The few optimists out there who thought Ohio State could upset Illinois on its home floor and stop its freefall were sorely mistaken.
The Buckeyes trailed by double digits for the final 14 minutes of play. After OSU allowed Nebraska and Northwestern to hit a combined 53.3% of their three-point attempts, Illinois shot 51.7% from the field and 41.2% from distance against Ohio State.
Ultimately, the Buckeyes just looked overmatched, falling to the Fighting Illini 87-75.
After a cold 1-of-7 shooting start, star Illinois guard Terrence Shannon Jr. racked up 23 points to help lead his squad to victory. Marcus Domask also scored 23 points while Ty Rodgers also hit double-figures for the Orange and Blue with 13 points.
Second-chance points also hurt Ohio State against what has been the team with the best rebounding margin in the Big Ten, with Illinois picking up 14 points off additional offensive opportunities.
Jamison Battle collected 21 points for the Buckeyes in a losing effort while Roddy Gayle Jr. followed with 20 points.
Ohio State has now lost three games in a row for the second time in a month and finishes January with a 2-6 record, dropping its overall record for the season to 13-8 and 3-7 in Big Ten play.
A free-flowing opening half saw Ohio State hang tight with Illinois.
It took more than 13 minutes for either side to take a two-score lead.
Gayle was a strong source of production for the Buckeyes during the timeframe. He hit two contested mid-range jumpers and slammed home a transition dunk with two hands, then hit a slick turnaround to give the Buckeyes a 21-18 lead with 9:50 to play in the half.
Evan Mahaffey converted an old-fashioned three-point play and Jamison Battle canned a layup, giving him nine points in the opening 13 minutes and change and Ohio State the game's first two-possession lead at 28-23.
Then Bruce Thornton and Felix Okpara each picked up their second fouls, and suddenly Ohio State was without both its starting point guard and starting center.
Illinois made a 7-0 run to pull back ahead 30-28, getting four points from Marcus Domask. Another five points from Domask helped the Illini grab their first two-score lead and his squad rattled off another 6-0 run.
Ohio State never led again.
Domask finished the first half with 11 points as his squad took a 41-34 lead into the locker room. Illinois closed the half on an 18-6 run.
Thornton collected five early points in the second half to try and keep Ohio State afloat, but Illinois continued expanding its lead.
Rodgers, Shannon and Domask grabbed two points apiece during a 6-0 run that made it a 56-44 Illinois lead with 14:34 to play.
A 7-0 run shortly thereafter featuring a circus three-point play from Shannon grew the edge to 68-52. Ohio State countered with a 6-0 run of its own off a pair of dunks from Mahaffey, but that was the smallest the Illinois advantage got until less than two minutes remained in the game.
Shannon rattled off six consecutive points to push the Illini's lead right back to 16, then hit a three after the Buckeyes cut it down to 12.
Domask accounted for Illinois' next six points, his final jumper effectively icing the game at 85-73 with 1:30 to play.
Ohio State heads to Iowa for a shot at breaking its 14-game road losing streak and stopping its three-game overall skid. Tipoff is at 7 p.m. Friday with FS1 set to broadcast the contest.
- After making 14 field goals all game in its loss to Northwestern, it took Ohio State less than 22 minutes to hit the same benchmark against Illinois. Clearly, it didn't do much to help the Buckeyes' cause.
- Gayle's eight made field goals were his most since hitting 11 shots against West Virginia on Dec. 30.
- Ohio State kept its rotations short on Tuesday, with only six players seeing the floor for more than 10 minutes. Freshman forward Devin Royal didn't enter the game until less than seven minutes remained.
- The Buckeyes' 12 three-point attempts were their fewest so far this season. Battle took half of those triples, hitting three.