There have been some truly great 1,000-point scorers in the history of Ohio State men’s basketball. To date, there have been a total of 59 of them, and only two that have reached 2,000 points: Dennis Hopson (2,096) and Herb Williams (2,011). Duane Washington Jr. is the most recent Buckeye to eclipse the 1,000 point mark, as he accomplished the task just last season.
As it stands right now, Ohio State star junior E.J. Liddell has 988 points for his career, so barring something catastrophic <knocks emphatically on wood>, the junior will be the 60th player to join that illustrative group. However, with the Buckeyes’ home game against Nebraska on Saturday postponed, Liddell will reach the 1,000 point mark on the road, either at the Barn against Minnesota on Thursday or at Purdue next Tuesday. Some thought that he might get the job done against IUPUI on Tuesday, but with the game getting out of hand fairly quickly, he only scored 13 points and fell 12 shy of the historic mark.
But, to backtrack for a second and keep everyone updated on the current Bucketheads’ “You’re Nuts” standings, last week we talked about whether or not we think Malaki Branham could work his way into the NBA draft this season with his incredible start to the new year.
Maybe for a first time ever, the optimistic Buckeye fans outweighed the pessimistic. The majority of respondents (59%) agreed with Connor who said “Yes,” and only 41% agreed with Justin, who said “No.”
So here are the current standings through 35 (wow) weeks.
After 35 weeks:
(There have been two ties)
So, onto this week’s Liddell-focused topic.
Today’s Question: What’s been your favorite E.J. Liddell performance?
Connor: 34 points against Northwestern (Jan. 9, 2022)
Okay, if Justin’s not going to grab the career-high in points, five blocks, trying to shake off COVID-19-rust game, then I’ll do it. My favorite game of Liddell’s career — so far — was his 34-point game against Northwestern a few weeks ago at the Schott. Turns out that the Buckeyes needed this kind of game from E.J., too, as they still only beat the Wildcats by eight points.
There were a few things riding on this game that should be noted. First of all, the Buckeyes were 1-1 since returning from their three-week COVID-19 pause, with an overtime victory over last-place Nebraska and a loss at Indiana. So essentially they’d played a very poor game against a bad team and still won, and then played poorly on the road and lost decisively to a good team. So after that, a home game against Northwestern was one that Ohio State absolutely had to have.
Second, Liddell just flat-out had not played well in the previous two games. After being one of the leading candidates for both the national and Big Ten Player of the Year awards, he laid a couple of eggs against the Huskers and Hoosiers that effectively took him out of those conversations altogether. In those two games, he combined to score 21 points on 5-of-26 shooting while also pulling down 17 rebounds and blocking six shots. Now in fairness to Liddell, he did have Covid the previous week, and it really showed. So, like his team, E.J. was in desperate need of a bounce-back game.
Liddell began the bounce-back by knocking down five-straight threes to start the game, scoring 17 points (more than he scored against Nebraska or Indiana) before the first media timeout. As he ran back down the court after one of his five makes, Liddell looked down at his hand for a moment, giving it the “It’s hot!” gesture.
I had the pleasure of being in the building to watch this one, and it really got to a point where every time he shot the ball, both Liddell and the crowd collectively willed the ball into the basket. Whether it was a three-pointer, an offensive putback, or his patented step-back elbow jumper, everything was dropping for the former Illinois Mr. Basketball, All-Big Ten honoree, and future NBA draft pick.
Liddell would finish the game with a career-high 34 points on 12-of-20 shooting, including 5-of-7 from three-point range. He also blocked five shots — his second highest total of the season — and dished out two assists. He “only” scored 17 points over the final 35 minutes of the game after his torrid start, but those first five minutes certainly helped interim coach Jake Diebler get comfortable as he filled in for an ill Chris Holtmann that day.
“Boy it sure is great to have E.J. Liddell,” was Diebler’s opening statement after the game when he spoke to the media. Have to agree with you there, Jake.
Justin: 26 points at Illinois (Jan. 16, 2021)
This was one of the best games that Liddell has recorded and it just so happened to come in his home state against Illinois. Liddell scored 26 points on 10-for-16 shooting and 4-for-7 from the behind the arc; he also had seven rebounds and an assist, so a pretty good night.
This was also a big game in proving that Ohio State was a contender in the Big Ten Conference as defeating a really talented Illinois team in mid-January in a hostile environment goes a long way to show what a team is made of. Plus it had to feel good for Liddell to play well in his home state. In four career games against the Fighting Illini, Liddell is averaging 18.5 points and eight rebounds per game; something about Illinois brings out the best in Liddell.
Another thing about this game was that Liddell absolutely carried the team to victory. The second leading scorer for the Buckeyes in this game had 11 points — to be fair, three Buckeyes put up that number: Duane Washington, Justin Ahrens and Seth Towns. Liddell and current Chicago Bull Ayo Dosunmu were the only players to score more than 20 points in the contest.
When Liddell is allowed to get comfortable on the offensive end, he can take over any game against any defense. In this one, he was comfortable the entire time and never let his foot off the gas, willing the Buckeyes to victory. This was a win that helped Ohio State shake off some cobwebs and led to them winning seven of their next eight games.
Favorite E.J. Liddell game?
This poll is closed
Career-high 34 pts against Northwestern (Connor)
26 points to beat Illinois in Champaign (Justin)
A different game