Illinois Bullies Ohio State, Sends Buckeyes Down to 6th Loss in 7 games

Ohio State, coming off a big home win on Saturday and looking for momentum on the road, could not get it done, falling behind as many as 17 before falling in Champaign, 69-60. The loss dropped Ohio State to 11-9 and 3-6 in conference and the win improved Illinois to 14-6 and 5-4. Ohio State, which shot just 37% from the floor, was led by Brice Sensabaugh’s 14, though he struggled on just 5 of 13 shooting, and Justice Sueing added 13. Illinois shot 41% and was led by Terrance Shannon’s 17. The Illini’s dominance on the glass, out rebounding Ohio State 44-30, along with Ohio State’s lapses defensively in the half court led to easy Illinois buckets and dug Ohio State into a big hole early in the second half. They were able to fight back somewhat, but could not get closer than 8. In addition, Ohio State’s abysmal free throw shooting, hitting just 12 of 20, hurt any chances the Buckeyes had of making a comeback, ultimately falling as Illinois cruised to a relatively easy win.

After 4 minutes and at the first media timeout, fueled by five Sean McNeil points and a jumper by Brice Sensabaugh, the Buckeyes were on top 7-5. After an Illini turnover, Sensabaugh hung in the air from 7 and banked in the short jumper off the window to put Ohio State up 4. A 5-0 Illini run put Illinois on top 10-9 at the under 12 media timeout with the Buckeyes off to a slow start shooting the basketball against an aggressive Illini defense, hitting just 4 of their first 14 shot attempts. The Illini run was extended out of the timeout to 7-0 after a pair of free throws dropped. Sensabaugh split a pair of free throws to stop the run and ended an over 5 minute scoreless drought for Ohio State. A pair of Illini free throws, followed by a pair from Sensabaugh kept the Buckeye deficit at 2. After an Illinois jumper dropped, Ohio State raced up the floor and Bruce Thornton buried a three from the right point to cut the deficit to 1.  A bucket and one of two from the line put Illinois up 4 before Sensabaugh banked in a short jumper from the left block and at the under 8, Illinois led Ohio State 19-17. The Buckeyes had a pair of chances to tie at the free throw stripe but missed a pair of front ends and came away scoreless. Instead,  Illinois drilled a pair of their own to grow the lead to 4. A Sueing bucket mid-paint was followed by an Illini bucket at the rim and after a Buckeye miss, Sueing picked up his third foul, on a poor call, phantom fouling a three point attempt. Two of the three free throws dropped and after an Ohio State turnover turned into a dunk the other way, Chris Holtmann took a timeout with Illinois suddenly on top 27-19. Ice Likekele’s short jumper cut into the lead, but a 5-0 Illinois run extended the lead to 11. Roddy Gayle stopped the run with a triple from the right wing and the Buckeyes cut the lead to 6 when Gene Brown scooped a shot off the glass from the right block. With time running short, Illinois got in the lane and drew a foul and got to the line where both freebies dropped. Ohio State raced down the floor for a last shot and Likekele’s attempt at the rim was blocked, sending the teams to the locker room with Illinois leading Ohio State 34-26. The Buckeyes were held to just 31% shooting including 3 of 8 from downtown, while Illiinois shot 45% from the floor and just 3 of 13 from long range. The difference in the first half was the free throw shooting, the normally poor shooting Illini, hit 11 of 13, while Ohio State made just 3 of 6, which included a pair of missed front ends of one and one’s. Brice Sensabaugh led Ohio State with 9, while sitting much of the last 5 minutes with 2 fouls, while Illinois was led by Terrance Shannon’s 12. 

Illinois opened the half with a 4-0 to open up a 12 point lead before Likekele’s bucket from the right block got the Buckeyes on the board in the second half. Ohio State cut into the lead a bit more when Thornton got to the rim around a ball screen and scored off the window while being fouled. He buried the ensuing free throw to complete the old fashioned three point play and cut the lead to 7. The Buckeye 5-0 run was answered by a 10-0 Illini run and the wheels were falling off for Ohio State as the Buckeyes took a timeout with 15:13 to play and suddenly trailing 48-31. Sueing stopped the run with a short jumper in the middle of the lane and a Sueing scoop and score cut into the lead a bit more. After an Illini bucket, Thornton got into the lane and scored from 8 feet. Another Illini score was answered by a Zed Key bucket and at the under 12, Ohio State was a little closer but still trailed 52-39. An inbounds pass under the bucket out of the timeout found Sueing cutting to the bucket and he scored to get Ohio State within 11. After an Illini miss, Key completed an old-fashioned three point play and the Buckeyes cut the lead to 8. A 4-0 Illinois run stopped a 6-0 Buckeye run and extended the lead before a Sueing jumper above the stripe dropped and Ohio State took a timeout with 9:52 to play and Illinois leading 56-46. After an Illini turnover, Key got to the line where he knocked down one of two and the Buckeyes were within 9. However, just when Ohio State was creeping back in it, four straight Illini points led into the under 8 media timeout and Illinois leading 60-47. Likekele split a pair of free throws to cut into the lead and after yet another second chance opportunity, an Illinois dunk put the Illini up 14. Another dunk after a Buckeye miss and the rout was on. Key split a pair of free throws, but an old-fashioned three point play put Illinois up 17, matching their largest lead. Sensabaugh buried a jumper from the left wing, but back came Illinois, scoring against the porous Ohio State D and at the final media timeout, Illinois was on top 69-52. A pair of McNeil free throws, one from Sensabaugh and a tip in by Sensabaugh cut the lead to 12. Sueing drilled a three just before the horn, but it was too little too late as the Illini walked away with the home win.

Despite Illinois being a tough venue to play in, Ohio State had won the last two in that building and coming off a win, should have had some confidence. Unfortunately the enigma that is the 2022-23 season continued. Illinois dominated in every facet and Ohio State looked confused on both ends all night long. As a staunch defender of this basketball team all season long, I cannot defend them any longer.  Tonight was as bad a collective performance on the floor in every area as I’ve seen from this program in many years. Whether it was the stagnant offense, defensive connectivity and lack of weak side rotation, shooting the basketball from both the floor and the stripe, nothing went well all night long. Credit to Illinois, but a game like tonight is completely unacceptable and will only make the calls for Chris Holtmann’s job even louder. While I don’t think he should lose his job over one game or stretch of games, they need to turn it around in a hurry or they will miss the NCAA tournament for the first time in the Holtmann era and it’s not going to get easier and the seat will get that much warmer. Despite this conference being extremely average this season, the Buckeyes are inexplicably fighting to stay out of the cellar. While young in a lot of key areas, the veterans they do have are just not providing enough to win basketball games consistently. Having said all of that, the memories need to be short as they need to quickly forget about this one and move on and try to right the ship on Saturday night. 

The Buckeyes stay on the road, heading to Bloomington, IN on Saturday night to face the preseason conference favorite Hoosiers. Tip time is scheduled for 8 PM airing on FOX.

-Jason Harris


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