Ohio’s triumphant advance did not last long.
The Buckeyes ended their five-game loss with a win over Iowa on Saturday, but stumbled onto the road in Champaign on Tuesday and suffered a sixth loss in their last seven games. Illinois clinched a 69-60 win to win its fifth game of the last six.
State of Ohio
Unlike Ohio State’s previous five losses, this one wasn’t particularly close, despite a single-digit deficit at the end of the night. In fact, it was the Buckeyes’ most one-sided Big Ten loss this season.
Illinois benefited from frequent fouls at Ohio State and an inefficient first half of the field for the Buckeyes, who were trailing by double digits early in the second period. Texas Tech transfer Terrence Shannon set the tone for the Illini, but his teammates blew the lid with a 10-0 run that dropped Ohio State to 17 five minutes into the second half.
The Buckeyes reduced the deficit to single digits several times after that, but never really threatened to regain control. Illinois dominated the glass and led for more than 34 minutes throughout the night, including the entire second half.
Ohio State went 9-5 into the first media timeout after a 7-0 run with back-to-back jumpers from Brice Sensabaugh. After that, the Buckeyes missed eight straight shots during a stretch in which they didn’t hit a field goal for well over five minutes. Illinois used their advantage with a 9-1 run to regain the lead by mid-half.
The Buckeyes connected from the ground on just six of their first 20 attempts, but were still just two points behind the media timeout of less than eight minutes. Two free-throw errors at the front end of ones and ones proved costly for Ohio State, who thereafter just watched as Illinois’ lead grew.
State of Ohio
With Sensabaugh and Justice Sueing both out with foul problems, the Illini opened up an 11-point lead by the 2:28 mark. Ohio State cut the lead to six with 14 seconds left, but Illinois scored the final two points to go 34-28 at halftime.
Ohio State shot just 31.3% from the field and gave up 13 free throw attempts to the Illini, who hit 11 of them. Illinois championship leader Terrence Shannon batted six of them alone. In comparison, the Buckeyes only shot 3-for-6 from the charity strip.
Illinois led the dance early in the period, but it took control of the contest with a 10-0 run from 17:53 to 15:18. Jayden Epps and Dain Dainja combined for all 10 points as the Illini extended a 17-point lead to 48-31.
But the Buckeyes didn’t wither. With Illinois up 15 at the 13-17 mark, Ohio State rattled off the next seven straight points to make it a single-figure ballgame again. Zed Key ended the run with an and-one layup to breathe life into the Buckeyes.
A little less than two minutes later, however, Key committed his fourth foul as the Illini reclaimed an 11-point lead as the clock ticked under nine minutes. Illinois’ lead on the glass became more apparent as the game progressed, and an offensive rebound led to Illini dunking to extend their lead at the 6:40 mark. Just 23 seconds later, Illinois slammed in another dunk to make it a 16-point game.
Key fouled 5:05 to play when Ohio State slipped out of batting distance. Trailing 17 at the last media timeout, it was too late for the Buckeyes to make a meaningful comeback effort.
Sensabaugh led the Buckeyes in their 11th straight game, but his 14 points were his fewest since December 8. Sueing was the only other Buckeye to finish in double digits, scoring 13 points off the bench.
Four Illini starters scored at least 11 points and Shannon led all scorers with 17 points.
Zed Key, who left Saturday’s game with a knee injury in the final seconds, was available and started the game for the Buckeyes.
Justice Sueing came off the bench for the second straight game while Bruce Thornton, Sean McNeil, Isaac Likekele and Brice Sensabaugh were in the starting lineup alongside Key. McNeil had to be brought in on Saturday due to a dental emergency.
Ohio State defeated Illinois, 86-83, in last year’s matchup at State Farm Center on February 24, 2022.
Tuesday’s game marked the first time in the last six matchups in the all-time series that neither Ohio State nor Illinois have been ranked in the AP Top 25.
Illinois last defeated Ohio State in an overtime matchup for the Big Ten Tournament championship on March 14, 2021.