Buckeyes Buried In Big Ten Opener

OSU absorbs its fifth double-digit defeat of the young season, falling 85-63 at Illinois in the Big Ten opener for both teams. Six Illini players got into double figures and they won at home for the 23rd straight time.

Ohio State discovered how cruel life can be on the road in the Big Ten, in general, and at Illinois' Assembly Hall, in particular.

The 19th-ranked Fighting Illini raced out to a 37-13 lead and rolled to a 85-63 win in the Big Ten opener for both teams Wednesday night in Champaign.

The Illini (10-2, 1-0) won their 23rd game in a row and 45th out of its last 46 games at Assembly Hall. OSU lost for the ninth time in its last 10 trips to Champaign.

The Buckeyes (8-6, 0-1) shot just 29 percent from the floor in the first half, including 0 of 6 on three-pointers, in falling behind 39-22 at the break. OSU then trimmed the gap as close as 11 at 53-42 with just under 13 minutes left. But the Illini reeled off nine straight points to effectively put the game away.

"I don't know why it takes so long for us to play hard," OSU coach Jim O'Brien told WBNS-AM. "Then, when we finally figure out that we need to be more aggressive and we have to play hard, the game is over. It's hard for me to figure this stuff out."

Nick Smith led six Illinois scorers in double figures with 22 points. Dee Brown added 16, while Roger Powell and Richard McBride each had 11 and James Augustine and Brian Randle each added 10.

"They are a very good basketball team," O'Brien said. "We should focus on how good Illinois is. They are very athletic. They have terrific guard play. They have a lot of quickness. They made it difficult for us to run our offense."

Terence Dials led Ohio State with 11, while Tony Stockman added 10. Velimir Radinovic, Ricardo Billings and Shun Jenkins all had seven points.

OSU trailed 10-7 after J.J. Sullinger hit a jumper with 14:40 left in the first half. This is when the Illini embarked on a 27-6 run over the game's next 10 minutes to take its 37-13 lead. Brown had 11 of his points during this stretch, while Smith had 10.

The Buckeyes outscored Illinois 9-2 in the final 2:27 of the half, getting four points each from Terence Dials and Ivan Harris, to cut the halftime gap to 39-22.

OSU turned up the pressure and was able to cut into the lead with an 11-2 spurt. Stockman hit a three and Ricardo Billings made back to back treys as the Buckeyes got the lead down to 49-38 with 15:48 left in the game. Sullinger then made a layup off a turnover to keep OSU in contact at 53-42 with 12:47 left.

The Illini then missed at their end. OSU had a chance to get the game down to single digits, but Sullinger missed a twisting shot on the baseline.

"We get it down to 11 and have the ball and J.J. takes a bad fadeaway on the baseline," O'Brien said. "They go down and make five straight baskets. We're 8 of 21 at the foul line in the second half. You can't keep pace like that. If you're going to beat a good team, you have to play an awful lot better than we did."

Illinois reeled off nine straight points, including five from McBride, to go up 62-42 with 9:51 left.

OSU got as close as 17 at 64-47 after Shun Jenkins scored inside with 8:45 left. But the Illini again got their lead out to 24 on a McBride three-pointer that put the Illini up 80-56 with 3:33 left.

For the game, Smith, a 7-foot near stick figure, was 6 of 6 from the field (including a three-pointer) and 9 of 9 at the foul line for the Illini.

"He got a lot of open shots," O'Brien noted.

For the game, OSU shot 42 percent from the field (21 of 50), but just 52 percent (18 of 35) at the foul line. The loss was OSU's fifth double-digit defeat on the year.

Ohio State's two-game Big Ten road trip continues Saturday at Penn State, which defeated Minnesota 75-72 in its conference opener Wednesday night in State College. That game is set for a noon start and will be syndicated across the Big Ten region by ESPN-Plus.

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