Zed Key’s layup with 0.3 seconds left averted an upset as No. 17 Ohio State held off visiting Akron 67-66 on Tuesday in their season openers.
Coming out of a timeout with three seconds remaining, freshman Malaki Branham took the inbounds pass and spotted Key in the paint for the winning basket to deny the Zips their first win over the Buckeyes since 1913. Ohio State leads the series 8-1.
E.J. Liddell had 25 points and 11 rebounds for the Buckeyes. Key had 14 points.
Ali Ali had 15 of his 17 points in the second half for the Zips. K.J. Walton added 16 points.
Akron was trailing 65-62 when Ali hit a step-back 3-pointer and was fouled by Liddell, his fifth foul, with six seconds left to tie it. Ali made the free throw for the lead.
Branham’s jumper with 1:27 had given Ohio State a 63-62 lead. Ali missed a 3-pointer with 49 seconds left and Branham grabbed the rebound. Branham missed a contested layup and Key dunked the rebound for a 65-62 lead with 22 seconds remaining.
Earlier, Ohio State threatened to run away, building a 14-point lead late in the first half before Akron went on a 15-1 run that bridged the opening two minutes of the second half to tie it at 36.
Liddell had 13 points and eight rebounds in 15 minutes of the first half when the Buckeyes carried a 36-28 lead to the locker room.
The game was an emotional one for the head coaches, Chris Holtmann of Ohio State and Akron’s John Groce. They were teammates at Taylor University and were in the backcourt together for the 1992-93.
Each graduated in 1994 and started their coaching careers under Paul Patterson, who won 734 games at the school from 1979-2013.
Patterson passed away at the age of 78 on Sept. 20 and Holtmann was asked to speak at his funeral.
–Field Level Media
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