Illini Drop Second Straight

After losing to Penn State in Champaign a week ago, the Illini needed to get a road win to re-establish themselves in the race for the Big Ten Championship. Unfortunately, the Illini were not up to the task of beating the Ohio State Buckeyes in Columbus. The Buckeyes went on a three-point shooting barrage in the first half, en route to their 69-53 win over the Fighting Illini. Dee Brown's 12 points led the Illini, and James Augustine was the only other Illini in double figures with 11.

Yogi Berra once said "this is like déjà vu all over again." He must have been talking about what it was like to watch a team rain three pointers down on the Fighting Illini en route to a big win in conference play. Sure, the colors were not cream and crimson like they were last time, but even with a different shade of red, and an infusion of gray, the results were the same. Thanks to a barrage of three pointers, specifically from Jamar Butler and Je'Kel Foster, the Ohio State Buckeyes sent the Illini back to Champaign to dwell on Sunday's 69-53 loss, their second straight.

With almost eight days to dwell on the end of their thirty-three game home winning streak at the hands of the Penn State Nittany Lions, it was thought the Illini would come out on Sunday playing with a chip on their shoulder. That was not the case on Sunday afternoon. The Illini were a step slow on defense, and allowed Foster and Butler to just pick them apart from behind the three point line. With the Illini defense focusing on ensuring Terence Dials would not beat them sliding to the basket on the high screen, they forgot to ensure the Buckeye's guards could not beat them with the three point shot. That is exactly what the Buckeyes did as they shot 13-for-23 (56.5%) from behind the three point line.

With Terence Dials out of the game in the second half, and the Buckeyes up 53-32, the Illini defense finally started to pick up thanks to the play of freshman point guard Chester Frazier. Frazier used physical play to ensure Je'Kel Foster would remember that it was not easy to play offense, especially against the Fighting Illini. The rest of the Illini took the lead from Frazier, and went on a 12-0 run that brought the Illini back to within nine. Thad Matta adjusted to the Illini run, and put Terence Dials back in the game, and the Buckeyes never looked back as they followed the Illini's 12-0 run with a 10-0 run that effectively ended the basketball game.

Offensive Efficiency: 83.28
Defensive Efficiency: 108.42
Offensive Rebounding Percentage: 25.81%
Defensive Rebounding Percentage: 72.19%

The Illini's two seniors, Brown and Augustine, led the team in scoring, but they did not come out on Sunday afternoon and set the tone for the team. Instead of coming out on Sunday looking like they had something to prove, the Illini defense picked up where it left off last Saturday night. The Illini were so frustrated in the first half that at one point when Bruce Weber removed Dee Brown from the game, the Illini's star and coach had a mini-confrontation as Dee brushed Weber off heading to the bench. Weber reminded the Illini point guard that he needed to continue to move offensively, and quickly re-inserted Brown into the game.

With Brown only scoring two points and Rich McBride not scoring in the first half, the Illini were lucky to be heading into the second half only down eleven points. With the way the Buckeyes shot, the Illini knew that if they came out in the second half with increased defensive intensity, especially on the perimeter, they had a chance to knock off the Buckeyes with the perfect second half. All it took to know the perfect second half would not happen, was the first two Buckeye possessions. On the Illini's first possession of the half, they turned the ball over, leading to a one-on-two three pointer from Jamal Butler. On their next possession, Butler nailed another three pointer. The needed perfect second half was not going to happen.


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