NEW YORK — It looked as if Ohio State's winning streak to start the season was over.
The third-ranked Buckeyes were down eight points to Notre Dame with less than two minutes left, and their offense was nowhere to be found.
But they still had their tough defense, and somehow they were able to turn the game completely around and beat the Fighting Irish 64-61 Saturday night in the BlackRock Gotham Classic at Madison Square Garden.
"I don't really know what happened. It was a big blur," Ohio State senior point guard Aaron Craft said. "We never stopped. We never gave up. Guys were running around getting tips, and guys made big free throws."
A few players did come up big on defense, but it was mostly one guy who made the free throws for the Buckeyes (12-0).
Lenzelle Smith scored seven of his nine in the final 33 seconds, including 5 of 5 free throws, to lead the rally.
"I'm still trying to figure out what happened," Ohio State coach Thad Matta said. "My mind was fixated on if we wanted to foul with the time situation or do we play it out defensively, and all of a sudden it was closer and closer and closer and we get the lead. It happened quick. It was a great win."
The Buckeyes went 9:10 without a field goal and at one point were 6-of-21 from the field as Notre Dame opened what seemed to be a comfortable lead.
Jerian Grant hit a 3-pointer as the shot clock was expiring to give the Fighting Irish (8-4) a 58-50 advantage with 1:54 to play.
The Buckeyes turned up the defensive intensity, converting consecutive steals into a 58-56 deficit with 40 seconds left. They were within 60-59 when Smith scored down low on a nice pass by Craft to put them ahead for good with 16 seconds left.
"I am so thoroughly disappointed," Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. "We had such a good chance at such a great win."
NO. 5 MICH. ST. 92, TEXAS 78: Adreian Payne scored a career-high 32 for the visiting Spartans (10-1), who led for only 56 seconds in the first half, then dominated the final 11 minutes.
NO. 6 L'VILLE 85, FIU 56: Russ Smith scored 18, Wayne Blackshear added 13 and the visiting Cardinals (11-1) won their sixth straight with ease.
NO. 8 VILLANOVA 88, RIDER 67: Freshman Josh Hart came off the bench to score 19 for the host Wildcats (11-0), who are off to their best start since the 1961-62 team won its first 12.
NO. 14 UNC 97, DAVIDSON 85, OT: Marcus Paige scored 11 of his 17 in overtime to help the host Tar Heels (8-3) finish a turbulent week with a tough win. Paige didn't score until 8:17 was left in the second half, but he took over late as North Carolina bounced back from Wednesday's loss to Texas and Friday's decision not to reinstate P.J. Hairston.
NO. 18 MEMPHIS 77, SE MISSOURI 65: Shaq Goodwin scored 20 and Joe Jackson added 16 at Madison Square Garden as the host Tigers (8-2) recovered from Tuesday's home loss to Florida.
NO. 18 KANSAS 86, G'TOWN 64: Tarik Black came off the bench to score 17, Joel Embiid also had 17 and the Jayhawks (8-3) rolled in the Hoyas' first visit to Allen Fieldhouse.
NO. 19 KY. 93, BELMONT 80: Julius Randle scored a career-high 29 and led a second-half rally by the host Wildcats (9-3), who trailed until 16:21 was left in the game.
KAN. ST. 72, NO. 21 GONZAGA 62: Thomas Gipson scored eight of his 14 in the game's decisive minutes for the host Wildcats, who held the Bulldogs (10-2) to their fewest points this season.
Illinois 65, NO. 23 MIZZOU 64: Tracy Abrams scored a season-high 22 and made two free throws with 4.6 seconds to lift the Illini over the Tigers (10-1) in the annual Braggin' Rights game in neutral-site St. Louis.
UCF 86, RIO GRANDE 58: Kasey Wilson had 19 points and nine rebounds for the host Knights (7-3) in the first round of the UCF Holiday Classic.
N. FLORIDA 68, b-cu 64: Beau Beech and Dallas Moore scored 15 each as the host Ospreys handed the Wildcats (2-13) their 11th straight loss.
ECKERD 85, PFEIFFER 68: Josh Snodgrass scored 21, leading five players in double figures for the Tritons (6-4) at the University of Tampa Tournament.
TAMPA 70, MILES 65: Jordan Davis had 22 points and seven rebounds for the Spartans (6-3), who rallied from a 12-point deficit at the Tampa Classic.