Win No. 20 Sloppy, but Buckeyes top Illini 48-39

By Kyle Rowland on February 15, 2014 at 9:59p

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — In a season where any sense of normalcy has gone by the wayside, Ohio State’s found life on the road to be a remedy. On Saturday night, the Buckeyes traipsed into the newly renamed State Farm Center, a personal house of horrors, where their past two games included Brandon Paul’s 43-point surge and a listless 19-point loss.

Player Min Pts Reb Stl AST BLK
ROSS 26 9 6 1 0 2
THOMPSON 25 4 2 0 0 3
WILLIAMS 20 0 4 0 0 2
CRAFT 25 14 3 3 2 0
SMITH JR. 30 4 5 0 1 0

There was little reason for optimism. But there were the men in Scarlet and Gray conquering their nemesis, defeating Illinois 48-39. It’s Ohio State’s sixth win away from Value City Arena this season and third in a row. It’s the latest chapter in the Buckeyes’ January-February oddities. They lost three consecutive road games following the New Year, but have since found comfort away from Columbus.

“We have not played our best basketball in this building,” senior point guard Aaron Craft said. “We just wanted to find a way to end that. Did we play perfect? No. There are definitely things we can get better on. But we found a way to win and that’s huge, especially going forward.”

This time, No. 22 Ohio State had to overcome wretched shooting and foul trouble. It used a pivotal 12-0 second-half run, keyed by true freshman Marc Loving, to distance itself from the Illini.

The Buckeyes limited Illinois (14-12, 3-10) to 28 percent shooting for the game and limited a team to fewer than 40 points for the third time this season.

While one could draw the conclusion that shots weren’t falling, defense was clearly a catalyst in the poor offensive showing. Ohio State had 10 steals and seven blocked shots, scoring 15 points off turnovers. The Illini had a 20-minute stretch where it scored six points.

“I thought they imposed their will on the defensive end,” Illinois coach John Groce said of the Buckeyes.

After a paltry 32 percent shooting performance in the first half, Ohio State made 9-of-19 shots in the second half.

Aaron Craft paced the Buckeyes with 14 points, three rebounds, three steals and two assists. LaQuinton Ross (six rebounds, two blocks) had nine points, and Loving scored all eight of his points after halftime. Prior to Saturday, Loving’s last field goal came Jan. 20 at Nebraska.

“When that ball went through for him, I was so excited,” Ohio State head coach Thad Matta said. “I told him in practice it was going to happen. You could see 1,000 pounds lifted off of him. We’ve seen Marc do that a lot in practice. For him to come in here and have that type of performance, hopefully it’s something we can add to our basketball team.”

Ohio State’s bench provided 17 points.


  • Ohio State has won the nine of the last 11 meetings in the series.
  • Marc Loving scored his first points since Jan. 20 at Nebraska with eight straight points in a 12-0 Buckeye run.

“What you saw with Trey, what you saw with Amedeo, those are things we need them to do,” Matta said. “We rode those guys. They were dog tired.”

Said Loving: “We needed a little spark off the bench. Seeing [a shot] go in relieved a lot of pressure. My teammates had my back during my struggles, and they were looking for me. I took the open opportunities, and they went down.”

Facing a three-point halftime deficit, the Buckeyes came out in the second half and scored 22 of 28 points, including a 12-0 run which featured eight consecutive points from Loving. During the spurt, Illinois turned the ball over six times in 10 possessions.

The Illini never got closer than five points the rest of the way, despite Ohio State’s underwhelming 60 percent free throw percentage.

Craft spent large portions of the game on the bench saddled with foul trouble. He missed the final 10:10 of the first half with two fouls. The Buckeyes were unable to create much in the way of offense with their court general watching from afar. They went nearly six minutes without scoring.

When Craft went to the bench, he was 3-of-4 from the field with seven points, two steals and an assist. But in the second half when Craft retired to a seat next to Matta, the Buckeyes responded with its decisive flurry.

“It was rough,” Craft said. “I’m sitting on the bench. It’s tough when you don’t have a say. My teammates did a great job controlling the perimeter. Guys just did a great job executing, finding ways to keep it close and that’s what we needed.”

Ohio State captured win No. 20 for the 10th consecutive season. The Buckeyes are 20-6 overall and 7-6 in the Big Ten. They host Northwestern at 7 p.m. Wednesday. 


Comments Show All Comments

Buckeye Chuck's picture

Ordinarily I'd say there's no such thing as an "unimpressive" road win in the Big Ten, but this might be the exception.

Really shocked that Groce not only hasn't made the Illini a power by now, but is presiding over a toxic waste dump.

The most "loud mouth, disrespect" poster on 11W.

+1 HS
TLB's picture

I think I would give him a little more time.  It has been a disaster there for quite a few years.

+3 HS
NoVA Buckeye's picture

If I recall correctly, weren't they a Sweet Sixteen team a year ago?

The offseason begins when your season ends. Even then there are no days off.

Jack Fu's picture

Should have been. They got jobbed by the refs at the end of their second round game against Miami.

+1 HS
Seattle Linga's picture

Much better 2nd half and Loving finally found his stroke

+3 HS
TLB's picture

Their graphic said our strength of schedule was is that possible?

+1 HS
IGotAWoody's picture

Playing in the B1G will do that for you.

“The good life is a process, not a state of being. It is a direction, not a destination.” ~Carl Rogers

Kid Gloves's picture

One game at a time

+1 HS
Optimistic Buckeye Pessimist's picture

A win is a win, especially when you don't rebound or shoot well....or make FTs.

Read my entire screen name....

+4 HS
buckeye4life050233's picture

thad definitely sent a message to Amir and Q.  They didn't play much the 2nd half.  Amir looked extra lazy tonight.  He normally looks lazy but tonight was just more than usual

+3 HS
BuckeyeSouth's picture

Agreed.  Trey MacDonald should start in place of Amir especially after the way both of them played last night.  Trey brings the energy that Amir lacks.  If we could combine their strengths into 1 player we'd have a beast in the middle.

Champions.  Undisputed.  

+4 HS
teddyballgame's picture

Illinois is pretty bad, but the part that sucks is that we're not much better. 

+1 HS
IGotAWoody's picture

We are MUCH better than Illinois.

“The good life is a process, not a state of being. It is a direction, not a destination.” ~Carl Rogers

+2 HS
UrbanCulture's picture

I say a prayer every night that we don't get matched up with UK in the ncaa tourney. They are an offensive rebounding machine

+1 HS
Crumb's picture

I liked how Loving played, hopefully the kid just gets better and better.

"The only good thing about it is winning the d*** thing" - Urban Meyer on The Game The War

+5 HS
jbirmmd's picture

If this team has any prayer of making noise in the post-season, Loving and ADV need to play more minutes and be productive in those minutes.  They appear to be our only hope of finding some offense this year.  None of our upper class players can reliably fill it up.  Even Q, who is a decent scorer has been very unreliable when needed most, especially at the line, and prone to turnovers. 

+4 HS
4cardpoker's picture

The good thing is that this team plays really hard.  The bad news is that the talent offensively just isn't there.  Scott and Craft are two of the best on-ball defenders in the country and are excellent in the passing lanes.  Sam Thompson is as athletic as anyone in the country.  Lenzelle, Trey and ADV play extremely hard when they're in.

Unfortunately there hasn't been much improvement from the upperclassmen.  Craft is the same player he was 4 years ago, Scott the same player he was three years ago. Sam Thompson is the same player. Lenzelle for some reason gets really uncoordinated when running a fast break; in fact the team as a whole is generally awful at converting fast breaks.  Trey McDonald plays hard, but should not be this raw and horrible at FT's after 3 yrs.

The effort is there, and for that reason I can tolerate this team.  But the simple fact is that the staff missed on both bigs and the team is very unskilled at shooting the ball.  Unfortunately, if the upperclassmen haven't learned to shoot and fast break properly by now, it's not realistic for us to believe that they're going to all of a sudden start doing it now

+10 HS
UrbanCulture's picture

I think outside of craft, this team has a low basketball IQ in general. The pass Sam Thompson tried to make on a fast break was a BIG no-no. Thats not the first time he absolutely f-ed up while leading the break as well.

+2 HS
4cardpoker's picture

I believe Scott has a high basketball IQ along with Craft.  He just is not a good shooter.  If you notice Scott is good at getting others the ball on the break. He rarely turns it over in transition.  It's when Thompson, Smith or ADV are forced to lead the break that things get ugly.  You can tell Scott has all the PG skills except shooting.  He is an EXCELLENT defender, both on ball and weak side.  You don't get to be that good playing the passing lanes without a high basketball IQ.  

Side note:  I believe Loving has a high basketball IQ.  You can tell he was well coached in HS.  He seems to have a grasp on basic fundamentals and situations, he just needs to get stronger.  

Unfortunately I believe you offer a correct assessment regarding the rest of the team.  It seems that McDonald, Amir, Lenzelle, and Thompson are still learning the game.  Basic things like dribbling, footwork, using the offhand, coordination on the fast break, FTs, etc are all things that should have been mastered at the high school level if you are good enough to earn a scholarship at OSU.  These guys have a combined 13 years in the program and should be better than they are.  I will not knock the effort though or lack of egos.  They are all team players who try their best

+9 HS
PhilbertTheGreat's picture

yes. very low IQ.


ShowThemOhiosHere's picture

That game wasn't good for anyone who likes offense.  But hey, it's a win...and as my man DDP would say - that's not a bad thing, that's a good thing!

Class of 2010.

NashBuckeye's picture

I couldn't believe my eyes as we "pulled away" with a lineup of Scott, ADV, Loving, McDonald, and Smith

+1 HS
FROMTHE18's picture

another 20 win season for Thad then…i dig that.

+3 HS
shizawn9415's picture

Here's a rundown of our team:

Craft- Needs to drive to the basket, every time.  Ross- A natural scorer.  But can you dribble? Cant you dunk it more often? I mean you are 6'8" right? Thompson- Can you dribble?  Amir- Concentrate on your defense, we all know that you have nothing to offer on the offensive end other than bringing the ball down to your ankles with one dribble and then trying a dunk attempt. Lenzelle- you think that you are a long range shooter but lets try driving to the basket first, ok?  Scott- Love the Defense.  But what's with the skip passes, and can you make a contested layup? ever? DLV- Keep up the energy and don't always think about the three. It seems like you have some ability to take it to the rim but we haven't seen enough yet.  Loving- Drive to the basket, the threes will come after.  McDonald- Concentrate on Defense.  

A common theme with the team is that we need to drive to the basket more often.  Problem is, only a few players have the dribbling ability to actually make it there without getting their pocket picked. They can be tough to watch at times since it seems like they are coached to pass the ball around the three point line for about 25 seconds.  Then someone needs to shoot a three and miss.  No offensive rebounds because everyone is watching the attempt from outside of the arch.

+2 HS
bucksfan92's picture

You hit it pretty much on the head.  This season has been the most frustrating one to watch under Matta so far.  They legitimately could still be undefeated, and really only the games @MSU and @Minny are "legit" losses.  Every other loss we had a double digit lead late in the second half.

Overall this team needs to keep playing fast and force the tempo of the game to speed up to more of a transition game.  It seems like every single game we get a 10-12 point lead with 7 minutes to go, then we decided to try and run the clock out.  WTF?  In basketball the aggressive team wins.  We have got to stay aggressive, and not play so passively once we get a decent size lead.  Starting doing it again last night too, we are just lucky Illinois is hot garbage.

On the plus side ADV has markedly expanded his game from last year.  He can still be deadly from 3, but now he has added the penetrating drive.  The charging call he picked up in the first half was total BS, and I think he is going to be a big scorer next year.  Same with Loving.  That kid just has superstar written all over him.  He is not afraid to mix it up and from day 1 he has looked comfortable on the floor.  We have to win out now to have even a change at finishing in the top 4 and getting that all important Thursday bye in the B1GT. 

outdated's picture

Amir?  7 foot no points and 4 rebounds.  Can't move his feet and can't jump.  LAZY

Was afraid Thad was going to burst a blood vessel when he unloaded on Amir.

+2 HS
Nutinpa's picture

Yeah, lol.   Thad went Brian Kelly and Bo Pelini on him, all rolled into one!

OSUFlash's picture

You know the shooting was bad when Craft is your leading scorer and he looked damn good too and only played 25 min. I think he shot better than 80% from the floor. Williams, Smith and Scott basically very little support and Ross and Thompson only slightly better. It was nice to see Loving and Amadeo finally make a few baskets.

Craft an Scott really played great defense but I think my favorite part in the game was when Matta light up Amirs ass during a TO.

The refs called at least 2 phantom fouls on Craft that were complete bullshit! Seems like the refs are watching him much more closely and calling shit that they "think" they see.

Now lets keep this freaking thing rolling.


+2 HS
O-H-I-Owe-U's picture

Amir is a riddle, wrapped inside an enigma, wrapped up in a 6'11" nba frame. 

+2 HS
PhilbertTheGreat's picture

surrounded by a conundrum.


Knarcisi's picture

We have to find more minutes for ADV and McLovin. There is some semblance of an offensive threat with them on the floor. 

Josh P's picture

Who's excited to be the victim of the 12-5 upset this year?