Ohio State Suffers Devastating Defeat at Home

Ohio State, looking to win it’s fourth straight game, failed to be up to the task, falling to Illinois at home, 63-56.  The Buckeyes fall to 16-8 and 6-7 in Big Ten play with the loss.  C.J. Jackson led Ohio State with 17 and Kaleb Wesson chipped in 11 and Andre Wesson 10.  It was a back and forth game in which neither team took control but Illinois was more efficient and made more plays than Ohio State did late to pull away and were able to come away with a road win, the fourth straight win for the Illini.

The game teetered back and forth early after the Buckeyes scored the first four points of the game, with Ohio State and Illinois both enjoying one possession leads.  The Buckeyes went to a 2-3 zone defense at the 11-minute mark and it worked, holding the Illini scoreless for over 2 minutes, but Ohio State failed to take advantage.  A Trent Frazier three from the right wing gave Illinois a 4-point lead, their largest of the game with 7:41 to go in the half.  Following a Buckeye turnover, Frazier buried another 3 to give the Illini a 7 point lead with 6 minutes remaining in the half.  The Buckeyes continued to struggle from the field and Frazier hit a fade away jumper from the left wing to put Illinois ahead by 9, a lead they enjoyed as the teams hit the bench for the under 4 minute media timeout as Ohio State went over 3 minutes without scoring.  The Buckeyes would go on a 6-0 run to cut the Illini advantage to 3 as Illinois went nearly 3 minutes without scoring. Illinois bumped the lead back to 6 before a Kaleb Wesson triple from the right point trimmed the margin back to 3 with 34 seconds remaining and that’s the way the half would end as Illinois went to the locker room leading 30-27.  Kaleb Wesson led Ohio State with 9 and C.J. Jackson scored 7.  It was far from an efficient half for Ohio State, turning it over 10 times leading to 10 Illini points.  Illinois turned it over 7 times, but Ohio State scored just 4 off of those turnovers.  Neither team shot the ball particularly well in the first 20 minutes.  Ohio State hit on 38% of their attempts, including just 2 of 6 from deep and Illinois shot 41% from the field, and just 3 of 11 from long range.    The Buckeyes were able to take a little momentum to the locker room, finishing the last 4 minutes of the half on a 9-3 run.

The Buckeyes trimmed the lead to 1 early in the second half before an Illini run stretched the lead to 7 thanks to 3 additional Ohio State turnovers.  The Buckeyes battled back and drew even at the 13-minute mark when C.J. Jackson scored on a dribble drive lay in while being fouled and converted the 3-point opportunity to tie the score at 40.  The Buckeyes came right back as Keyshawn Woods with a feed to the flashing Duane Washington down the lane led to a rim rattling slam that cut the lead to 2.  After Kyle Young fouled out of the ball game, a key loss, at the 8:40 mark, Ohio State grabbed the lead as Luther Muhammad found Washington in transition and another thunderous slam while being fouled tied the game.  Washington bagged the free throw giving Ohio State a 1-point lead with 8:30 to go in the game.  A 4-0 Illinois answer gave the Illini a 3-point lead heading to the under 8 media timeout.  An Illinois 3 stretched the lead to five with just over 5 minutes to go but a Keyshawn Woods jumper cut the advantage back to 3 and Ohio State called a timeout with 4:54 on the game clock and Illinois on top 51-48.  With Illinois leading 55-51 and 2:19 remaining, Kaleb Wesson became the second Buckeye post player to foul out and the Illini converted one of the two free throws to lead by 5.  A Jackson lay in on the backdoor along the baseline off a feed from Woods and the ensuing free throw completed the old-fashioned three-point play cutting the Illini lead to 3 with 1:37 to play.  After an Illinois bucket, Luther Muhammad buried two free throws to cut the lead back to 3 with 57 seconds left on the clock.  After an Ohio State timeout, a long dagger Illini 3 from the right point all but sealed the Illinois win.  An Ohio State turnover on a tie up on the following possession and an Illinois free throw completed the scoring.

It was another game where the Buckeyes struggled with offensive efficiency, turning it over 18 times and shooting just 36% from the floor and those don’t add up to many victories.  At this point of the season, unfortunately, the Buckeyes are who they are.  They are not going to suddenly be super-efficient on the offensive end.  Kaleb Wesson isn’t going to suddenly become a finesse player on either end and there isn’t a true point guard walking into the building.  They are going to turn it over and in order to win games, they need to shoot it better than they did tonight.  They lost a game tonight that what had to be considered a must win to slip into the NCAA tournament and now with the loss, they are going to have to steal a road win at one of the remaining 3 tough environments, Michigan State, Maryland or Purdue.  On top of that, they need to win the home games and at Northwestern to get in.  It has turned into a definitive transition year for the young Buckeyes and we will find out what they are made of the rest of the way.

Ohio State will look to rebound in a tough environment on Sunday afternoon in East Lansing, Michigan.  The Buckeyes and the Spartans are scheduled to tip at 1 PM, airing on CBS.

-Jason Harris

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