Basketball

Niagara Falls To Ohio State 84-74, EJ Liddell Posts Career-High 29 Points | Four Takeaways From OSU’s Victory

Junior forward EJ Liddell scored a career-high 29 points as Ohio State moved to 2-0 on the season following an 84-74 win over Niagara Friday night at Value City Arena. Senior point guard Jamari Wheeler added 9 points and 6 assists for the Buckeyes as well.

Niagara used hot three-point shooting in the first half to trail just 42-41 after 20 minutes. The Purple Eagles shot 6-of-10 from beyond the arc in the first half. The Buckeyes were paced by Liddell who scored 18 points in his 13 minutes of action in the first half.

Ohio State built a 56-46 lead early in the second half following back-to-back threes from freshman guard Malaki Branham and senior wing Justin Ahrens. From there, Niagara would get no closer than six points.

Sophomore center Zed Key added 11 points and 7 rebounds for the Buckeyes and senior forward Justice Sueing scored 10 points and grabbed four rebounds. Guard Marcus Hammond led Niagara with 22 points, but he scored just 6 points in the second half.

The Buckeyes shot 27-of-50 (54%) from the field, but made just 20 of their 30 (67%) free throw attempts. They did have 17 assists on their 27 field goals.

The Return Of The Firestarter

The last time Kyle Young took the court for the Buckeyes was exactly eight months ago against Purdue in the Big Ten Tournament. Young left that game after taking an elbow to the head, but not before scoring 18 points and nailing four three-pointers in just 18 minutes of action. Young has missed time early this season with a vestibular dysfunction, but functioned very well early in this game as point guard Jamari Wheeler found him for an alley-oop dunk soon after he was inserted into the game. Ohio State trailed 14-10 when Young entered the game, but the Buckeyes quickly went on an 11-3 run to take a 21-17 lead less than two minutes later. Young finished with 5 points on a pair of dunks and pulled down 7 rebounds in 22 minutes of play.

And Justice For All

After a rough first outing against Akron, forward Justice Sueing looked like his old self against Niagara. Sueing was still getting his legs back through camp and even into the season opener against the Zips. His shots were short in that game and he just didn’t have the proper feel that somebody who commands the basketball like he can needs. On Friday, however, his shot was falling, the ball was under control, and his ability to run the point was well used. Sueing scored 10 points in 16 minutes on 4-of-6 shooting. He is still coming off of the bench at this point, but you have to wonder how much longer that will be the case.

More Like Jamari Threeler?

Penn State transfer Jamari Wheeler has never been an offensive guy, having posted a career-high of just 6.8 points per game last year as a senior. However, he did hit a pair of threes in the second half of Friday’s game to give the Buckeyes some distance against the Purple Eagles. The more shooting that Ohio State can get out of Wheeler, the better. This is a team that is still searching for backcourt scoring and while they may never regularly get10-12 points out of Wheeler, if he can at least be somebody the opponent can’t leave open, that will help space the court a little. Wheeler also added a game-high 6 assists. He finished with a +/- of +9, which was the third-highest number on the team behind Young (+13) and Liddell (+10).

The Young Guns

Freshman guards Malaki Branham and Meechie Johnson may be the future of this program, but there’s nothing that says they can’t also be the present. Johnson started the first game against Akron but struggled a little bit. Branham got the start against Niagara and picked up two early fouls and had to watch for much of the first half. Together, however, they combined for 14 points against the Purple Eagles, each scoring 7 points. Branham played 19 points and shot 3-of-6 from the field, making his lone three-pointer and also adding a dunk. Johnson was under much better control than the season opener, looking calmer and more sure of himself. He made two of his five three-point attempts and even though he was in more control than the previous game, he was still able to be aggressive attacking the ball and the Niagara defense in his 20 minutes on the court.

Box Score

[Kyle Young header photo courtesy of the Ohio State Dept. of Athletics]