Ohio State's Kyle Young leaves final game early after blow to head

Adam Jardy
The Columbus Dispatch

PITTSBURGH – Ohio State was starting to make a charge, and Kyle Young was wrapped up in it.

With a Sweet 16 berth on the line, No. 2 seed Villanova had flexed its muscles on the seventh-seeded Buckeyes to build a lead as high as 15 points during the second half. But rather than succumb to a blowout, Ohio State revved up its offense and scored on 10 of 11 possessions to pull within 57-51 with 8:55 to play. PPG Paints Arena was rocking, and then a sickening silence came over the crowd as play was whistled dead following a Malaki Branham jumper.

There, near the 3-point line, sat Young with his head in his hands. On the previous play, Young’s head struck the shoulder of a Villanova player. And as the training staff came out to check on the fifth-year forward, one of four captains on this team, Young remained on the ground. He would be escorted to the bench, then to the end of the bench and eventually to the locker room.

He wasn’t around to watch his teammates pull within two points with 5:39 to play, and when the final buzzer sounded it brought an end to Ohio State’s season and Young’s collegiate career.

“He makes a difference for us, for sure,” Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann said after the game. “I love Kyle, love Kyle. He represents everything we want. He competes at the highest level. He's a special, special kid and special player.

“He's being evaluated now, and I think more than anything he's disappointed about the loss.”

Two days prior, Young had returned after his third concussion in a little more than a year had sidelined him for the previous three games. In a 54-41 win against Loyola Chicago, Young played a season-high 35 minutes and finished with 9 points and seven rebounds while assuming a key defensive role that allowed the Buckeyes to switch liberally on defense.

Saturday, Villanova coach Jay Wright highlighted Young as he previewed the looming matchup with the Buckeyes.

“With their team as it is now, their balance, putting Kyle Young back in there just makes everybody better,” he said. “Young allows you to do both and allows all those guards -- because he can make plays for his teammates and he can score himself, he can post-up, and he's a great defender.”

After the game, Young posted a message to Twitter thanking fans for their support.

“I’ve loved every minute I got to play in a Buckeye uniform and I am so grateful I had the opportunity to compete for this university,” he wrote. “I’m going to miss this with all of my heart but want to say thank you for all the love and support over the years.”

In his final game, Young finished with 6 points, six rebounds and two turnovers in 27:44.

Despite Young’s absence, Ohio State continued to chip away at Villanova’s lead and got within 60-58 when Jamari Wheeler hit a 3-pointer with 5:39 to play. The Wildcats would answer, and they led 64-59 at the final media timeout.

With 3:38 to play, the teams took the court as E.J. Liddell went to the free-throw line for a one-and-one situation. To that point, Liddell was 3 for 4 from the line, but he missed the front end and a chance to make it a one-possession game.

It was the first of four empty chances for the Buckeyes to cut into the lead that saw them come up empty. While the defense forced three straight Villanova misses, Ohio State followed Liddell’s free-throw miss with a Liddell turnover, a Branham 3-pointer that just rolled out and an illegal screen call on Zed Key.

Villanova finally delivered the dagger when Eric Dixon, who had attempted 29 3-pointers all season, drilled one with 1:38 remaining to give the Wildcats a 67-59 lead.

“We needed to be better in that stretch,” Holtmann said. “That stretch was critical.”


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