Buckeyes Come From Way Behind, Fall Short in Overtime
The Ohio State Buckeye basketball team left it all on the floor, digging a 17 point hole, climbing all the way back to force overtime and even hold a lead in the overtime period, but ultimately fell short, losing to Illinois 91-88 in the Big Ten Championship. The Buckeyes came into the Big Ten tournament limping, having lost four in a row and needing some positive momentum heading into the NCAA tournament. They got their positive momentum and then some, winning three straight games, but ultimately ran out of steam, playing their second overtime game in four days. Duane Washington Jr led Ohio State with 32 points and 8 rebounds and Justice Sueing added 22 with C.J. Walker added 16 and 6 assists.
Illinois scored the first bucket of the game when Kofi Cockburn cleaned up a miss for a rebound and put back. A pair of Justice Sueing free throws, after his offensive rebound kept the possession alive, tied the score. An old-fashioned three-point play from the Illini made the deficit 3 for the Buckeyes until Duane Washington Jr. split a pair of free throws to trim the deficit to 2. Cockburn scored again at the rim and after a Buckeye miss, Ayo Dosunmu drilled a 16-foot jumper from the right point to put Illinois up 9-3. Two E.J. Liddell free throws cut the lead to four and at the first media timeout, Ohio State was 0-8 from the floor, lacking their legs early and Illinois was up 9-5. A 4-0 Illini run bumped the lead to 8 before Sueing scored the first field goal of the game for Ohio State from the right block to cut the lead to 6. Cockburn completed an old-fashioned three point play with a dunk and a free throw to put Illinois up 9 and after a pair of Liddell free throws, back to back Illini threes put Illinois up 13 and Chris Holtmann took a timeout with Illinois out to a big 22-9 lead with 11:46 remaining in the first half. Illinois continued their dominance out of the timeout, outscoring the Buckeyes 5-1 to build a 17-point lead before Washington scored off the glass driving to the rim. Zed Key scored with a hook in the middle of the paint to cut the lead to 13 and at the under 8 media timeout, Illinois still led by a commanding 27-14 margin. After Illinois split a pair of free throws, Washington spun to the rim and scored with a floater to cut the lead to 12, but an Illinois triple increased the lead back to 15. Another Washington bucket just below the stripe cut it to 13 and after C.J. Walker picked up a steal and went coast to coast for a score, Ohio State had cut the lead to 11. The momentum was short lived as Illinois drilled another three from straight on top to up 14, 34-20 at the final media timeout of the first half. A pair of Liddell free throws coming out of the timeout cut the lead back to 12. An Illinois bucket put the Illini back up 14, but Walker scored off the bounce, scoring high off the glass and after an Illini miss, the Buckeyes raced up floor and Washington came to a hard jump stop and went up and scored while being fouled. Washington buried the free throw to trim the deficit to 9. After Illinois split a pair of free throws, Justice Sueing drilled a three from the right wing and Washington scored with a scoop at the rim to cut the Illinois lead to 5 and the Illini took a timeout with 51.7 seconds remaining in the half. The Illini buried a three out of the timeout to stop Ohio State’s 10-1 run, but Washington answered with a three from the right wing to cut the lead back to 5. The Illini, trying to hold for the final shot, turned it over, the Buckeyes raced up the floor, and Walker’s jumper from just above the stripe fell off the mark at the horn, and after 20 minutes, Illinois led Ohio State 40-35. The Buckeyes, to their credit shook off a horrendous start, trailing by as many as 17, to finish the half on a 13-4 run to get them back into the game. Duane Washington Jr. led all scorers with 15 to go along with 6 rebounds and Justice Sueing added 9. The Buckeyes poor shooting actually improved to 39% at the break, but just 2 of 11 from long demonstrated the lack of legs early. Illinois hit on 45.5% of their attempts, which included 6 of 14 from deep, which was the difference in the game at the half.
Sueing hit a short jumper just below the stripe to open the second half scoring and cutting the deficit to 3, but Dosunmu answered with a triple from the right wing to put the Illini back up 6. Liddell hit a baseline jumper to cut it to four, but an Illini score answered. Sueing cut it back to four with a floater in the lane and at the first media timeout of the second half, Illinois was clinging to a 45-41 lead with 15:43 to play. The Buckeyes were within two when Liddell scored from the right block off the glass but a pair of Illini free throws made the deficit four again. Two Sueing free throws cut the lead back to two, but a 10-1 Illinois burst put the Illini back up 11 and Chris Holtmann called timeout with 11:51 left in the game. Washington drilled a triple from the left wing to trim the deficit to 8. A pair of Illinois free throws increased the lead to 10 but back came the Buckeyes. Liddell split a pair of free throws and after an Illini turnover, Washington drilled a triple from the top to cut the lead to 6. The Illini missed on their possession and Sueing scored at the rim to cut the lead to 4. After another Illinois turnover, Walker got to the rim on the right for a score and the Buckeyes were within two. A pair of Illinois free throws stopped a Buckeye 8-0 run, but back came Walker, scoring again on the right side off the glass as he was fouled and at the under 8 minute timeout, Illinois was still up but by just 2, 61-59 with Walker due to go to the line. Walker buried his free throw to cut the lead to one. A Cockburn score put Illinois up three, but a pair of Sueing free throws cut the deficit to one again. A pair of Illinois free throws put the Illini up three, but Washington drilled a triple from the top to tie the game. After an Illini miss, Walker found the bottom in the middle of the paint for Ohio State’s first lead with 5:30 to go. The lead was short lived, however as 7 straight Illini points put Illinois back up five and Chris Holtmann called timeout with Illinois leading 72-67 with 3:21 to go. Washington scored to the right of the rim to cut the deficit to 3, but a Dosunmu triple from deep on top put Illinois back up six. The Buckeyes answered as Washington drilled a three from the left wing to cut the lead back to three and Illinois took a timeout with 1:26 showing on the game clock and Illinois leading 75-72. After an Illinois miss, the Buckeyes raced to the other end and Liddell got up for a dunk cutting the lead to 1. Illinois scored in the middle of the lane to increase the lead to 3 and the Illini took a timeout with 33.9 showing on the clock and Illinois leading 77-74. The Buckeyes got in their half court set and a second effort by Sueing who went up and scored while being fouled, cutting the lead to one. Sueing bagged the free throw to tie it and a last attempt by Illinois went awry as Cockburn tried a put back that was blocked by Liddell and the game headed to the 5 minute overtime period.
Illinois scored first in OT to take a two-point lead, but a pair of Walker free throws tied it. Dosunmu split a pair of free throws to put Illinois up a point, but Washington got to the rim off the bounce to put Ohio State up one. A 4-0 Illinois run put the Illini up four and the Buckeyes took timeout with 47.2 seconds remaining with Illinois on top 84-81. The Buckeyes turned it over out of the timeout and Illinois took a timeout, possessing the ball, up three. Illinois made a pair of free throws to go up five as time was running out on the Buckeyes. After a Buckeye miss, Illinois split a pair, and Seth Towns hit a three to cut the Illinois lead to three and Ohio State took a timeout with 15.8 seconds to play. After a quick foul, Dosunmu went to the stripe and stuck both of them to put Illinois up five. Towns split a pair of free throws and on the miss, Illinois was fouled. The Illini made both to go up six and at the horn, Walker drilled a three to complete the scoring as Illinois won the Big Ten Tournament title.
This team continues to amaze. They have the heart and make up to make a run all the way to the final four and that becomes the goal now. After battling through a tremendous Big Ten schedule and nearly pulling off the near impossible, Ohio State is well prepared for the NCAA tournament grind. The way Washington and Sueing are playing in addition to Liddell and Walker, this team has all the makings of a team that can make a deep run. Liddell and Washington both were named to the All Big Ten Tournament team and very well deserved. We can’t wait to see what’s next.
The Buckeyes will hit the court next Friday in the first round of the NCAA tournament, taking on Oral Roberts. Time and network to be announced.
Photo Credit: USA Today