EJ Liddell scored 16 points, Big Ten freshman of the year Malaki Branham added 14 and seventh-seeded Ohio State shut down 10th-seeded Loyola Chicago from start to finish, winning 54-41 in the first round of the NCAA tournament Friday.
The Buckeyes (20-11) advanced to play either Villanova or Delaware on Sunday in the South Region while preventing another March run by the Ramblers (25-8), who shot 27% (15 of 56) from the floor.
Braden Norris led Loyola with 14 points, but star Lucas Williamson endured perhaps his worst game of the season. The winningest player in program history finished with four points on one-of-10 shooting and committed three turnovers as Loyola fell in the first round after reaching the Sweet 16 last season and the Final Four in 2018.
Sister Jean Dolores-Schmidt, Loyola’s 102-year-old chaplain, led the Ramblers in a pregame prayer and took in the school’s third NCAA appearance in five years from the mezzanine but could only watch as Loyola — listed as a slight favorite by FanDuel Sportsbook , a nod to the program’s rise — fumbled away an opportunity to further cement its status as a mid-major power.
Ohio State came in having lost four of its last five games, including a baffling setback to lowly Penn State in the Big Ten tournament last week. The return of forward Kyle Young — who hadn’t played since March 8 due to a concussion — and Liddell’s steadiness helped the Buckeyes avoid a second straight early exit.
While Williamson and company frustrated Liddell — holding him without a field goal in the first half — Loyola could muster little offensive flow as the Buckeyes swallowed up the lane in a game that made up for in intensity what it lacked in aesthetics.
Every Loyola drive to the rim was contested and every loose ball — and there were plenty in an opening half in which the teams combined for as many turnovers as made baskets (15) — seemed to end with Ohio State heading the other way.
No. 2 Auburn 80, No. 15 Jacksonville State 61
GREENVILLE, SC — Freshman Jabari Smith had 20 points and 14 rebounds as second-seeded Auburn pulled away from Jacksonville State late in the first half to win its 10th straight NCAA tournament opener 80-61 on Friday.
Walker Kessler, Smith’s partner in the paint, finished a block shy of a triple-double with 13 points, 10 rebounds and nine blocks.
The Tigers (28-5) will face either seventh-seeded USC or 10th-seeded Miami on Sunday for a spot in the Sweet 16.
If Smith, the potential high NBA lottery pick, plays like he did Friday, Auburn will be hard to slow down.
Smith had four three-pointers, a couple from far behind the line. He ended his first tournament game with an emphatic, right-handed slam with just more than a minute to go as teammate Wendell Green Jr. covered his face in disbelief.
Auburn was on target from the outside. KD Johnson ended his shooting slump — he was 0-14 in a Southeastern Conference tournament quarterfinal loss to Texas A&M — and had 10 points and a couple of threes during a 17-3 that put the Tigers in control in the first half.
Jalen Gibbs, Division I’s fifth-leading three-point shooter coming in, hit his third long-range shot of the half to put the Gamecocks up 24-22 about six minutes before the break. That’s when the Tigers got going.
No. 3 Texas Tech 97, No. 14 Montana State 62
SAN DIEGO — Terrence Shannon Jr. scored 20 points and set a dominating tone in the opening minutes for Texas Tech, which overwhelmed Montana State 97-62 Friday with one of the best-shooting games in the first round since the NCAA tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985.
Bryson Williams also scored 20 points for Texas Tech (26-9), which shot 66.7% (36 of 54) from the field, including making 12 of 20 3-pointers. At one point the Red Raiders were trending toward breaking Syracuse’s record of 67.9% (38 of 56) against Southern Illinois in 1995. They settled for a tie for fourth.
Texas Tech, the No. 3 seed in the West Region, was too big, quick and talented for the Bobcats (27-8), who were making their first NCAA tournament appearance since 1996. The Red Raiders will play either No. 6 seed Alabama or 11th-seeded Notre Dame in the second round.
The Big Sky champion Bobcats won the opening typoff and Shannon welcomed them back to March Madness by blocking Amin Adamu’s shot. Two possessions later, Shannon hit the first of his 3-pointers in the first four minutes to erase Montana State’s only lead.
Xavier Bishop led Montana State with 12 points.
The Red Raiders led 18-4 less than five minutes in after hitting four 3-pointers, blocking two shots and forcing the Bobcats into a shot clock violation.
Texas Tech took a 52-25 halftime lead, using a swarming defense to feed an impressive combination of threes and inside shots. Kevin Obanor worked the baseline for two reverse layups and had a slam dunk.
No. 3 Purdue 78, No. 14 Yale 56
MILWAUKEE — Jaden Ivey raced his way to 22 points and Zach Edey controlled the action inside, helping Purdue overpower Yale for a 78-56 victory.
Ivey, one of the fastest players in college basketball, went 3 for 6 from three-point range and 7 for 9 at the free-throw line in 27 minutes. The 7-foot-4 Edey made the most of his size advantage against the Ivy League champions, finishing with 16 points and nine rebounds in 19 minutes.
With Ivey dashing up and down the court and Edey towering over the lane, No. 3 seed Purdue (28-7) won its NCAA tournament opener for the fourth time in its last five tournaments. The lone exception occurred last year, when Purdue was upset by 13th-seeded North Texas in the first round.
The overtime loss to the Mean Green seemed like a distant memory as the Boilermakers pulled away from the 14th-seeded Bulldogs at the beginning of the second half. Next up is the winner of Virginia Tech-Texas in the second round of the East Region on Sunday.
Azar Swain scored 18 points on 8-for-19 shooting for Yale (19-12), which had won 11 of 13.
Led by Swain, who made each of his first five shots, Yale led 16-15 with 13:06 left in the first half. That’s when Ivey and the Boilermakers started to take over.
Ivey made two foul shots and a three-pointer during a 10-0 spurt that put Purdue ahead to stay. Jalen Gabbidon’s driving layup got Yale within nine early in the second half, but the Boilermakers responded with a 17-2 run.
No. 2 Villanova, No. 15 Delaware
PITTSBURGH — Justin Moore scored 21 points, Collin Gillespie added 14 and second-seeded Villanova had little trouble with 15th-seeded Delaware, beating the Blue Hens 80-60.
The Wildcats (27-7) used a 35-10 surge spanning the end of the first half and the start of the second to turn an eight-point deficit into a blowout. Villanova will meet Ohio State in the second round of the South Region on Sunday. The No. 7 seed Buckeyes unleashed their defense and downed Loyola Chicago 54-41 in the first of four games at PPG Paints Arena.
Delaware (22-13) showed some early fight against its northern neighbor in a meeting of programs separated by 43 miles on the map and considerably more in the college basketball landscape.
It wasn’t nearly enough as Villanova overwhelmed the Blue Hens under a barrage of three-pointers to begin the school’s quest for a third national title in seven seasons.
Jyare Davis led Delaware with 17 points but over the course of 40 minutes, Villanova exposed the considerable gulf between schools that are bitter rivals in several sports. Jameer Nelson Jr., the son of the former St. Joseph’s and NBA star who regularly battled the Wildcats as part of the city’s Big Five, was limited to eight points on 3-of-13 shooting.
Early on, the Colonial Athletic Association champion Blue Hens didn’t show any nerves or fear against one of the sport’s bluebloods.
Of course, it may have helped that graduate forward Dylan Painter began his career at Villanova before transferring to Delaware and knows the Wildcats inside and out.
Painter’s lay-in gave Delaware an early 15-8 lead, easing anxiety that the stage would be too big.
Eventually, however, reality set in.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism