Police contacted after Ohio State’s Liddell receives threats

Sports from the AP

Ohio State’s E.J. Liddell, left, gets pressure from Oral Roberts’ Kevin Obanor during the first half of a First Round game in the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament, Friday, March 19, 2021, at Mackey Arena in West Lafayette, Ind. (AP Photo/Robert Franklin)

Ohio State officials have reached out to police about threatening and insulting social media messages sophomore E.J. Liddell received following the Buckeyes’ NCAA Tournament loss on Friday.

Ohio State associate athletic director for communications Dan Wallenberg told The Associated Press he contacted police on Saturday morning about the threats Liddell received after the second-seeded Buckeyes were upset by No. 15 seed Oral Roberts 75-72 in overtime.

Liddell, who had 23 points and 14 rebounds in the game, revealed on his Twitter feed he received threatening messages. He posted images of the messages, including one that said “I hope you die I really do.” Other messages included racist insults.

“Honestly, what did I do to deserve this?” Liddell posted on Twitter. “I’m human.”

Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said the language used against Liddell “is appalling and will not be tolerated.”

“To the few of you who have chosen to inappropriately rail against our players on social media, stop,” Smith said. “Hate and derision have no place in Buckeye Nation or in civil society. If you cross the line and threaten our players, you will be hearing from the authorities. That I promise you.

“I have nothing but love and respect for E.J. He epitomizes all that we hope for in our student-athletes.”

Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann also defended Liddell.

“Recent social media comments to E.J. Liddell, while not from or representative of Ohio State fans, are vile, dangerous and reflect the worst of humanity,” Holtmann posted on Twitter. “E.J. is an outstanding young man who had a tremendous sophomore season and he was instrumental in our team’s success. We will take all the necessary actions to address this immediately.”

Liddell said by revealing the threats and insults he was not “saying anything negative about Ohio State fans.”

“I love you all dearly and I’ve felt nothing but appreciated since the first day I stepped on campus,” he said.

Liddell said he was confused to be targeted by the messages.

“Comments don’t get to me but I just wanna know why,” he said. “I’ve never done anything to anyone in my life to be approached like this.”

STATE RIVALRY

The loyalties of some Illinois residents may be torn by Sunday’s second-round Midwest Regional game between top seed Illinois and eighth-seeded Loyola Chicago. That’s no problem for Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt, the 101-year-old chaplain for Loyola. Even so, the beloved centenarian hoops fan threw some shade at the NCAA selection committee for pairing state rivals so early.

“I’ve heard a lot of people say how come two schools from Illinois are meeting each other so soon and they have not so good feelings about it,” she said in a Zoom interview, adding she doesn’t often see state rivals from North Carolina or Florida in similar matchups.

Sister Jean taught at Chicago’s Mundelein College when Loyola beat Illinois in the 1963 NCAA Tournament. She said she was already a college basketball fan and watched on an 11-inch television when Loyola beat Cincinnati for the NCAA championship.

She said she remembers Loyola students walked down the street “yelling ‘We won! We won! We won!’ and came in the Mundelein residence hall and all the girls joined in.”

After the coronavirus pandemic kept fans away this season, Sister Jean said it meant more to attend Friday’s 71-60 winover Georgia Tech. She said she communicates by email and delivers pregame prayers by phone.

“I’m missing the guys all the time,” she said, adding “everybody was gone from campus” only a few days after the pandemic outbreak one year ago.

“It was very shocking to have all that happen,” she said.

ACC YOU LATER?

The Atlantic Coast Conference’s down year now includes a bumpy start to the NCAA Tournament.

The league got seven bids, but four of those teams – ACC Tournament champion Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, Clemson and North Carolina – lost in Friday’s first round. Duke missed the tournament for the first time since 1995.

Eleventh-seeded Syracuse was the league’s only winner Friday, beating San Diego State in the Midwest Region. Fourth-seeded Florida State held off UNC Greensboro 64-54 in Saturday’s first round of the East Region.

Regular-season champion and fourth-seeded Virginia was set to play its first game Saturday night against Ohio in the West Region. The Cavaliers were the last team to arrive in Indianapolis because of a positive COVID-19 test that forced them to withdraw from the ACC Tournament semifinals and quarantine.

The league claimed three of the past five NCAA titles: Duke (2015), UNC (2017) and Virginia (2019). The ACC, which claimed a top seed in 26 of 29 tournaments, had no team seeded higher than fourth this year for the first time since seeding began in 1979.

Orange coach Jim Boeheim said the biggest difference was the lack of a headlining team. He noted Georgia Tech didn’t have ACC player of the year Moses Wright in its loss to Loyola Chicago.

“We weren’t quite as good at the top,” Boeheim said Saturday. “Obviously Carolina and Duke weren’t as good as they’ve been. Virginia was good, but they struggled during the middle of the year. We didn’t really have a top-10, top-15, top-16, top-20 team really at the end of the day. We had a lot of good teams.”

BRACKET BUSTERS

Any fan holding an unblemished NCAA Tournament bracket has reason to brag. Friday’s first-round upsets already have blown up most brackets.

ESPN says after 16 games, there were 108 perfect brackets remaining from the 14.7 million entered before the tournament.

Ohio State’s loss was the biggest shock. ESPN says more than 95% of brackets — 13,992,289 — listed the Buckeyes beating Oral Roberts.

GATORS’ APPLEBY HEALING

Florida coach Mike White said guard Tyree Appleby “seems fine, seems normal” after suffering a head laceration on Friday and will be a game-time decision against Oral Roberts on Sunday.

Appleby was hit by an inadvertent elbow early in the second half while playing defense against Virginia Tech. He wobbled to the locker room and returned to the bench area in overtime to see the No. 7 seed Gators pull out a 75-70 victory.

White offered no update on suspended forward Omar Payne, who sat out the game because of an “in-house situation.” Payne was ejected from the SEC Tournament quarterfinals early in the second half for a flagrant-2 foul against Tennessee’s John Fulkerson, who suffered a concussion and facial fracture and did not play in Tennessee’s opening-round loss to Oregon State.

White declined to say if Payne’s suspension was related to elbowing Fulkerson.

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AP Sports Writers Aaron Beard, Will Graves, Mark Long and Mitch Stacy contributed to this report.

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More AP college basketball coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball and updated bracket: https://apnews.com/hub/ncaa-mens-bracket

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