Defense wins championships. Yes, that’s an old coaching cliche that gets mentioned way too much, but for Ohio State, it might be the best path to the Sweet 16.

The Buckeyes had a stellar defensive performance in a 54-41 win over Loyola Chicago in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. The Ramblers shot just 26.8% from the floor and were outrebounded 41-31 by Ohio State.

Ohio State didn’t shoot particularly well in the game, especially from the 3-point line. The Buckeyes converted on just 1-of-15 attempts from behind the arc. But because of their strong defensive effort, it was enough to advance to the Round of 32.

B1G Freshman of the Year Malaki Branham, who scored 14 points and collected 5 rebounds in the win, said it’ll take more of the same for OSU to get to the Sweet 16.

“We’re gonna have to (play great defense) if we’re gonna win,” Branham said.

Ohio State has yet to reach the Sweet 16 in Holtmann’s five seasons with the program. The Buckeyes are making their fourth NCAA Tournament appearance with its third Round of 32 game ahead.

Last year, OSU fell in the opening round to Oral Roberts.

The Buckeyes were at full strength on Friday, getting Kyle Young and Zed Key back on the floor. That made a big difference, especially on the defensive end in the win over Loyola.

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