Clinging to a one point lead on the road at Value City Arena, Tennessee had a chance to put Ohio State away with free throws.
But the Volunteers missed the front ends of two one-and-ones, giving the trailing Buckeyes renewed hope. After Tennessee sharpshooter Chris Lofton missed the front end of the one-and-one, without calling a timeout, OSU raced down the court. With the sellout crowd on their feet, OSU’s Ron Lewis was left wide open at the top of the key. The senior guard buried the three to give the Bucks a 68-66 lead. It was definitely an “oh no… yes!” shot. With 14 seconds remaining, the Volunteers had a couple of opportunities to tie the game up but came up just short.
Lofton, sixth in the nation in scoring average, was every bit as good as advertised. With four minutes remaining and OSU clinging to a precarious 59-57 lead, the Vols’ leading scorer took over. Lofton scored eight of the teams final nine points via layups, recorded a steal, and snatched a rebound — practically willing the Volunteers to victory. Lofton finished with a team-high 23 points.
Ohio State’s heralded freshman center Greg Oden scored eight of the team’s first 10 points. Oden even showed some uncharacteristic emotion, clapping his hands after dunks in a vain attempt to get the subdued fans involved in the game.
UT went up 28-22 on a 9-2 run thanks in large part to their full court pressure, forcing OSU into two turnovers and a timeout with 4:42 to go in the first half.
The Volunteers looked like they were going to take a lead into the locker room before freshman point guard Mike Conley Jr. propelled the Buckeyes to a 36-33 halftime lead with consecutive threes.
Conley and the Buckeyes started the second half with the same intensity they finished the first, going on a 13-6 run. Junior point guard Jamar Butler started the action with a fastbreak lay-in off of a long UT miss; guard/forward Ivan Harris hit a mid-range jumper; Oden and Conley hooked up on a nifty give and go (and 1); Oden hit a pair of free throws; Columbus native Lewis scored on a fast break layup; and an Oden dunk made it 49-39.
With 11 minutes to play and Conley on the bench, UT’s head coach Bruce Pearl called the full court pressure back on, cutting OSU’s lead back to single digits. With OSU’s chances of putting the game out of reach long gone; both teams dug their heels in for a dogfight.
UT only made seven out of a whopping 31 three-point shots (almost half of their total shots) … OSU shot 43% from the field to UT’s 39% … The Buckeyes decidedly won the battle of the boards over the vertically challenged Volunteers 46-29 … OSU beat a ranked opponent for the first time in four tries, previously falling on the road to then-ranked No. 7 North Carolina 98-89, at then-ranked No. 5 Florida 86-60, and earlier this week in Madison to No. 4 Wisconsin 72-69 … With the victory, OSU head coach Thad Matta improves to 29-0 in non-conference home games.