Ohio State Downs Illinois In Overtime, 68-63
The Ohio State Buckeyes survived an Illini comeback Thursday night in Champaign, beating Illinois 68-63 in overtime.
Down thirteen with just over six-and-a-half minutes remaining, the Illini reeled-off a 15-to-2 run capped by a Jalen Coleman-Lands three-pointer with a minute to play.
Neither team could score in the final seconds. Keita Bates-Diop blocked a Malcolm Hill three-pointer to force the extra period.
Bates-Diop then forced Hill to fumble a hand-off to Kendrick Nunn on what might have been another game-tying three with 8 seconds left in overtime.
“We just try to dribble keep," said Nunn, describing the play afterward. "Obviously, it was a collision. I thought it was a foul. But the refs called it and they went their way.”
Asked what he would have liked to see at the end of regulation, Illini coach John Groce did not fault Hill for choosing to shoot on what was, essentially, a clear out play designed as a read option.
“You know, obviously, if you got to do it over again, he’s got a guy six-foot-eight with a wingspan of plus-seven on him that’s already blocked three of our balls," said Groce. "You’ve got a one-four flat situation there. I’m sure he’d be the first to tell you he would like to drive it if he had to do it over again. He chose not to. I’m going to ride with him. I’ve put the ball in his hands, or we have, on numerous occasions over the two or three years. Today it didn’t work out.”
Nunn scored a game-high 24-points, including 5-of-11 from three-point range. Trevor Thompson led Ohio State with 16.
It was a happy homecoming for a pair of central Illinois natives. Ohio State men's basketball coach Thad Matta, a Hoopeston native, was a candidate for the Illinois coaching job in 2003 before then-athletic director Ron Guenther hired Bruce Weber. Matta was hired at Ohio State the next year, and has won five Big Ten Championships since then.
Sophomore Bates-Diop is a Normal U-High grad. He was recruited by Illinois before signing with the Buckeyes. He scored fifteen points and grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds Tuesday.
Matta hopes to lure another central Illinoisan to Columbus. During the visit, he offered a scholarship to Champaign Central's Tim Finke, the younger brother of current Illini Michael Finke.
O-S-U out-rebounded the Illini 51-34. And while the Illini enjoyed a 31-to-13 advantage on free-throw attempts, they converted only 18.
The Buckeyes improve to 14-8 on the year, 6-3 in the Big Ten. Illinois is now 10-11 overall, 2-6 in conference.
The Illini return to action against Wisconsin Sunday evening in Champaign.