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Ohio State comes up short against Illinois, 63-56

The Buckeyes fell to the Illini as their NCAA Tournament hopes continue to slip away.

NCAA Basketball: Illinois at Ohio State Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

The Ohio State Buckeyes could not get the job done against a red-hot Illinois Fighting Illini, falling 63-56 on their own home floor in a low-scoring Big Ten bout. The Illini recorded their first road win in nearly a year, and their first win against OSU in Columbus since 2009.

Love was not in the air on Valentines Day for Ohio State fans, as they watched their team turn the ball over 18 times and shoot a paltry 36 percent in a game that they really needed to win. The Bucks were especially lackluster from three-point land, where they knocked down just 2-of-13 as a team.

C.J. Jackson led the team in scoring with 17 points to go along with five rebounds, with eight of those points coming at the charity stripe. However, Jackson also coughed up a team-high seven turnovers. Kaleb Wesson added 11 points and five boards, but fouled out late in the second period — joining Kyle Young on the bench as the two OSU big men were DQ’ed with five fouls apiece.

Illinois was led by Trent Frazier and Ayo Dosunmu, with the duo each scoring 15 points. Frazier was 6-of-11 from the field, but it was Dosunmu who knocked down the game-clinching three-pointer with 29 seconds remaining that would put the Buckeyes away. Giorgi Bezhanishvili added 13 points as well as a team-high seven rebounds.

Ohio State will now embark on an incredibly tough stretch, playing five ranked opponents over their next seven contests. The Buckeyes season will very much be decided over the course of these games, as wins against quality schools could put OSU back into the NCAA Tournament picture, but more losses will push them further and further out.

Their toughest test will come in their next time out, when they will take on No. 11 Michigan State in East Lansing. The game is scheduled for a 1 p.m. tip on CBS this Sunday.

Ohio State controlled the opening tip as we got underway at Value City Arena. After both teams turned it over on their initial possessions, Musa Jallow got the Buckeyes on the board first with a layup. After an interior basket from Kaleb Wesson, Illinois got their first bucket on a three-pointer by Aaron Jordan. C.J. Jackson matched it with a three of his own as OSU took an early 7-3 lead.

After back-to-back makes by Giorgi Bezhanishvili and Alan Griffin, Illinois had things all tied up at seven apiece heading into the first media timeout. Ayo Dosunmu gave the Illini their first lead of the game after the stoppage before Kyle Young tied it 9-9 on a jumper at the other end.

Da’Monte Williams got an easy layup for Illinois, but was one-upped on the other end by an and-one layup from Andre Wesson. Not to be outdone, Dosunmu got an and-one of his own a few possessions later, missing the free throw. Trent Frazier drew yet another and-one opportunity after an offensive board and heading into the second media timeout, the Illini held a 15-12 lead.

Kaleb Wesson was able to work his way to the line following an Ohio State scoring drought of nearly three minutes, making both free throws to cut the deficit to just one. Kipper Nichols scored on yet another second chance opportunity to extend the lead to three as OSU starting guard Luther Muhammad appeared to go to the bench with a shoulder injury. After a Frazier three-pointer, the Buckeyes trailed 20-16 with under eight minutes remaining in the period.

Andre Wesson got two back at the charity stripe, but back-to-back baskets by the Illini, including another Frazier deep-ball, put Illinois up 25-18 with six minutes left in the half as Ohio State continued to shoot themselves in the foot with turnovers. Frazier stayed hot with another step-back jumper as he extended the lead to nine with the Buckeyes in yet another scoring drought, this one nearing four minutes. OSU finally got on the board with a free throw by Jackson, trailing 27-19 with 3:51 until halftime.

Duane Washington Jr. got a midrange jumper to fall, Ohio State’s first field goal in nearly 10 minutes. After the two teams traded misses back and forth, Frazier limped to the bench with an apparent knee injury. Jackson earned two more trips to the line, hitting 3-of-4 to cut the gap to just three. Following three made free throws on two possessions by the Illini, the Buckeyes trailed 30-24 with a little over a minute to go.

Kaleb Wesson was able to knock down a big three before the half came to an end, as OSU closed out a largely uninspiring offensive half of basketball, somehow down just 30-27.

The Buckeyes were led by Kaleb Wesson through the first 20 minutes, as the sophomore big man had nine points on 3-of-5 shooting, most importantly only tallying one personal foul in the opening period. As a team Ohio State shot just 33 percent, but hit on 9-of-12 attempts at the charity stripe. They really hurt themselves when it came to turnovers, giving away the ball 10 times in the half.

Illinois closed out the period without a field goal over the last 4:21. They were led by Frazier, whose 10 points were a game-high. Frazier, however, did not return to the floor after sustaining that injury toward the end of the period. The Illini had ample opportunities to score, but also shot poorly, hitting at just a 41 percent clip. They also struggled at the line, going just 3-of-7 in the first half.

Frazier would return as the two teams took the floor to begin the second half. The Buckeyes got on the board first in the period on a layup by Andre Wesson on their opening possession. Bezhanishvili matched with a jumper at the other end, but Jackson got two points back at the line as Illinois found themselves with a bunch of guards in foul trouble. Bezhanishvili converted at the line on an and-one as the Illini led 35-31 18:30 remaining.

Jackson continued to put points on the board with a layup, but Bezhanishvili again nailed a jumper. Frazier added a three-pointer as turnovers continued to plague the Bucks. Andre Wesson got a hard-fought second chance layup to fall, and heading into the first media timeout of the period, Ohio State trailed 40-35.

After a number of empty possessions by both teams, Kyle Young got OSU on the board with a tough contested layup as he looked to spark his team’s dormant offense. It seemed to do the trick, as an and-one by Jackson on the ensuing possession tied the game at 40 apiece. Andres Feliz scored on back-to-back possessions to put Illinois back up four, but a dunk by Washington got two back right away. After Young fouled out with almost nine minutes remaining, Washington threw down a posterizer and-one dunk to give Ohio State its first lead of the half, 45-44, with 8:30 to go.

Dosunmu got the Illini back on top with a pair of free throws, and after an inside bucket from Bezhanishvili the Bucks again trailed by three. After a made free throw by Keyshawn Woods, Dosunmu hit a tough three-pointer to give Illinois a five-point lead before Woods responded with a two-point jumper of his own. Frazier knocked down one from mid-range as Ohio State trailed 53-48 with under five minutes remaining.

The Buckeyes could not find any consistency at the offensive end, and despite a bunch of defensive stops were unable to cut into the Illini lead. After Kaleb Wesson picked up his fifth and final foul, Feliz hit a free throw to give Illinois a 56-51 lead with 2:19 left in the game.

Without a field goal over a stretch of over three minutes, Ohio State finally got back on the board with an and-one layup by Jackson, making the free throw and cutting the lead to three. Muhammad hit two free throws to offset a Feliz layup with under a minute to go, but the Buckeyes were unable to get the defensive stop as Dosunmu drilled a dagger three to put an end to any hope of an OSU comeback. Illinois would go on to win 63-56.