Buckeyes Blow Late Lead, Drop Fourth Straight

Ohio State, looking to head into the post season with some momentum, had the ball and a four point lead with under 4 minutes to play, but 4th ranked Illinois finished the game on a 9-0 run to come away with a 73-68 win over Ohio State in Columbus. The loss dropped Ohio State to 18-8 and 12-8 in the conference and sealed Ohio State’s fifth place finish in the Big Ten. The Buckeyes were led by E.J. Liddell’s 19 while Justice Sueing added 15 and 8 rebounds and Duane Washington also added 15.

Illinois got out to a quick 6-0 lead before the Buckeyes got on the board with a Justice Sueing triple to cut the lead in half. C.J. Walker got to the rim in transition for a score and after Duane Washington Jr. knocked down a three, Ohio State took a 2-point lead. Seuing scored on a rebound and put back while being fouled. He hit the subsequent free throw to give Ohio State a 5-point lead and an 11-0 run. Four straight Illini points cut the lead to one, but Washington scored off the bounce mid paint and the Buckeyes were back up three. Purdue cut the lead back to one, but Washington scored again in the middle of the lane while being fouled and at the under 16 media timeout, Ohio State led 15-12. Washington drilled the freebie out of the timeout and the Buckeyes led by four, but the Illini outscored the Buckeyes 7-1 over the next two minutes to go back ahead two at the media timeout and just under 12 minutes to go in the half. The Illini scored the next four, increasing their run to 9-0 and the lead to six before Washington nailed a three to end the run and cut the lead to three. An Illinois bucket followed by a Sueing leaner mid paint kept the deficit at three, but Illinois scored the next four to take a seven-point advantage into the under 8 media timeout. An Illinois free throw bumped the lead to eight, but back-to-back Zed Key buckets trimmed the lead back to four. Illinois took the four-point lead quickly to 10 with a 6-0 run before a Liddell triple from the right point fell and at the final media timeout of the first half, Illinois led Ohio State 36-29. A Justin Ahrens triple off an out of bounds play under their own bucket cut the lead to four but a 5-0 Illinois run bumped the deficit back to 9. Another Ahrens three cut the deficit to six with less than a minute to play. Liddell scored on a rebound and put back in the waning seconds to complete the scoring and send the teams to the locker room with Illinois clinging to a 41-37 lead. The Illini did their damage in the paint, hitting on 62% of their field goals, despite being just 1 of 6 from long range. Ohio State hit 42% from the field, including 6 of 15 from beyond the arc. Duane Washington led the Buckeyes with 11 first half points, while Justice Sueing scored 9, while pulling down 9 rebounds. The Illini put three in double figures in the first half, led by Ayo Dosunmu and Andre Curbelo’s 11 each, while Kofi Cockburn added 10.

Washington hit a 15 footer while he was heavily defended to open the second half scoring and when Kyle Young scored at the rim, the game was tied with 18:30 remaining. Walker got a steal on the other end and went coast to coast for a score putting Ohio State ahead for the first time since early in the ball game. Illinois tied the score on their possession but Sueing lobbed to Liddell who scored off the glass to put Ohio State back ahead. Illinois tied it once again and at the first media timeout of the second half, Ohio State and Illinois were deadlocked at 45. The Illini scored the next five to go up five, but Liddell scored mid paint to cut the deficit back to three. Walker drilled a three from the right wing to tie it but a pair of free throws put Illinois back ahead with 9 and a half to go. A pair of Sueing free throws re-tied the score, but Illinois’ Dosunmu scored with a short jumper to put the Illini back ahead. On the other end, Sueing used a Seth Towns screen and got to the rim off the bounce and scored to tie the score again. The Illini went back ahead on the next possession with a baseline move and with 8 minutes to go, Ohio State trailed Illinois 56-54. A pair of Sueing free throws tied it and after an Illinois miss, Washington got in the lane off the dribble and dished to Liddell who scored to put Ohio State ahead. Another Liddell bucket put Ohio State up four, but two Illini free throws cut the lead to two. The Illini split a pair of free throws to cut the lead to one, but Liddell drilled a three from the left point to put Ohio State back up four. Another two Illinois free throws cut the lead back to two before Washington got to the rim and scored with a scoop shot and Ohio State was back up four. An Illini triple from the corner cut the lead to one but on the next possession, Liddell buried another three from the top and Chris Holtmann called a quick timeout with Ohio State leading 68-64 and 3:46 remaining in the game. An Illinois free throw cut it to three and after an Illinois triple tied it with 1:30 to go, the Buckeyes missed on their end and Dosunmu scored at the rim while being fouled by Sueing who committed his fifth and final foul. Dosunmu hit the free throw to go up three and after another Buckeye miss and two more Illinois free throws sealed it as Ohio State went scoreless in the last 3:46 of the game.

This game was a tough one to lose for Ohio State as a game they had nearly secured slipped through their fingertips in the waning minutes and the late season slide continues. Illinois controlled the game much of the first half before a late run got Ohio State back in it and the two went back and forth for much of the second half before it looked like the Buckeyes had gained control and had a chance to put it away. The lack of end of the game execution continues to plague this team and has to be a major concern heading into postseason play. While the Big Ten was extremely difficult this season, Ohio State left several wins on the floor and this game was no exception. They will have a chance to get a breath and prepare for the ‘second’ season as it’s win or go home time now.  It should be a highly contested Big Ten Tournament and hopefully Ohio State can make a run and stay for the duration.

Ohio State will head to Indianapolis and Lucas Oil Stadium for the Big Ten Tournament to play on Thursday at approximately 2PM as the 5 seed, playing the winner of Minnesota and Northwestern.

-Jason Harris

Photo Credit – Buckeye Wire

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