Once more, Ohio State fell just short.
The Buckeyes dropped their regular-season finale, 73-68, to Illinois on Saturday for their fourth straight defeat to finish the regular season.
|#7 OHIO STATE||37||31||68|
By falling to 18-8 overall and 12-8 within conference play, Ohio State locked up the No. 5 seed in the Big Ten tournament. It will play on Thursday after a single bye.
Da'Monte Williams knocked down a 3 from the wing with a minute and a half left to tie it at 68-68. Following a Duane Washington Jr. missed 3-pointer, Ayo Dosunmu – wearing an all-black protective face mask – recorded an and-one to put Illinois up by three. A fadeaway jumper from E.J. Liddell missed, and the Buckeyes fouled Dosunmu who hit a pair of free throws to put Illinois up by five with 25 seconds left.
Liddell did his best to keep Ohio State in it. Their one-time recruiting target from Belleville, Illinois, recorded his first-ever double-double as a true freshman exactly 366 days ago with 17 points and 11 boards in a 71-63 win against Illinois. He then scored 26 points in 27 minutes of the Buckeyes' 87-81 win in Champaign less than two months ago. On Saturday, he responded from a five-point first half to finish with 19 points.
Even though the Buckeyes wasted no time in the second half pulling ahead 43-41 off of makes by seniors CJ Walker and Kyle Young, the game initially started the same way Sunday's against Iowa did: With Ohio State behind early.
|26-65 (40.0%)||FGM-FGA (PCT.)||27-52 (51.9%)|
|9-29 (31.0%)||3PM-3PA (PCT.)||4-12 (33.3%)|
|7-11 (63.6%)||FTM-FTA (PCT.)||15-24 (62.5%)|
A pair of Kofi Cockburn buckets in the paint and a layup from Adam Miller put Illinois on top, 6-0. But a Justice Sueing-led 10-0 run during which the fourth-year from Hawaii scored six points gave Ohio State the lead. The Buckeyes controlled the scoreboard for nearly four minutes with their advantage dwindling. Eventually, Andre Curbelo's corner 3 tied it at 17-17, sparking a 9-0 Illini run that put the visitors on top.
The Illinois lead grew to 10 points with 4:25 remaining in the half, but two triples from Justin Ahrens and six points from E.J. Liddell chopped Illinois' lead to 41-37 as the teams entered their respective locker rooms for halftime.
Somehow, the Buckeyes trailed by only four points despite allowing the Illini to hit 62.1 percent of their shots from the field. Brad Underwood's team scored 30 of their 41 first-half points from the paint, doing most of its offense inside while hitting 1-of-6 3s in the opening 20 minutes.
Next up: Ohio State will be the No. 5 seed in the Big Ten Tournament and will play its first game on Thursday. The game will tip off at approximately 2 p.m. against the winner of the 12/13 game between Minnesota and Northwestern.
- CJ Walker and Kyle Young went through an abbreviated Senior Day ceremony approximately 15 minutes prior to the game. They were honored along with senior team managers, given jerseys, took photos with Chris Holtmann, then went back to the locker room.
- Holtmann put his two seniors in the starting five to use the same group as the prior game: CJ Walker, Duane Washington Jr., Justice Sueing, Kyle Young and E.J. Liddell.
- This was the second game against Illinois of the season. Ohio State beat the Illini, 87-81, in Champaign on Jan. 16.
- Holtmann came into the day with a 4-2 record against Illinois, but the Illini held the all-time series lead, 103-75. The Buckeyes barely held the series lead in Columbus, going 46-42 in home games.
- Senior managers Joey Cloran, Devan Morrow and Mike Mastroianni were also honored prior to tip-off for their contributions to the program.
- A group of seven Ohio State seniors were in the crowd to serve as a student section. This was the first home game of the year for the Buckeye Nuthouse.