Ohio State's Kyle Young shakes off concussion, keys first-round win over Loyola Chicago

Adam Jardy
The Columbus Dispatch

PITTSBURGH — There was a moment, and probably multiple moments, when what happened Friday afternoon at PPG Paints Arena didn’t seem possible.

It wasn’t just that Ohio State’s defense was playing at a level not seen against this caliber of opponent in some time, although that was certainly part of it. It wasn’t just that, after taking a first-round NCAA Tournament loss last year, the Buckeyes were punching their ticket to the second round in dominating fashion.

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It was that, at the heart of it all, fifth-year senior and team captain Kyle Young was powering No. 7 seed Ohio State to a gritty, physical 54-41 win over Loyola Chicago, shaking off a concussion that robbed him of the final three games leading into the NCAA Tournament. With an eye on writing his own final chapter to his legacy, Young started, chipped in 9 points, seven rebounds, a steal and an assist while playing 34:54.

Eight days ago, Young couldn’t sit on the team bench to see the Buckeyes exit the Big Ten tournament in the second round while he worked to recover from the concussion suffered March 1. During the past 17 days, Young said he wasn’t sure if he’d ever be able to return.

Ohio State's Kyle Young looks to pass after diving to the floor to retrieve a loose ball on Friday.

“Just even putting on my jersey today, taking a moment to reflect on it,” he said. “Because after the last time when I was out recently, I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to come back or not. Being able to put the jersey on today meant a lot to me, being able to go to war with these guys. So definitely took a moment to reflect on it and be very appreciative of being able to be out there.”

His teammates and coaches were, as well. As Ohio State limped into the postseason having lost four of five, it did so while juggling a number of injuries to key players. Atop that list was Young, the team’s longest-tenured player who had played a total of 27 minutes in two NCAA Tournament games. When the Buckeyes lost to No. 15 seed Oral Roberts in the first round last season, he wasn’t on the bench while dealing with a concussion.

Young isn’t the team’s leading scorer or rebounder, but, as the Ramblers would learn, his fit into this Ohio State lineup simply allows everything else to function at a higher level

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“He just provides a bunch, so much on both ends,” Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann said. “And a lot of it's versatility. And I've been saying it for really two years now. So it's evident in a game like this.”

Ohio State outscored Loyola Chicago 46-33 when Young was on the court. During the 5:06 that Young got a rest, the Buckeyes and Ramblers played to an 8-8 standoff.

“Having Kyle back is great,” fellow captain E.J. Liddell said. “I felt like everybody who stepped foot on floor was determined, ready, had a mentality that we can't be beat and won't be beat. I feel like we keep that same mindset, we'll be good to go.”

Young said he started to make progress in his return late last week and that he made a big jump just by waking up for a few days, passing the protocols and getting medically cleared to participate. Throughout, there was no question what he would do if given a full bill of health: if he could, Young would play.

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Once cleared, the task was working on conditioning and building that back up in preparation for a game in which Ohio State would have to battle, scrap and claw at both ends for a chance to win. It was the most playing time all season for Young, who was not shy about diving for loose balls and battling in the paint.

“I spent last week trying to get my conditioning back up a little bit, having been out some of the previous games, to be able to be back on floor and play with them,” he said. “That's part of my game, getting on the floor. So that was going to help me impact the game. I had to do what I had to do tonight.”

He did what he did, and that allowed the Buckeyes to do what they needed to do: shake off an upset challenge from a double-digit seed and advance. He’ll get to try to do it again Sunday.

ajardy@dispatch.com

@AdamJardy

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