It was over when: D.J. Richardson sank a 3 to give the Illini a 63-46 lead with a little more than six minutes to play. The basket was exactly what the Illini needed after the Buckeyes cut a 25-point deficit to 14. Richardson's shot halted the Ohio State momentum, and the Buckeyes were unable to mount another charge.
Illinois player of the game: Brandon Paul. The senior guard once again filled the stat sheet and led the team in scoring. He finished with 19 points, seven rebounds, three assists and one block. Taking a closer look, Paul scored 10 points and grabbed all seven of his rebounds in the second half.
Ohio State player of the game: Deshaun Thomas. The Big Ten's leading scorer did his part Saturday, notching 24 points and four rebounds. It took Thomas some time to get going and he wasn't efficient, shooting 9-of-21 (1-for-5 from downtown), but he made a run of baskets in the second half in an effort to pull his team back into the game.
Stat of the game: Rebounding. Illinois won the rebounding battle 40-30, a surprising result considering the team's recent struggles on the glass. Ohio State entered as a Top 40 team nationally with nearly 40 rebounds per game, but was unable to gain an advantage in that area.
Stat of the game 2: Turnovers. The Buckeyes came into Saturday's contest averaging 10 turnovers per game, a nod to one of the steadiest teams in the nation. However, Ohio State didn't protect the basketball against the Illini, turning it over 18 times, including 11 in the first half. The extra possessions allowed Illinois to jump out to a double-digit lead and although the Illini themselves had 12 turnovers in the second half the Buckeyes were unable to recover.
Stat of the game 3: Three-point shooting. Illinois' shooting woes continued, but the lack of 3s didn't alter the outcome. The Illini finished 8-of-27 (29.6 percent), continuing a trend of recent struggles from downtown. In place of the scoring from deep, the Illini scored 24 points in the paint and got 16 valuable points from center Nnanna Egwu.
The takeaway: This was exactly what Illinois needed -- a resounding win over a strong opponent. Doubts arose after the loss to Purdue earlier this week and rightfully so. The Illini's win Saturday should calm the fear of a letdown in conference play. The win, against a Top Ten opponent and a perceived contender for the Big Ten crown, means a great deal at face value. But it's even more special considering John Groce got a victory against his coaching mentor Thad Matta. The two teams play again March 10 in the regular season finale. It will be interesting to see the path each team takes to get to that game.