Virginia Tech, Ohio State displaying resiliency in NIT

League: NCAA Basketball

Posted on: 23 Mar, 2024 at 12:57 AM

Credit: Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

When No. 3 seed Virginia Tech plays at No. 2 Ohio State in the second round of the NIT on Saturday, each team feels its ability to overcome adversity has helped reach this point.

Virginia Tech coach Mike Young noted the 74-58 first-round win over Richmond got off to a rocky start when the Hokies (19-14) made one of their first 16 shots and trailed 11-2 before settling down. They finished Tuesday's victory hitting 26 of 54 field goal attempts (48.1 percent).

"Once we got our teeth into it and the ball started to move, we got a couple of shots down," Young said. "That's been the case with this team, really and truly, on a number of occasions. They figure it out and they did again."

The Buckeyes (21-13) had a similar experience in Tuesday's 88-83 win over Cornell in the first round. Ohio State trailed 19-9 against the upset-minded Big Red and did not put the game away until the final minute.

It contrasted with numerous meltdowns by the Buckeyes earlier in the season, including twice losing after being ahead by 18 points in the second half, which ultimately cost coach Chris Holtmann his job Feb. 14.

Live and learn, Ohio State guard Roddy Gayle Jr. said.

"I feel like those games we had two months ago prepped us for this," he said. "Leaning next to somebody and trusting that they're going to do their job, that was the key in us being victorious."

Ohio State is 7-2 under Jake Diebler since Holtmann's firing.

"He's a leader of men," Ohio State forward Jamison Battle said of Diebler. "He's all about relationships. Whatever Coach has, it's an ‘it' factor and he's got it.

"You can see how we've rallied around him with how we've played. It's a testament to what he's done."

The Cornell game was Diebler's first since Ohio State removed the interim tag and named Diebler head coach last Sunday.

"I know their new coach, Jake Diebler, very, very well," Young said. "I think the world of him, happy that he has an opportunity to be a head coach and it'll be a lot of fun. Looking forward to getting to the Buckeye State."

The winner advances to the quarterfinals against Georgia or Wake Forest.

--Field Level Media