The Loyola Ramblers came into their second-straight NCAA Tournament hoping to make some noise on the national stage once again, but those dreams were dashed by the Ohio State Buckeyes, who eliminated the Ramblers with a 54-41 win on Friday in Pittsburgh.
In a defense-heavy contest, EJ Liddell led the Buckeyes with 16 points and 10 rebounds, sinking eight free throws in the victory. He also blocked three Loyola shots. Malaki Branham also had a strong game, with 14 points, five rebounds, four steals and two assists to his credit.
Kyle Young and Zed Key helped the Buckeyes control the boards, picking up seven rebounds apiece for Ohio State.
Meanwhile, Loyola could not get their shooting touch right throughout the game, making less than 30% of their shots from the floor. While Braden Norris did score 14 points, including four three-pointers, no other Ramblers player reached double-figures in scoring, including Lucas Williamson, who went 1-of-10 from the field and 1-of-6 from the free throw line in the loss.
Williamson did have six assists, five rebounds and three steals, but his shooting woes were reflective of the entire team’s challenges in putting the ball in the basket during the game.
The first half of the game was a defensive slugfest, with the teams only putting up a combined 41 points of offense. The Buckeyes did lead by nine points with two minutes left in the frame, but a Williamson free throw and a Norris three-pointer cut the advantage to 23-18 at the break.
Ohio State raced out to an 11-point lead in the second half before Loyola could finally make its first basket, but that hardly slowed the Buckeyes’ momentum, as they led by double-digits for most of the half.
Meanwhile, Loyola went long stretches without scoring, allowing the Buckeyes to slowly expand their lead both from the field and at the free throw line.
In the last five minutes of the game, Loyola managed just five points, losing to Ohio State and ending their season.
Ohio State will now play the winner of Friday’s game between Villanova and Delaware, with tip-off set for 1:45 p.m. Friday in Pittsburgh.