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Terrence Shannon Jr., No. 14 Illinois out-class and out-shoot Ohio State, 87-75

The pit of misery! Dilly dilly!

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

Well beyond “must-win” games, the Ohio State men’s basketball team (13-8, 3-7) welcomed the Illinois Fighting Illini (16-5, 7-3) to Columbus Tuesday night in desperate need of a winning streak, not just one win.

Opposing them was an Illinois team that entered tonight’s game ranked seventh in the country in adjusted offense, averaging 120.4 points per 100 possessions. Comparatively, Ohio State entered tonight’s game No. 48 in adjusted offense, averaging 115 points per 100 possessions. The Illini also slotted into the AP Top 25 Poll at No. 14 on Monday afternoon.

Despite recent struggles, Chris Holtmann did not deviate from the starting lineup he’s used all season long, going with Bruce Thornton, Roddy Gayle, Evan Mahaffey, Felix Okpara, and Jamison Battle. Brad Underwood countered with Marcus Domask, Terrence Shannon Jr., Ty Rodgers, Quincy Guerrier, and Coleman Hawkins.

The Buckeyes and Illini traded makes for the first several minutes, with Gayle knocking down each of his first three shots for the good guys and Rodgers scoring twice for Illinois. Since there was only one foul called over the first eight minutes, the initial media timeout didn’t even happen until the 12:12 mark of the first half — at that point, it was a 14-14 tie. While both teams came out hitting shots early, the two leading scorers — Thornton and Shannon — combined to shoot 1-of-9 during that first portion of the game leading into the first media timeout.

With the game tied at 23 and just under eight minutes remaining, Mahaffey took advantage of his matchup with Goode, turned his back to the basket, power dribbled twice, and went up with it. He scored through contact, as the whistle blew and Goode picked up his first foul of the game. Mahaffey’s basket made it 25-23 at the under-eight timeout with 7:39 left to go in the first half.

Illinois outscored Ohio State 8-2 over the final 4:06 of the first half to take a 41-34 lead into the locker room at halftime. Domask was the catalyst for the visiting Illini, scoring 11 points on 3-of-6 shooting in the first half. Gayle had 11 points for Ohio State in the first half and never came out of the game during the first 20 minutes. Illinois was 5-of-11 from three-point range in the first half, while Ohio State was 1-of-4.

Illinois extended its lead to a dozen points early in the second half, and following a Roddy Gayle layup that cut the deficit to 60-50, Chris Holtmann used one of his timeouts. The Buckeyes’ offense was getting quite a few good looks, but the continuous deterioration of its defense on a game-by-game basis continued Tuesday night. Even when the Buckeyes scored on two out of three possessions or three out of four, they refused to stop Illinois on the other end. That makes coming back from even the most minor deficit quite difficult.

Illinois extended its lead to 75-60 by the under-eight timeout, and the route was on. The Buckeyes continued to make shots at a level that would win quite a few games, but not this one — not on a night when nine different Illinois players scored, and Terrence Shannon Jr. nearly quadrupled his scoring output from the first half to the second half. The Buckeyes were simply not up to the task on the defenive end, once again.

By the time all was said and done, Illinois had wrapped up a 87-75 win over Ohio State at the Schottenstein Center on Tuesday evening in front of a sparser than normal crowd. Shannon and Domask each finished with 23 points for Illinois, and Rodgers had 13 points as well. Battle led the Buckeyes with 21 points on 8-of-15 shooting, including 3-of-6 from three. Gayle also had 20 points, and Mahaffey chipped in 13.

As a team, Illinois shot 51.7% on the night and the Buckeyes shot a very close 50%. The Illini were 41.2% from beyond the arc, while Ohio State was 33.3%. Both teams turned the ball over just six times, and Illinois won the rebounding battle 36-28.

If you weren’t around tonight to see Illinois deal Ohio State another loss and send us all further down into the pit of despair, here are a few key moments and plays that ultimately led to an Illini win:

Thornton, Shannon first half non-factors

Ohio State won the opening tip on Tuesday night, with Okpara tipping the ball out to Gayle, who underhand flipped the rock to Thornton to initiate the offense. Shannon slid over to guard Thornton bringing the ball up, which meant one team’s leading scorer guarding the other right away.

What was poised to be great theatre turned out to be a whole lot of nothing in the first half, as both teams’ leading scorers had a hard time putting the ball in the basket during the first 20 minutes. Thornton finished the first half with two points on 1-of-4 shooting over 12 minutes and was saddled to the bench for the final six minutes or so of the half after picking up his second foul.

Shannon finished the first half with five points on 1-of-7 shooting over 14 minutes and also spent the last several minutes of the first half on the bench with two fouls.

Shannon would bounce back in a big way in the second half, but Bruce did not. The sophomore guard finished with seven points on 3-of-11 shooting, four rebounds, four assists, and one steal over 31 minutes.

Buckeyes continue to struggle guarding the three-point line, and can’t hit one themselves

Teams have absolutely torched Ohio State from beyond the arc over their last four games, while the Buckeyes have struggled to confidently take and knock down shots from distance. Even when nearly everything else is held constant, it’s usually the three-point shooting of the Buckeyes’ opponents that has been the difference.

On Tuesday night, the Illini knocked down five of their 11 first-half attempts from downtown, good for a 45.5% mark. Ohio State, on the other hand, hit one of four, which is 25%. The Buckeyes essentially abandoned the three-point shot in the first half Tuesday night, yet they still shot nearly 50% in the game.

Oddly enough, this shows that this team could probably survive if they mostly abandoned the three-point shot, but they would need to play defense and prevent so many easy looks at the basket.

Leaving points at the stripe in the first half

Ohio State has been a pretty solid free throw shooting team this season, with its 75.1% free throw percentage making it the fourth-best free throw shooting team in the Big Ten. The Buckeyes were 7-of-10 from the line in the first half of Tuesday night’s game, but two of those three misses were huge ones on the front end of two one-and-one’s that potentially left four points at the line.

With 3:49 left in the first half and Ohio State trailing 35-32, Mahaffey was fouled away from the basket by Illinois’ Dra Gibbs-Lawhorn, who got too handsy with Evan after knocking the ball out of his hands twice. Mahaffey, a 66% free throw shooter, missed the front of the one-and-one, and Illinois grabbed the rebound.

40 seconds later with Illinois now leading 37-32, Key corralled an offensive rebound off of a miss from Battle. Key tried to go back up with it, but was fouled by Amani Hansberry. Key is a 72% free throw shooter, and missed the front of that one-and-one, as well.

If you’re keeping track at home, that’s potentially four points left at the line at the end of the first half, and then the Buckeyes went into halftime down seven.

Shannon’s and-one gives Illinois a 16-point second-half lead

With Illinois already up 65-52 and 10:19 remaining in the game, Terrence Shannon Jr. sprinted down the court and tried to get Ohio State on its heels in transition. True to form, Shannon’s quick burst got him going downhill with Scotty Middleton on his hip, and the undersized, under-prepared, and under-seasoned freshman had no option but to swipe at Shannon’s arm as he got to the basket.

The grab caused Shannon to fall down, and as the whistle blew the 6-foot-6 senior was able to toss the ball up into the bucket while flying through the air. The ball went in, the foul counted, and Shannon completed the old-fashioned three-point play to put Illinois up , 68-52.

Up Next:

It’s another quick turnaround for the Buckeyes (13-8, 3-7), as they head to Iowa City at the end of the week to take on the Iowa Hawkeyes (12-9, 4-6) on Friday night. The battle between two NCAA Tournament bubble team-hopefuls will tip off at 7:00 p.m. on FS1.