NEW YORK – Lenzelle Smith Jr. scored seven of his nine points in the final 33 seconds and No. 3 Ohio State rallied from an eight-point deficit with 1:54 to play to beat Notre Dame 64-61 on Saturday night in the BlackRock Gotham Classic at Madison Square Garden.
The Buckeyes (12-0), who had a woeful second half from the field, closed the game on a 14-3 run and Smith was the key to the closing spurt.
Jerian Grant hit a 3-pointer as the shot clock was expiring to give the Fighting Irish (8-4) a seemingly comfortable 58-50 lead with 1:54 to play.
But the Buckeyes turned up the defensive intensity and they converted consecutive steals into a 58-56 deficit with 40 seconds to go.
Demetrius Jackson made two free throws for Notre Dame a second later.
Smith was fouled taking a 3-pointer and he made all three free throws to bring Ohio State within 60-59 with 32 seconds left.
Steve Vasturia, who was in the game because Eric Atkins had fouled out, missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 31 seconds left, his first free throw attempt of the season.
Smith scored down low on a nice pass by Aaron Craft to give the Buckeyes a 61-60 lead with 16 seconds to go. After a Notre Dame turnover, Smith made two free throws for a 63-60 lead with 9.8 seconds left.
Grant made one free throw with 6.7 seconds left and Craft made one free throw with 3.3 seconds left.
Jackson missed a potential tying 3 as the buzzer sounded.
LaQuinton Ross had 16 points and 11 rebounds for Ohio State while Amir Williams had 13 points and Shannon Scott and Craft both added 10.
Grant had 18 points for Notre Dame while Garrick Sherman had 14 and Pat Connaughton 13.
The Buckeyes shot 34.5 percent in the second half (10 of 29, including missing all nine 3-point attempts). They went 9:10 without a field goal in the second half, and that’s when Notre Dame opened a 52-44 lead with 5:33 to play.
Williams dunked on the next possession to end Ohio State’s long drought.
Notre Dame opened the second half on a 9-2 run that tied the game at 35. The run was started by a 3-pointer by Atkins, the Fighting Irish’s first in seven attempts from beyond the arc.