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Buckeyes Earn Gritty Win over UNC Ashville
By John Porentas

COLUMBUS, OH - The Buckeyes (10-3) gave up an 11-point second-half lead but had enough to come back themselves and earn a 79-77 win over gritty UNC Ashville (8-5).

OSU controlled the first half but led only 36-33 at the intermission. The slim lead was a result of what is becoming a repetitive theme this year for the Buckeyes. UNC Ashville managed to stay in the game on the strength of very effective three-point shooting. The Bulldogs knocked down 7 of sixteen from long range (43.8%) from beyond the arc in the first half to account for 21 of their 33 points. 

OSU opened up an 11-point lead early in the second half when a three point field goal by Kam Williams made the score 46-35 with 16:52 left to play. They couldn't, however, sustain the momentum.  With 8:03 remaining the lead was still 10 when the Bulldogs put together a run to take the lead at 67-66 with 3:57 to go.

The run was assisted by two technical fouls on the Buckeyes that resulted in four made free throws. The first was on Marc Loving for something that he said. The second on Tever Thompson for swatting a ball into the stands was controversial at best. A whistle had been blown but the Bulldog player in possession of the ball threw up a shot at the basket. Thompson swatted it and was teed up for doing so. The play not only resulted in two made free throws but also resulted in Thompson's disqualification for the rest of the game since it was his fifth foul. 

UNC Ashville led by two with 2:51 remaining. That's when the JaQuan Lyle show started. 

Lyle made two free throw to tie the game at 69 apiece, then  made a layup to put OSU up 71-69, and followed up with a jumper to put OSU up 73-69.  A basket by the Bulldogs cut the lead back to two at 73-71, but Lyle scored another layup to make it 75-71 with just 47 seconds remaining in the game.  

"It came down to a one possession game, and Lyle made a big play, his kind of running layup if you will with under a minute was a big play," said UNC Ashville Head Coach Nick McDevitt.

OSU held a five point lead at 77-72 with 12 seconds to go, but a three by Alec Wnuk made it a two-point game again. Kam Williams iced the game with two clutch free throws with four seconds remaining to make it 79-75.

The Buckeyes allowed a meaningless dunk as time expired to make the final 79-77.

For the game UNC Ashville shot 45.8% from three point range to keep themselves in the game. The Buckeyes countered by pushing the basketball effectively leading to easy transition baskets. OSU scored 17 fast break points. The easy transition baskets contributed to OSU's 54.7% shooting percentage from the floor. 

"They're able to get out into transition quickly, especially when Tate is having a good night on the defensive glass and start the break," said McDevitt. 

"When you've got the luxury of having your power forward rebound it at times and they're on top of you in a hurry. I thought that dug us a little bit of a hole early. They were just scoring in transition and at the rim a little bit too easy."

The Buckeye scoring was led by Jae'Sean Tate and JaQuan Lyle who each finished with 17 points. Lyle also had six assists and Tate added six rebounds and three assists of his own. 

"These guys are good,' said McDevitt.  

"JaQuan Lyle, Jae'Sean Tate, those guys, when they get it going it's tough to slow that train down.

"Tate, he's just like a junkyard dog kind of a player. He plays his tail off. 

"He can make contact layups, he's just a matchup problem, a hybrid forward if you will. You put small guys on him and he just overpowers them. You put big guys on him and usually they're too slow to guard him. He's a problem."

Despite fouling out Trevor Thompson had another good night registering a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds.

Marc Loving added 11 and made a key defensive play when he blocked a dunk attempt with 18 second to play.  Had the dunk gone the OSU lead would have been cut to just one. Instead OSU scored the next two points on two free throws by C.J. Jackson to put the Buckeyes up by four. 

The Buckeyes are now off until they begin Big 10 play with a road trip to Illinois on January 1.

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