OSU 68, ILL 55: Rapid Reaction

A closer look at Sunday's OSU-Illinois matchup -- a 68-55 win by the Buckeyes.

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Deshaun Thomas had 19 points and Aaron Craft added 14 and six assists Sunday as Ohio State won it's fifth consecutive game, beating Illinois 68-55.

Brandon Paul had a game-high 21, but the Fighting Illini struggled shooting from the field and faced foul trouble throughout.

It was over when: Lenzelle Smith grabbed an offensive board and converted an and-1 with a minute to play. The basket and free throw gave the Buckeyes a 66-55 lead and came on the heels of numerous missed opportunities for the Illini. Brandon Paul had scored the previous four points, but a Devin Langford missed free throw and Tracy Abrams failed lay-up cost the Illini a chance for the comeback.

Player of the game: Aaron Craft. The junior point guard was a focus of the Illini defense, but he had his way -- offensively and defensively -- for most of the game. He finished with 14 points (4 of 7 shooting), six assists, four rebounds and three steals.

Illini honorable mention: Myke Henry. Henry came off the bench to play 24 minutes, finishing with seven points and eight rebounds (six offensive).

Stat of the game: Shooting. Illinois needed 54 shots to hit 19 (35.2 percent), while the Buckeyes converted 23 of 49 (46.9 percent) from the field. The Illini also struggled from the 3-point line, hitting only 7 of 25 while the Buckeyes hit 4 of 15.

Stat of the game 2: Foul trouble. Short on depth with Joe Bertrand sidelined, Illinois faced foul trouble early in the game and had to deal with numerous players with a mounting number of fouls throughout. By the end of the first half, Tracy Abrams had three fouls and Sam McLaurin and Nnanna Egwu had two. By game's end, Brandon Paul fouled out as the aforementioned three all finished with three fouls apiece. The foul trouble called for different lineup combinations late in the first half and early in the second, with Devin Langford logging 13 minutes and Henry on the court for 24.

The takeaway: The loss of Bertrand (shoulder injury) hurt, but the Illini lost to the superior team Sunday. Ohio State didn't blow out the Illini and the game was competitive for the most part, but the Buckeyes had control for most of the game and steadily kept Illinois at arm's length. Foul trouble and poor shooting late in the first half exposed the Illini and Ohio State did what good teams do -- took advantage of the weakness to build a lead. The Buckeyes didn't let up and are playing right now like one of the best teams in the country. Illinois, meanwhile, ends the regular season on a down note, with losses in three of final five games of the season. The team hasn't played well since the win at Northwestern, the momentum created in February seems like a distant memory. With that said, wins on the road at places like Iowa City and Columbus are hard to come by and Illinois maintained a toughness and played with good effort during the down stretch. It's execution that's lacking, something that needs to be cleaned up on both ends heading into the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments.

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