On Sunday, the 7th seeded Ohio State Buckeyes faced the talented Villanova Wildcats. The 2nd seeded Wildcats came into this matchup after dominating the Delaware Blue Hens 80-60 in the first round. Buckeyes coach Chris Holtmann had his work cut out for him, as he was going up against a legendary coach in Jay Wright. Wildcats forward Jermaine Samuels drained a three-pointer to start the game, and then E.J. Liddell knocked down a three-pointer of his own. Ohio State Meechie Johnson had the ball knocked out of his hands with five seconds left on the shot clock and threw up a shot from a country mile and made it for three points. The play was so impressive it pumped up broadcaster Kevin Harlan.
Villanova guard Collin Gillespie knocked down two three-pointers. Gillespie also stole the ball and made a layup at the other end of the court to enhance the Wildcat’s lead. Ohio State started to play better defense but could not stop Villanova from scoring. E.J. Liddell made a sweet move to the basket as he pump-faked and then went up and slammed home a two-handed dunk. Ohio State was heavily relying upon E.J. Liddell and Malaki Branham. Malaki Branham would drain a three-pointer to cut the Villanova lead to five with over five minutes remaining in the first half. Then Ohio State struggled on offense as more than two minutes went by, and they did not register a single point. Before halftime, E.J. Liddell hit a bank shot from behind the three-point line. Liddell led the Buckeyes with 12 points, and Gillespie had 12 points for the Wildcats. Villanova led at the half 39-28.
Early in the second half, Villanova expanded their lead to 15 points. Ohio State and Villanova were shooting well from behind the arc as both teams made 5/12 three-pointers. Liddell and Branham kept their team in the game as they cut the Wildcat’s lead down to six points. Villanova decided to alter their gameplan on defense, as they double-teamed E.J. Liddell, however, Liddell floated a shot and made it despite excellent defense. Jamari Wheeler knocked down a three-pointer which cut the deficit to two points. The more impressive play came when Gillespie juked a defender and tossed up a layup and was rejected by E.J. Liddell. Ohio State failed to score baskets near the end of the game and could not stop Villanova’s playmakers. Villanova defeated Ohio State with a final score of 71-61.
Ohio State finished the season with 20 wins and 13 losses. This year’s Ohio State team had experience and talent, though they did not have a surplus of talent. Ohio State had two big-time stars in E.J. Liddell and Malaki Branham. Branham scored 23 points in the last game of the season and has plenty to build upon in his impressive rookie campaign. Malaki will be the star of this team next year. As for E.J. Liddell, Liddell scored 17 points, registered six rebounds, and had three assists in most likely his final game at Ohio State. Liddell is a first-round talent as he can do it all. This team has the right coach in place. They just need to bring in more guys who can score as you can’t win with two players. Chris Holtmann and his staff must be chomping at the bit to get back to the drawing board and help propel this team to greater heights.