(Image courtesy ohiostatebuckeyes.com, game information courtesy ohiostatebuckeyes.com, ESPN.com, other information courtesy of teamrankings.com)
The #19 Ohio State Buckeyes surged late in the game to overtake #23 Illinois, 71-63. Due to B1G tournament potential seeding ramifications, this was a big win on Senior Night. The win capped off a great evening where OSU’s two seniors, Danny Hummer and Andre Wesson were recognized as well as members of the national championship team of 1960. That’s pretty fast company for Danny and Andre.
Ohio State overcame very poor shooting from the field and from 3-pt range by using exceptional free throw shooting to pull away from Illinois. The FT shooting was exceptional in volume (28 attempts) and accuracy (24 conversions). In fact, the Illini outscored OSU from the field, 54-47, but Ohio State held the decisive edge at the FT line, 24-9.
Ohio State trailed at the half, 37-30, and OSU’s free throw shooting (9-10) somewhat offset a a big Illinois shooting advantage (52% – 37%). The first 10 minutes of the second half were a “catch me if you can” between the teams. In an initial three minute stretch, OSU overcame a 9 point deficit to grab the lead 40-39. Two minutes later, Illinois had the lead back to 7 points. By mid-point in the period, we were back to square one, 51-51. The Buckeyes outscored the Illini 20-12 on the basis of 10 FTs and 5 FGs.
Two statistical items of note:
- OSU’s bench outscored Illinois’ 32-11. E.J. Liddell in his “1st off the bench” role scored 17 points and CJ Walker, benched in favor of Senior Danny Hummer, scored 15.
- Speaking of CJ, he nearly doubled his season scoring average in a pretty poor shooting effort. He was 2-10 from the field, but an astonishing 11-13 from the FT line. Huh? CJ repeatedly drove to the basket, got fouled, then made the free throws. Simple…
The Buckeyes had three players score in double figures. Kaleb Wesson had 19 points, E.J. Liddell had 17 (season/career high) and CJ Walker had 15. E.J. pulled in a game high (tie) 11 rebounds for his double-double. CJ also had had 5 assists.
The Fighting Illini had two players in double figures. Ayo Dosunmu had a game high 21 points on efficient 9-14 shooting and Andres Feliz had 11 on chuck-it-up, 4-14 shooting. Andres had 11 rebounds for his double-double and Ayo had 5 assists.
Ohio State shot 38% (22-57) from the field, 20% (3-15) from 3-point range and 86% (24-28) from the foul line.
Illinois shot 43% from the field (24-55), 27% (6-22) from 3-point range and 90% (9-10) from the foul line.
Last night may not have exactly been a “right of passage” for Liddell, but he certainly affirmed that he can play B1G basketball very well. His team high 9 points in the first half provided a lifeline for his team mates and he provided just enough of a playing presence with his scoring, rebounding and defense so that his mates could pull away for the win.
EJ’s development is just in time. Ohio State is running a bit shorthanded at the moment without Young and Gaffney. A huge test awaits Sunday at the Breslin Center.
The Buckeyes head to the Breslin Center to play the Michigan State Spartans (12-4, 3, 2-3). The game is scheduled for Sunday, March 8th with tip-off at 4:30 pm ET. You can watch the game on CBS or listen to it on 97.1 The Fan. Or both.