PITTSBURGH — The No. 10 Loyola Chicago Ramblers (24-7, 12-5 MVC), in their final year in the Missouri Valley Conference, fell to the No. 7 Ohio State Buckeyes 54-41 Friday at PPG Paints Arena in the first round of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.
The Ramblers entered the Tournament shooting 48.3% from the field. Friday, they shot 26.8%. 7-for-30 in the first half and 8-for-26 in the second half doomed Loyola from the start.
Five minutes in, the score was tied 5-5. It was going to be a low-scoring contest. Loyola looked like it would be to their advantage. But they were just playing into Ohio State’s hands. The first five minutes of the game were incredibly physical. EJ Liddell used the phrase “set the rules.” Head coach Chris Holtmann called it a “rock fight” and said that’s been their mantra all season.
Much to the Ramblers’ dismay, Ohio State set the rules of engagement and eventually turned on the shooting. After Loyola took an 11-9 lead in the first half, the Buckeyes went on a 10-3 run to take a 5-point lead, and ended the half leading 23-18.
The Buckeyes didn’t stop at halftime, though. Ohio State opened the second half with a 14-5 run. From there, the they kept their foot on the gas, never letting Loyola get within eight points of the lead.
Loyola head coach Drew Valentine spoke after the game of the positives that can be taken away from a 13-point postseason loss.
“If we bring the right approach, people struggle to score 50 points on us per game. Everyone talks about defense wins championships and that’s been our strength, our defensive numbers.”
Loyola held Ohio State to 40% shooting in the first half. The Buckeyes did not hit a single three-point shot on nine attempts. They hit one of six in the second half. Meanwhile, Loyola hit eight of 28 attempts from beyond the arc.
It was a performance that was disappointing end to Loyola’s final season in the Missouri Valley Conference, but the Ramblers will still be a strong addition to a growing Atlantic 10 Conference next season.