E.J. Liddell's career night leads No. 22 Ohio State past Notre Dame

Adam Jardy
Buckeye Xtra

SOUTH BEND, Ind. – On a night like this, it was the kind of shot that had to go in for E.J. Liddell.

Dec 8, 2020; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes forward E.J. Liddell (32) is fouled by Notre Dame Fighting Irish forward Matt Zona (25)  in the second half at the Purcell Pavilion.

Playing in the first true road game of the season for No. 22 Ohio State, the Buckeyes had taken a little bit of everything from Notre Dame but were clinging to a three-point lead with the shot clock winding down during the final minute of play. And when CJ Walker couldn’t shake free to take the pass, Liddell instead squared up, took a dribble and launched a contested, fade-away jumper from the left elbow as the shot clock buzzer rang.

Seth Towns:Ohio State forward kneels for national anthem at Notre Dame

Liddell’s arcing shot found nothing but net, providing a five-point lead with 50 seconds to play that would stand up as the Buckeyes (4-0) held off Notre Dame (1-2), 90-85, at the Joyce Center as part of the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

Ohio State’s depth took center stage, but it was Liddell in the spotlight. He finished with 19 points and 12 rebounds, both career-high totals, to lead the Buckeyes.

For a while, it looked like Notre Dame might run away with the game. When Nate Laszewski hit a pair of free throws with 14:38 to play, it pushed the Notre Dame lead to a game-high 11 points at 55-44. On the next possession, though, Liddell bullied his way to a basket in the paint to pull back within nine points.

The Buckeyes would fight their way back from there. One-time Ohio State commitment Dane Goodwin’s layup on a give-and-go gave Notre Dame a 61-56 lead, but the Buckeyes would take their first lead of the half when CJ Walker drew a fifth foul on Juwan Durham with 8:44 to play and hit both free throws to make it a 62-61 lead. Dating back to the Liddell basket, it marked an 18-6 run for the Buckeyes.

It didn’t ensure a win, but it did ensure a tight finish in what was Ohio State’s first game on Notre Dame’s campus in 48 years. The Buckeyes have won three straight against Notre Dame and improve to 9-11 all-time in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

Justice Sueing and CJ Walker each had 16 points as five Buckeyes finished in double figures.

After trailing by seven points early, the Buckeyes reclaimed the lead with an 8-0 run but couldn’t hold it. Dane Goodwin hit a jumper from the free-throw line out of a Notre Dame timeout with 6:05 to play in the half, and from there the Irish would hit seven of their final 10 shots of the half.

It allowed them to close with a flourish. Justin Ahrens’ third three-pointer on as many attempts tied the game at 34 with 3:18 to play, but after consecutive empty possessions Notre Dame scored on its final four trips down the floor to end the half on an 8-0 run to make it a 42-34 lead. The final points came with authority after Ohio State’s Duane Washington Jr. lost the ball while trying a behind-the-back dribble move through two defenders leading to a fast-break dunk from Laszewski while being fouled by Musa Jallow.

Laszewski missed the free throw with 36 seconds remaining and coach Chris Holtmann pulled Washington for previously unused guard Jimmy Sotos, but Ahrens and Liddell each came up empty on the final possession.

The Buckeyes were 7 for 15 (46.7%) from three during the first half, but Notre Dame was 16 for 32 (50.0%) overall from the floor and had allowed an Ohio State team averaging 28.3 free-throw attempts per game to take only six.

The game marked the first time Ohio State parents could watch their sons in person. The university has not permitted fans of any kind at sporting events through late December, but around 30 Buckeyes family members were spread around one side of the arena.

Jallow returned to action after missing the last two games with soreness in his right Achilles. Harvard graduate transfer Seth Towns, who was listed as “game-to-game, week-to-week” by Holtmann on Monday, did not warm up with the team and watched the game from the bench area. He also kneeled when a prerecorded version of the national anthem played prior to the start of the game.

ajardy@dispatch.com

@AdamJardy