Despite JaQuan Lyle's best efforts, Ohio State's second-half comeback came up short Sunday.
Lyle finished with a game-high 26 points — 18 of which came in the second half — but the Buckeyes fell to Illinois in their Big Ten opener, 75-70.
Down by four, Jae'Sean Tate scored on a dunk to bring Ohio State within 69-67. On the ensuing possession, however, Malcolm Hill connected on a layup. Lyle missed on the Buckeyes' next trip down the floor and then Ohio State was forced to foul. Illinois iced the game from there at the free-throw line.
Down by 11 at halftime, Ohio State cut its deficit to just three at the first media timeout as Illinois led 47-44. The Buckeyes connected on six straight field goal attempts during that run as four different players scored.
The teams went back and forth from there before sophomore point guard JaQuan Lyle took over for Ohio State. Lyle scored 10-straight second-half points and his shot off the glass with 8:34 to play gave the Buckeyes their first lead since early in the first half.
Illinois took a 40-29 lead into the locker room thanks to a 19-2 run midway through the first half. Ohio State led 19-17 after a Kam Williams jumper, but the Illini then scored 19 of the next 21 points to take a 36-21 advantage. That 15-point margin was the Illini's largest of the opening 20 minutes.
The Buckeyes responded, however, with an 8-2 spurt of their own a bit later on to get within 38-29, but a jumper by Illinois' Tracy Abrams right before the buzzer gave the Illini their 11-point halftime lead.
Ohio State struggled defensively in the first half as Illinois shot 49 percent from the field. By comparison, the Buckeyes shot just 37 percent and did not attempt a single free throw as the Illinois zone had them confused. Illinois also outrebounded Ohio State by 10 in the first half and had a 15-7 edge in bench points.
Abrams led the way for the Illini with 11 first-half points while Malcolm Hill chipped in 10 before picking up a pair of fouls. For Ohio State, JaQuan Lyle led the way with eight first-half points while Willams added seven.
Next up for the Buckeyes is 15th-ranked Purdue. Ohio State hosts the Boilermakers on Thursday at Value City Arena.