The Illinois Fighting Illini came out ice cold tonight in Columbus, but rallied late in the first half to take a 25-24 lead into the locker room at half time. Unfortunately, when play resumed in the second half the Buckeyes proved to be the more determined team not to extend their losing streak, and they upended the Illini 62-55 to snap their 4 game skid.
Illinois fell to 13-7 overall, and 2-5 in the Big Ten, with the loss.
Joseph Bertrand (19 points), Jon Ekey (11 points), and Nnanna Egwu (10 points) all answered the challenge tonight, but this time it was the Illini guards, particularly Ray Rice and his 0 points, that led to their downfall.
The Illini are out of sync offensively and yet they still had a legitimate shot at stealing a win on the road. However, it wasn’t meant to be as Lenzelle Smith, Jr. (16 points) and LaQuinton Ross (18 points) stroked three pointers down the stretch to sink the Illini.
The biggest positive to take away from tonight’s game was the resurgence of Egwu and Bertrand. Illini fans have been calling for changes to the lineup with regards to Egwu in particular, but tonight’s game should silence most of those doubters. Egwu finished with 10 points, 9 rebounds, 2 blocks, and 1 assist. Bertrand led all scorers with 19 points, but was fairly silent down the stretch despite clearly having the hot hand.
Illinois finished the game with an uncharacteristic 15 turnovers to Ohio State’s 12. Both teams shot better than 40% from the floor despite the sluggish start – OSU 41.7% / Illinois 41.2%.
Illinois returns to action Sunday afternoon when they travel to Bloomington, IN to square off with the Indiana Hoosiers at 2 pm CST.