Buckeyes Down Loyola, Advance to Round of 32
The 7th seeded Ohio State Buckeyes took control midway through the first half and never looked back, defeating 10th seeded Loyola-Chicago 54-41 to advance in the NCAA tournament. The win improved Ohio State’s overall record to 20-11 and Loyola’s season comes to an end with a record of 25-8. Getting Kyle Young and Zed Key back proved critical and a rested Ohio State defense completely smothered Loyola’s offense, holding the Ramblers to just 27% shooting and just 8 of 28 from long range. Ohio State didn’t shoot it much better with Loyola’s aggressive half court defense, hitting on just 42% and 1 of 15 from long range. The Buckeyes were led by E.J. Liddell’s double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds, while Malaki Branham added 14. Loyola was led by Hilliard’s own Braden Norris, who dropped in 14 for the Ramblers.
Both teams brought high defensive intensity early as neither team could find rhythm offensively. Loyola finally got on the board first, getting the ball inside for two. A pair of E.J. Liddell free throws got Ohio State even but just before the first media timeout, Loyola found the bottom from three to take a 5-2 lead 4 ½ minutes into the basketball game. Out of the timeout, Liddell found Kyle Young at the right block for two and after Young split a pair of free throws, Gene Brown got to the rim off the bounce to put the Buckeyes ahead. Loyola got back on the board with a lob to the post, stopping an over 4 minute run without points, to tie it. Young put it on the floor on the left point and got to the right block and scored to put Ohio State back in front and at the under 12 media timeout, the Buckeyes led 9-7. Both teams continued to struggle offensively as neither team scored for nearly 4 minutes before a pair of Loyola hoops gave the Ramblers a lead. The Buckeyes re-tied the score when Malaki Branham hit from 17 just above the free throw stripe and at the under 8 media timeout, Ohio State and Loyola were deadlocked at 11. A Branham jumper from the baseline off an inbounds play put the Buckeyes ahead and after Branham got a steal and dunk, the Buckeyes were rolling. A pair of Liddell free throws had the Buckeyes on an 8-0 run and a 6 point lead. Loyola stopped the run with a corner three but a steal and Branham dunk in transition forced Loyola to call timeout with 3:49 to go in the first half, Ohio State was on top 19-14. Zed Key scored from the left block and Branham nailed two free throws to put the Buckeyes up 9. A Loyola free throw and a transition triple off a Buckeye turnover trimmed the lead to 5 and Chris Holtmann called a timeout with under a minute to go. A Buckeye turnover and the Ramblers were unable to take advantage and at the half, Ohio State led 23-18. Ohio State held Loyola to just 24% shooting including 3 of 13 from long range, while hitting only 40% themselves and 0 for 9 from beyond the arc. Malaki Branham led the Buckeyes in the first 20 minutes with 10, while Loyola got 6 Braden Norris coming off of two three balls.
The Buckeyes were rolling early in the second half, a pair of Liddell buckets and a Young jump hook forced Loyola to call a timeout a little less than 3 minutes in and Ohio State enjoying a 29-18 lead. Loyola finally got on the board in the second 20 minutes, drilling a triple to cut the lead to 8. Young and Liddell scores sandwiched around a Loyola hoop sent the teams to their benches at the under 16 media timeout with the Buckeyes up 33-23. Meechie Johnson hit a triple and Liddell split a pair of free throws to put Ohio State up 14, but a Loyola triple cut it back to 11. Ohio State took a timeout at the 11:18 mark. Loyola cut the lead to 9, but a bucket and free throw by Liddell put Ohio State up 12. Loyola drilled a triple to cut it to 9, but a dip under and lay in by Jamari Wheeler put Ohio State up 42-31 with 7:28 to go in the first half. A pair of Liddell freebies along with 2 from Wheeler put Ohio State up 14. Two Loyola scores sandwiched around a Branham bucket at the rim cut the lead to 12 and Loyola took a timeout with 3:57 remaining and the Buckeyes up 48-36. Loyola drilled a triple to cut it to 9 but time was running low and 2 Branham free throws put Ohio State up 11 with 2 minutes to go. A pair of Cedric Russell free throws and a Brown dunk was the exclamation point. A pair of Loyola free throws completed the scoring with the Buckeyes advancing.
What a difference a healthy and rested team makes. The Buckeyes were active and connected on the defensive end and completely took Loyola out of everything they wanted to do offensively. Kyle Young was especially effective, leading this basketball team with his hustle and effort as the Buckeyes looked more like they did 3 weeks ago than they did in the last couple. We’ll see how they do in the next one but they clearly rediscovered their identity in this game and there is a lot of hope moving forward. If they bring this type of effort in the next one, they will have a great chance to continue to advance in this very competitive tournament.
Ohio State will next lace them up to play the winner of Villanova and Delaware on Sunday. Time and network TBD.
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