Ohio State battled Loyola- Chicago on Friday afternoon in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Early in the game, both teams traded buckets. It was a low-scoring game as the score was tied at 9-9 with over seven minutes remaining in the first half. The Buckeyes and the Ramblers had difficulties moving the ball, as there were nine total turnovers with time left in the half. Buckeyes guard Malaki Branham made two consecutive baskets. That was important to Ohio State as he plays a major factor in their offensive gameplan. Solid defense from the Buckeyes created fast-break opportunities, which allowed them to widen their lead. E.J Liddell is a shot-blocking machine. Liddell blocked a shot from a Loyola- Chicago player, which led to a basket at the other end of the floor. At halftime, the Buckeyes led 23-18.
E.J. Liddell made some tough shots to put the Buckeyes on the board at the start of the half. It was huge for Ohio State that they contained Loyola Chicago’s guard Lucas Williamson to one point. Williamson is the Ramblers’ best player. Kyle Young’s hook shot gave the Buckeyes an 11- point lead, who returned from illness. Both teams focused on being better at defending. It was apparent that both teams were defending better because they were blocking shots left and right. The Ramblers created more pressure on Ohio State as they double-teamed Malaki Branham. The Ramblers needed a big shot to stay in the game. Fortunately, Lucas Williamson knocked down a deep three-pointer, which cut the lead to 37-26 Buckeyes.
The big difference in this game was free throws. At one point in the game, the Ramblers made one out of six foul shots. The Buckeyes made nine out of sixteen foul shots. The dagger for the Ramblers was the layup by Meechie Johnson, which pushed the Buckeyes’ lead to thirteen points. Ohio State would go on to win the game by a score of 54-41. E.J. Liddell and Malaki Branham led the way offensively, as Liddell scored 16 points, while Branham chipped in with 14 points. Ohio State has a tough matchup as they will face the Villanova Wildcats on Sunday.