PITTSBURGH (WCMH) — The Ohio State Buckeyes men’s basketball team beat Loyola Chicago 54-41 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

It was an offensive struggle for both teams with Loyola shooting less than 27% from the field and Ohio State going 1-for-15 from three-point range. But OSU got enough production from E.J. Liddell and Malaki Branham who scored 30 points combined in the win.

Only one player for Loyola Chicago, Hilliard Bradley grad Braden Norris, scored in double figures with 14 points.

What Ohio State lacked on offense they made up for with defense, which has been their Achilles heal this season having entered the game with a defensive efficiency that ranked 133rd in the country.

“We felt like we could hang out hat on our defense right now and we did that,” OSU coach Chris Holtmann said. “When we’ve struggled closing games it’s because our defense has not been sound enough for long enough . . . It was the best defensive performance we’ve really had in a couple years.”

There have only been three other NCAA Tournament games in which Ohio State gave up fewer than 41 points and those three wins occurred in 1939, 1945 and 1946.

OSU will play Sunday against Villanova in the second round in Pittsburgh. Tip off for that game is scheduled for 2:40pm.


Ohio State 54, Loyola 41 – Final

The Buckeyes are moving on in the NCAA Tournament and will play Sunday against No. 2 seed Villanova in the second round. An OSU upset over the Wildcats would earn the program its first Sweet 16 trip in nine years.

Ohio State 50, Loyola 39 – 1:48 – 2nd Half

Each team has one timeout left as the Ramblers are expected to begin fouling intentionally to try and get back into the game.

Ohio State 48, Loyola 36 – 3:57 – 2nd Half

The double-digit lead stays for Ohio State who is inching closer to a first round win over Loyola. The Buckeyes defense has held Loyola to just 14 made shots. The Ramblers also have a free-throw percentage of 12.5.

Ohio State 42, Loyola 32 – 7:28 – 2nd Half

Buckeyes continue to stay strong defensively and maintain its double-digit lead. E.J. Liddell has got his double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds on 4-7 shooting with 6 free throws.

Ohio State 37 Loyola 26 – 11:18 – 2nd Half

After a Meechie Johnson three-pointer, Ohio State has not scored field goal in nearly two and half minutes. The Ramblers have one field goal in the last four minutes and Loyola is shooting less than 25% from the field.

Ohio State 33 Loyola 23 – 14:33 – 2nd Half

Kyle Young has four points in the second half. His presence on the court makes Ohio State a much more well-rounded team. They’ve missed him the last few weeks when he was in concussion protocol.

Ohio State 29 Loyola 18 – 17:05 – 2nd Half

Ohio State begins the second half on a 6-0 run. Ohio State’s leading scorer E.J. Liddell has his first two field goals of the game in the opening moments of the 2nd half.

Halftime Stats

Ohio State: 8-20 shooting (40%), 0-9 three-pointers (0%), 7/8 free throws (87.5%), 18 rebounds, 4 steals, 8 turnovers

Loyola: 7/30 shooting (23.3%), 3-13 three-pointers (23.1%), 1/2 free throws (50%), 18 rebounds, 5 steals, 7 turnovers

Notable Players:

(OSU) Malaki Branham: 10 points, 4-5 shooting, 3 rebounds, 2 assists

(OSU) E.J. Liddell: 4 points, 5 rebounds, 4-4 free throws

(Loyola) Braden Norris: 6 points, 2-5 shooting, 1 rebound, 1 steal

Ohio State 23, Loyola 18 – Halftime

It was not a pretty first half for either team as the Buckeyes entered the locker room with a five-point lead despite no three-pointers made.

Ohio State did get good production on the boards and forcing turnovers with 17 defensive rebounds and four steals through 20 minutes.

Ohio State 19, Loyola 14 – 3:38 – 1st Half

Ohio State got its biggest lead of the game thanks to an 8-0 run. With seven takeaways, the Buckeyes are beginning to develop a small offensive rhythm led by Malaki Branham.

Branham has eight points now with two breakaway dunks forcing the Ramblers to call a timeout.

Ohio State 11, Loyola 11 – 6:41 – 1st Half

It’s tied at 11 with less than seven minutes of the first half. The Buckeyes continue to struggle shooting with just four shots made of 18, including an 0-of-7 clip from three-point range.

All Buckeyes starters have scored in the first half thus far, except for Jamari Wheeler.

Ohio State 9, Loyola 7 – 11:44 – 1st Half

The Buckeyes and Ramblers continue its offensive struggles to start the game with six field goals made combined between the two teams. Turnover troubles apparent early as well with seven total.

Kyle Young is the early leading scorer for Ohio State with five points on 2-4 shooting in his return start from injury.

Loyola 5, Ohio State 2 – 15:58 – 1st Half

A slow start offensively for both teams with the Buckeyes missing their first four shots of the game, including three from deep. Ohio State’s lone points are from the free throw line courtesy of E.J. Liddell.

South Region Bracket

  • No. 1 Arizona vs. No. 9 TCU (SUN – 9:40pm)
  • No. 4 Illinois vs. No. 5 Houston (SUN – 12:10pm)
  • No. 3 Tennessee vs. No. 11 Michigan (SAT – 5:15pm)
  • No. 2 Villanova vs. No. 7 Ohio State (SUN – 2:40pm)