Such is the nature of November basketball, particularly when the team you are playing has played two more live games than you have.
Ohio State learned a few lessons the hard way as a scrappy Butler team rallied from a 13-point deficit with four minutes left to force overtime in Tuesday's nonconference match-up. But the Buckeyes did enough in the extra period to claim a 79-69 win before 12,915 at Value City Arena.
OSU's Jamar Butler and Ron Lewis each hit clutch three-point shots as the shot clock was winding down in overtime as the Buckeyes outscored the Bulldogs 19-9 in that extra period to get the win. The overtime win was OSU's first since a Jan. 2, 1999, win over Wisconsin, snapping a six-game losing streak in overtime games.
"This was such a tremendous game for us," said OSU coach Thad Matta, a Butler alum whose team was coming off an 81-52 laugher over Chicago State on Sunday. "I guess I can say that now that we won. But I am glad it happened this way. With this team, one of the biggest challenges we have is getting the guys to understand the small things.
"This is a great example for us to learn from and get better."
Terence Dials led Ohio State (2-0) with 24 points and seven rebounds.
"This was great to win a game like this in overtime," said Dials, who was 9 of 16 from the floor. "Coach Matta said after the game that last year we were 0-3 in overtime. This is a big step forward for us and a great step in the right direction."
Je'Kel Foster added 18 points, while Butler had a career-high 16 points and Lewis scored 13 points and grabbed seven rebounds.
Brandon Crone led Butler (2-2) with 27 points on 5-of-7 shooting from behind the three-point arc. Crone also had seven rebounds and six assists. A.J. Graves was 3 of 6 on three pointers and ended up with 13 points.
"This is what American sports are all about," said Butler coach Todd Lickliter, who coached Matta as a Butler assistant and then worked for him in Matta's one year as the head coach there. "Both teams competed and challenged each other."
The Buckeyes appeared to have everything under control when Dials scored inside to give OSU a 54-41 lead with 4:01 left. But that's when Butler got hot. The Bulldogs hit five three-pointers in the final 3:47. Crone and Graves each hit a pair of treys during that stretch as Butler gradually whittled the OSU lead.
OSU's Butler hit a 14-foot jumper followed by a three-pointer to put the Buckeyes up 59-48 with 2:17 left. But this is where the wheels came off for OSU, which was outscored 12-1 over the remainder of regulation.
Graves and Bruce Horan hit threes to cut it to 59-54 with 1:04 left. Lewis then committed a backcourt violation off of an inbounds play with 49.2 seconds left. Butler's Horan missed a three and OSU's Lewis rebounded and was fouled. But he made just 1 of 2 free throws, putting OSU ahead 60-54 with 32.8 seconds left.
Crone struck again with a trey with 24.1 seconds left, trimming the gap to 60-57. OSU's Butler was fouled on the inbounds play, but when he missed the front end of a one-and-one the Bulldogs had a chance to tie the game. Crone missed a three-pointer with 14 seconds left, but the ball was batted out of bounds and Butler retained possession.
On the inbounds play, Crone set up Graves perfectly and he made a 22-foot three-pointer from the top of the key to tie the game at 60-60 with 6.9 seconds left. OSU's Butler took the inbounds pass and drove down to the baseline, but his 10-foot jumper was off the mark and the ball fell out of bounds at the buzzer.
That capped a half where Butler – the team – had hit 9 of 15 (60 percent) of its three-point shots.
"Those were missed assignments," said OSU's J.J. Sullinger, who had six points and a career-high 14 rebounds. "We tried to limit their open looks. They're a hard basketball team to guard. Give them credit, man. They knocked down some shots."
Dials said Matta was calm in the huddle before overtime.
"Coach got us fired up," Dials said. "He said, ‘It's 0-0. Let's play another five-minute game to win.' I give the credit to Butler. They are a great shooting team. We knew they would never be out of it.
"We watched lots of film and we had the scouting report. You're not going to pitch a shutout. Good shooters are going to get some shots to fall and that's what happened tonight."
Ohio State never trailed in the overtime. Foster gave OSU the lead for good with a spinning driving layup to make it 64-62 with 4:01 left. The Buckeyes then led 67-64 and were letting the shot clock wind down when Butler – the player – hit a long three-pointer with three seconds left on the shot clock to put OSU up 70-64 with 1:46 left.
"That one young man, No. 14, he hit some good shots," Lickliter lamented.
The same scenario unfolded moments later when Butler fed Lewis for a three-pointer in the right corner – again with three seconds on the shot clock – to stake the Buckeyes to a 73-66 lead with 1:01 left.
"Jamar, I felt like he really took the ball tonight," Matta said of Butler, who missed the season opener due to a suspension for playing in an unsanctioned summer basketball event. "He made a great pass to Ron in the corner for that three. That was a huge basket. I thought he made some tremendous reads and got the ball to Terence. I was happy he was with us tonight."
Butler – the team – would not stage another comeback at the end of overtime. Graves missed the front end of a one-and-one with 54.1 seconds left. Meanwhile, Dials made a pair of free throws and Butler – the player -- made four straight to put the game away.
Lewis had nine of his points and Dials scored eight as the Buckeyes led 28-19 at halftime. Lewis actually gave OSU that lead with a clutch three-point play with 5.5 seconds left.
It took OSU 10 minutes of the second half to get on track offensively. The Buckeyes were clinging to a 39-36 lead after Graves made a jumper in the lane with 10:19 left in the game.
The Buckeyes went on a 15-5 run, keyed by six points from Dials and five from Foster, to grab its 54-41 lead with 4:01 left.
* The Buckeyes were, indeed, 0-3 in overtime last year with losses to Creighton in the Guardians Classic final, at LSU (double overtime) and Minnesota.
* It was an up-and-down night for OSU offensively. The Buckeyes ended up 54.2 percent (26 of 48) from the floor, 41.7 percent (5 of 12) on three-pointers and 81.5 percent on free throws (22 of 27).
But the Buckeyes committed 19 turnovers.
"If we shoot 54 percent from the floor, 42 percent on threes and 82 percent at the line, I would be the happiest guy in the world," Matta said. "It comes down to key turnovers."
* Sullinger was in the starting lineup at the four in place of Matt Sylvester, who was the only other Buckeye to score. He finished with two points.
* Sullinger's previous career high in rebounds was 11. He tied that mark in Sunday's win over Chicago State.
* Butler's previous career high in points was 13 against Indiana last year.
* This is the first of a four-year series between Ohio State and Butler. The teams are set to play next year in Indianapolis -- the hometown of incoming recruits Greg Oden and Mike Conley Jr. -- as long as OSU is not selected to also play there in the John Wooden Tradition event.
* Matta is now 5-5 in his career in overtime.
* OSU's last loss at home to a so-called mid-major team was against Bowling Green in 1994.
* Ohio State hosts Virginia Tech Monday at 7:30 p.m. in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. That game will be televised by ESPN2.
"We will take Thursday (Thanksgiving) off," Matta said. "We will practice tomorrow, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. We have a lot of areas we need to get better, especially playing Virginia Tech on Monday night."