EJ Liddell supported and flexed the court, his eyes directly on Giorgi Bejanishvili, who decided to stab him a little before his performance on Saturday afternoon in Champcash, Illinois.
The bucket in the paint – during which he appeared to be hacked, yet did not result in a foul – gave EJ Liddell a new career in scoring – putting No. 21 Ohio State ahead of No. 14 Illinois by a little less than 14 points. 10 minutes left. The Illini, selected in the presidency to win the Big Ten, did what they could to force a turnover and increase their rate of receiving Kofi Cockburn on the offensive glass. Nevertheless the Buckeyes refused to allow the game to end.
Despite entering the day as a seven-point road underdogs, Ohio State extended its win streak to three games, winning 87–81 at Illinois. It improved its record to 11-3 on the season and 5-3 in Big Ten games.
A 3-pointer from Illinois guard Jacob Grandison saved Bakkei with a five-point cut with 1:30 remaining. After a Justice Suing Free Throw and a Cockburn layup, it became the Ohio State lead with 48 seconds left, and then the Illini began to rock. They went back and forth, each moving the line down the stretch several times before the Buckeyes won.
Liddell finished the game with a career-high 26 points, making more and more 3-pointers on Saturday – combined for his first 13 matches of the season. Saith Town tied their season with 11 points. Justin Ahrens also added 11 points, including a trio of the second half 3 when Ohio State needed it.
Dosumu, a first-team All-American candidate, led the Illini with 22 points with five assists and four on the board. Ohio State made him and Kofi Cockburn to work for their buckets later that afternoon. Cockburn made every shot from the field, recording 15 points and a team-high 11 boards.
With Ohio State coming out of firing Gates, Liddell had a 10-point run with five points, which extended the visitors to eight points within two-and-a-half minutes. Although Illinois battled to tie it back, the Buckeyes got another spark in them, having a 15–15 tie a little over seven minutes into the game.
A pair of judicial lawsuits made a free throw at the 7:31 mark of the first half jump and began the run at 15-0, including a bounce-to-town mid-range jumper, a Mochi Johnson 3-pointer and eight straight from Leavell There were numbers. Back-to-back 3s ended the 30–15 lead to top Ohio State, only slightly ahead of the first half’s midway point.
Illinois did not close the gap before halftime, scoring 13 points in the final 12 minutes.
The two areas that helped the Buckeyes in their first 20 minutes were out of shooting and working on the glass – both of which are the Illini’s strengths. They went 7-for-11 from behind a 3-point arc in the first half. Liddell matched his season total of three making 3s in the first 11 minutes of the game and Towns added all three. Ohio State also maintained a 20–11 lead in the rebounding department, which had a 6-3 advantage on the offensive boards. This led to eight second-chance points in the first half for Ohio State compared to zero for Illinois.
next: The Buckeyes went back to Columbus to take on Purdue at 6:30 pm on Tuesday evening at the Schottenstein Center for the second time this season after losing 67–60 to West Lennatte on 16 December.
Only two of the team’s experienced point guards – CJ Walker and Jimmy Sotos – remained unavailable due to injuries. Walker is dealing with torn ligaments in his right hand, and Sotos has a shoulder injury. The estimated date of his return remains unknown.
Ohio State did not change its starting five. Chris Holtman once again played alongside Duane Washington Jr., Justice Suing, Justin Ahrens, EJ Liddell and Kyle Young.
Ibrahima Diallo (Moched MCL) is also out for the foreseeable future. He is not practicing.