Russell’s 22 points spurs No. 20 Ohio State past Illinois
COLUMBUS, Ohio — D’Angelo Russell scored 22 points, including eight during a decisive 15-0 second-half run, to lead No. 20 Ohio State past Illinois 77-61 on Saturday.
Sam Thompson and Marc Loving each added 13 points for the Buckeyes (12-3, 1-1 Big Ten), which bounced back from a conference-opening, 71-65 loss at home to Iowa on Tuesday.
Rayvonte Rice had 20 points for the Illini (10-5, 0-2), who led by eight points in the first half and were ahead by three with 16:33 left before going scoreless for a span of 5:28.
Ohio State, shooting 52 percent from the field coming in, hit 60 percent.
The Illini forged a 37-36 halftime lead by hitting 8 of 15 3-pointers. The Buckeyes shot 59 percent from the field, but also had nine turnovers that led to 16 Illini points.
Ohio State then started the second half with three consecutive turnovers.
But just as suddenly, while playing man-to-man instead of the 2-3 zone they’d employed all season, the Buckeyes turned the game around. The Illini didn’t score from Kendrick Nunn’s 3 at the 16:33 mark until Nnanna Egwu hit two foul shots with 11:06 remaining.
Over that span, Ohio State hit big shots and made plays at both ends. After Russell hit a 3 to tie it, substitute big man Trey McDonald made two free throws for the Buckeyes’ first lead of the day. They kept pouring it on after that.
Loving went to the line — a flagrant foul was called on Rice — and hit one free throw and then made a field goal on the ensuing possession. Later, Russell saved a ball going out of bounds by flipping it behind his back to Loving, who then passed to Russell for an easy layup.
Russell closed the spurt by hitting a 3 after a five-second call on an Illinois inbounds play and the lead was 56-44 with 11:06 left.
Illinois: The Illini had some history working against them. Despite coming in with a 43-40 lead in the series in games played on the Buckeyes’ home court, they were just 1-17 against ranked Ohio State teams in Columbus. The lone win was a 74-73 upset of the 14th-ranked Buckeyes on March 3, 1983, at old St. John Arena.
This is the sixth year in a row Illinois has had to hit the road to play an Ohio State team ranked in the Top 25. The Illini fell to just 2-12 at Value City Arena.
Ohio State: The Buckeyes football team and head coach Urban Meyer were introduced during the opening half and were greeted with a 50-second standing ovation. Ohio State (13-1) meets Oregon (13-1) in the inaugural College Football Playoff championship game on Jan. 12 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
It marked the second time this week the Illini lost a game after a football ceremony. Michigan beat the Illini 73-65 in overtime in the Big Ten opener on Tuesday after it introduced its new football coach, Jim Harbaugh, during the game.
Illinois: The Illini, who play four of their first five Big Ten games on the road, return home to host No. 12 Maryland on Wednesday night.
Ohio State: After playing 13 of its first 15 games at home (and losing both of those not at home), they hit the road for four of their next five Big Ten games. They play at Minnesota on Tuesday night.