As E.J. Liddell ran back on defense, he cupped his hand to his ear, listening to the Schottenstein Center come to life. The freshman forward, a native of Illinois, had just slammed the ball through the rim to give Ohio State a two-point lead with 9:02 remaining.
|#19 OHIO STATE||30||41||71|
Not too much later, Liddell had plenty more to celebrate. He and Kaleb Wesson helped extend a second-half lead for the Buckeyes, leading to a 71-63 win against Illinois on Thursday night.
With only one game remaining in the regular season, Ohio State now holds a 21-9 overall record and an 11-8 mark in the Big Ten.
Illinois grabbed a four-point lead with 11:10 remaining when Ayo Dosunmu put in a layup, but it didn't score a point for the next five minutes, allowing the Buckeyes to mount a 9-0 run, which included Liddell's put-back dunk. Ohio State's lead jumped out to eight points when Kaleb Wesson hit a layup with 3:39 remaining.
The Illini cut the Buckeyes' lead to five with 1:26 left, but they couldn't get back over the hump, ending their five-game winning streak.
|22-57 (39%)||FGM-FGA (PCT.)||24-55 (44%)|
|3-15 (20&)||3PM-3PA (PCT.)||6-22 (27%)|
|24-28 (86%)||FTM-FTA (PCT.)||9-10 (90%)|
Liddell recorded the first double-double of his career, scoring 17 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. He also had a nasty block during Ohio State's second-half run.
Since his team wasn't consistently hitting the 3-point shot, Chris Holtmann ran the offense through Liddell and Wesson in the second half until Wesson fouled out with 1:49 remaining. Wesson rebounded from a four-point first half to score 19 points in 29 minutes.
The Buckeyes hit 38.6 percent of their shots, going 3-for-15 from 3-point range. Illinois shot 43.6 percent.
Dosunmu powered Illinois' offense, scoring a team-high 21 points.
Early in Thursday's game, Illinois threatened to pull away quickly, jumping out to a 20-9 lead with 11:08 remaining in a foul-filled first half. Yet behind three pairs of free throws and five points from Duane Washington Jr., Ohio State chopped into the deficit, tying it up with a bucket in the paint from Andre Wesson with 6:02 left before halftime. The Illini ended the half on a 13-4 run to grab a seven-point halftime advantage.
The stoppage-filled first half included 11 Illinois fouls and seven Ohio State fouls. The Illini got called for five fouls within the first five minutes of the game.
The Buckeyes went on a 10-point run that began in the third minute of the second half, giving them a one-point lead that they held for just a little over a minute. Illinois held the lead for 23:40 of Thursday's game.
Ohio State will end the season having not lost at the Schottenstein Center since Jan. 23.
Next up: Ohio State goes to East Lansing, Michigan, to take on the Spartans in their final regular-season game of the season on Sunday. The game will tip off at 4:30 p.m. and will be shown on CBS.
- For senior night, Chris Holtmann inserted Danny Hummer into the starting five alongside Luther Muhammad, Duane Washington Jr., Andre Wesson and Kaleb Wesson. CJ Walker came off the bench.
- Before the game, Ohio State honored Hummer and Andre Wesson as the team's two seniors playing their final home game.
- Kyle Young, a day after Chris Holtmann deemed him day to day, missed his third game in a row due to a high ankle sprain suffered in the win against Maryland on Feb. 23. Alonzo Gaffney also sat out on Thursday for unspecified reasons.
- Ohio State played a video of the Buckeyes upsetting top-ranked Illinois in 2005, then it honored Matt Sylvester – who hit the game-winning shot – during a timeout in the first half.
- The Ohio State men's and women's fencing teams were honored on the court for winning the Midwest Fencing Conference championships.
- DJ Carton's leave of absence for mental health reasons continued. He has been away from the team since Jan. 30. He's taking classes in Columbus.