot to try and beat Minnesota," O'Brien said of the Paladins, who lost 91-84 in overtime at Minnesota Nov. 30. "Everybody is telling me how good Minnesota is and how good Iowa is. But Iowa lost to Northern Iowa and these guys beat Northern Iowa (64-55).
"I am not surprised this was a close game. Why would we think any of these games would not be close with where we are right now?"
The first half was marked by Furman's fine marksmanship behind the three-point arc. With OSU ahead 7-5 in the early going, Furman went on an 14-3 run to grab a 19-10 lead. The spurt was fueled by four three-pointers, including two by Webb, over a span of three minutes, 37 seconds. Furman's Robby Bostain capped the run by converting an OSU turnover into a layup and a 19-10 lead with 10:59 left in the first half.
But OSU rebounded by reeling off the next 10 points, including four each by Radinovic and Stockman, to briefly grab a 20-19 lead with 7:33 left. But Furman's Tony Carter and Webb answered with back-to-back treys for a 25-20 lead with 6:34 left.
Later, back-to-back triples by Ben Earle staked the Paladins to a 31-24 lead with 4:22 left in the half. But OSU's Brandon Fuss-Cheatham made a nifty running one-handed shot in the lane with eight seconds left to trim the halftime margin to 36-32.
Furman led by as many as eight twice in the second half before OSU mounted a 16-2 run. Dials had six points and Fuss-Cheatham scored five during this stretch, where the Buckeyes reversed a 42-34 deficit into a 50-44 lead with 12:03 left in the game.
But Furman battled back and took a 62-60 lead with 4:59 left after Webb nailed three-pointers on consecutive trips.
Sullinger tied the game with a jumper in the lane with 3:41 left. But Furman's Tony Carter put his team up 64-62 with two free throws with 3:18 left. Dials then rebounded a Fuss-Cheatham miss and scored to tie the game at 64-64 with 2:45 left. Stockman made a running baseline jumper with 1:38 left to give OSU the lead before Sanders' shot tied the game at 66-66.
OSU now travels to Seton Hall Saturday (noon, ESPN-Plus). O'Brien was asked whether the road game against a Big East team carried more significance.
"I don't think it's any more important than any of these," O'Brien said. "It's a game we're going to have to win if we're going to have any kind of positive portfolio."
An OSU spokesman said after the game that O'Brien was reviewing an oncourt incident that occurred during the course of the game and could announce disciplinary action against one of his players on Thursday. It was unclear which player may have been involved in the incident.
Two OSU assistants reportedly went to the Furman locker room after the game to apologize.