The 16th ranked Ohio State basketball team was able to take down Michigan 68-57 on Saturday night in Ann Arbor, rebounding from a troubling loss at Rutgers earlier in the week. Ohio State has struggled on the road all season, going just 4-5 compared to a perfect 10-0 at home.
E.J. Liddell led the way against Michigan, scoring a game-high 28 points and five rebounds as the Buckeyes improved to 15-6 and 8-4 in the Big Ten. Cedric Russell added a much-needed 12 points in the road win.
E.J. Liddell Player Grade: A
28 points (8-17 FG, 1-5 3PFG, 11-11 FT), 5 rebounds, 3 blocks, 1 assist, 0 turnovers
Liddell started a bit slow but once he got going, the junior forward was able to get whatever shot he wanted. The Big Ten Player of the Year candidate continuously found the middle of the lane for a fall-away jumper or bullied his way into the lane to finish at the rim.
Liddell dropped an impressive 28 points, despite shooting 1-5 from beyond the arc, to go along with three blocks and zero turnovers in 36 minutes. He has scored 20+ points nine times this year.
Cedric Russell Player Grade: A-
12 points (5-8 FG, 2-2 3PFG, 0-0 FT), 1 assist, 1 steal, 1 turnover
Since freshman guard Meechie Johnson is out with an ankle injury, Chris Holtmann needed someone to step up off the bench. Russell did exactly that, scoring 12 points on 5-8 shooting from the field in 24 minutes. The Louisiana transfer drilled a pair of 3-pointers and sealed the victory with a mid-range jumper late in the second half. Russell has reached double figures three times in his lone season at Ohio State and should get significant minutes going forward.
Malaki Branham Player Grade: C+
6 points (3-7 FG, 0-1 3PFG, 0-0 FT), 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, 2 turnovers
Branham has become the Buckeyes’ second most important player so it’s noticeable when he doesn’t play his best. The talented freshman seemed timid at times at Michigan and didn’t impact the game as much as usual.
After scoring 19 points on 4-5 from 3-point range in the loss at Rutgers, Branham had just six points on seven shots, plus three rebounds and one assist in 36 minutes on Saturday. He didn’t play poorly but the expectations are a bit higher.
Ohio State returns to the court for a Big Ten bout with the Golden Gophers on Tuesday night at home. Minnesota lost five games in a row, including a 75-64 loss against the Buckeyes in late January, before beating Penn State over the weekend to snap the skid.
The Ohio State basketball team hosts Minnesota, Iowa, and Indiana over the next eight days, which creates a great chance to catch Michigan State for the coveted 4th seed in the upcoming Big Ten Tournament.