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Ohio State holds off Illinois, 77-67

The Buckeyes pulled away in the second half, and secured their second win in conference play.

NCAA Basketball: Ohio State at Illinois Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports

After a largely sub-par first period, the Buckeyes battled to get to 2-0 in Big Ten play as they came back to defeat Illinois 77-67.

Ohio State was led by Kaleb Wesson and Keyshawn Woods, who combined for 31 points while adding 11 rebounds. OSU got impressive production from their bench, as they finished with 40 of the team’s points.

The Illini got outstanding efforts from Trent Frazier and Kipper Nichols, who finished with 18 points apiece. In the end, it would not be enough as Ohio State outscored Illinois 43-29 in the second half. Frazier would leave the game in pain following a bad fall under the rim with just over a minute to go in the contest, but would return after a brief trip to the locker room.

A big surprise heading into the game was the return of freshman Luther Muhammad, who dislocated his shoulder just two games ago in the loss against Syracuse. The team was not expecting Muhammad to play and did not bring his jersey on the road trip, as he wore No. 12 in the game. Muhammad finished with six points and four rebounds in his return to action.

After both teams missed their first two shots, Ohio State broke open the scoring on a nifty move inside by Kyle Young. Illinois would answer right back with a corner three from Aaron Jordan. Both teams came out cold, combing to go 2-of-11 before a three-pointer from C.J. Jackson put the Buckeyes up 5-3 a little under three minutes into the game.

Following a three-ball from Illinois’ Trent Frazier, Kaleb Wesson converted an and-one on the opposite end. With Musa Jallow adding a free throw and a corner three on consecutive possessions, Ohio State led 12-6 out of the first media timeout.

After another make-and-miss at the line for Jallow, Illinois got back on the board with a three from Da’Monte Williams, their third make from deep to start the game. The Buckeyes started to get a little sloppy, and after two straight turnovers the Illini took a 15-13 lead on the strength of a 7-0 run.

A strong drive from freshman Duane Washington Jr. broke the scoring drought for OSU, and following an Illini free throw, a step back jumper by Keyshawn Woods found the net to put the Bucks back on top 17-16 with 11:48 remaining in the period.

Ohio State came out of the second media timeout hot, with Kaleb Wesson getting another basket inside. Washington knocked down a three and an alley-oop layup as the Bucks found themselves on a 7-0 run. Frazier would end the run with a layup at the other end, as OSU led 25-18 with 10:09 to go.

After a bucket by Frazier, Woods hit another pretty midrange jumper. The Buckeye defense began to lock in, as they forced three turnovers over the next four Illini possessions. Another deep two from Woods had Ohio State up 30-22 at the third media timeout of the period.

The Illini got on a little run of their own, getting a pair of free throws from Frazier followed by a three-point play by Kipper Nichols. Illinois continued to get to the line, as free throws from Ayo Dosunmu and Andres Feliz had it all tied up at 30 apiece with 4:20 remaining until halftime.

Ohio State was having a real tough go of things, as five turnovers and a 1-of-9 shooting stretch found the Bucks in a scoring drought of over five minutes. Amid the frustration, Chris Holtmann was given a technical foul for arguing a no-call on Illinois. Jaedon LeDee would finally get OSU back on the board with a pair of free throws, as the Buckeyes somehow led 32-31 with 2:29 to go in the period.

Back-to-back OSU turnovers leading to fast break points put Illinois up 37-32 as they found themselves on a 6-0 run in the span of a minute. Young made the first Ohio State field goal in nearly seven minutes, and the Buckeyes would escape the first period down just 38-34.

Nearly all of Ohio State’s production in the opening period came from the bench, as the reserves had scored 20 of the team’s 34 points, led by Washington’s seven. The Buckeyes were having a real tough time guarding Trent Frazier, who had 11 points on 4-of-7 shooting at the break. Free throws killed the Bucks in the first half, allowing 15 points to Illinois at the charity stripe.

The two teams battled back and forth to begin the second period, with OSU gaining some ground courtesy of a C.J. Jackson corner three. Woods started to get things going for the Buckeyes as back-to-back baskets for the graduate guard plus an and-1 free throw had the game all tied up at 46 apiece with 15:22 remaining.

Kipper Nichols was torching Ohio State in the second half, ripping off nine straight points for the Illini. However, after a pair of free throws from Muhammad, Washington scored on a silky scoop layup to regain the lead for the Buckeyes, 52-51.

OSU then looked to take control, as Jallow hit a layup and Muhammad knocked down a three-pointer to put the Bucks up six, the team doing a much better job to control the tempo of the game. After another inside basket from Jallow, Ohio State led 61-53 with just under 10 minutes remaining.

The Buckeyes did not look back, as they continued to pound the paint and get back to the free throw line, much like Illinois did in the first half. At the next media timeout with just over seven minutes remaining, Ohio State now held a 10-point lead on the strength of a 13-2 run.

The Illini put some pressure on the Buckeyes late in the game, cutting the Ohio State lead to 71-65 with 2:35 remaining after four OSU turnovers led to a 7-0 Illinois run. Young put a stop to the comeback attempt, getting a crucial layup to fall to end the Illini run.

The two teams would trade free throws the rest of the way, as Ohio State would go on to win 77-67.