Illini Men Bounce Back With Win Over Ohio State
The Illini men's basketball team beat Ohio State 75-70 Sunday night in Champaign.
Illinois used 49% field-goal shooting and a plus-10 rebounding margin to build a 15-point lead in the first half; then withstood a second-half Buckeye comeback to earn its first Big Ten win of the year.
Malcolm Hill had 20 points, Tracy Abrams scored 16 and Michael Finke 12, making 2-of-4 shots from three-point range.
But when those three arrived at the postgame press conference, they couldn't help but talk over each other to proclaim their choice for the game's most valuable player: Leron Black, who had a career-high 15 rebounds in 27 minutes.
"One hundred percent the MVP," Hill said. "Just imagine the offensive rebounds if he wouldn't have gotten them, because they got a lot of offensive rebounds."
Kam Williams and Marc Loving scored 10 apiece for the Buckeyes. Jae'Sean Tate added 9 points and a team-high 9 rebounds.
JaQuan Lyle led Ohio State (10-4, 0-1 Big Ten) with 26 points, 18 of which came in the second half when Ohio State turned an 11-point halftime deficit into a two point lead.
Illini coach John Groce admitted afterward that he was happy Ohio State erased his team's big lead.
"Now that I know we won, I'm glad that they popped us in the mouth," Groce said. "And we had to respond to that, and I thought our response to that was certainly a lot better than it was the other night."
Just four days removed from a 25-point drubbing at Maryland, Groce observed that Big Ten games are universally competitive.
He alluded to Nebraska's road wins this week at Maryland and 16th-ranked Indiana, and Minnesota's overtime win last night at 15th-ranked Purdue, as proof that the league is never predictable.
"It's a league where anyone can win," Groce said, "and anyone can get beat if you don't play well. Obviously the early games are showing that. You know, it certainly makes it challenging, but at the same time, fun."
The Illini improved to 11-4 overall, and 1-1 in the conference. They'll have the week off before returning to action at Indiana late Saturday afternoon.