2011 Ohio State Basketball
Ohio State Buckeyes @ Illinois Fighting Illini Basketball Recap
Ohio State 73, Illinois 68
All the ingredients existed for a major college basketball upset on Saturday afternoon, but the Illinois Fighting Illini cooked themselves, and not the No. 1 team in the United States of America.
Illinois had everything going its way with 12:53 left in regulation against the top-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes. In a nationally-televised game that commanded attention of hoop fans from sea to shining sea, the Illini – using an up-tempo approach that wore down Ohio State’s sensational freshman center, Jared Sullinger – were riding a wave of momentum and leading 50-42. Illinois coach Bruce Weber was outflanking Ohio State bench boss Thad Matta, and the Buckeyes weren’t getting any production from non-Sullinger sources. OSU’s main man in the middle had 20 points and 12 rebounds by that point in the contest, but with Illinois getting balanced production from its roster, the crowd at Assembly Hall in Champaign, Illinois, had a right to feel that No. 1’s stay at the top of the charts was going to last only one week.
Now, though, it’s clear that Ohio State will rule the roost in the college basketball rankings for at least seven more days. It’s all because Illinois stopped exhibiting the effort and commitment that gave the Orange Crush its eight-point edge in the first place.
As soon as Illinois bolted in front near the midway point of the second half, the home team started to get lazy at the offensive end of the floor. Long, long threes were chucked without much consideration or forethought. No one in a white jersey took the ball to the rim against the Buckeyes, draped in their all-red road uniforms. The biggest indictment of Illinois’s performance in the final 13 minutes was that the team’s ostensible leader, point guard Demetri McCamey, failed to share the ball or do things to make his teammates better. A lot of stand-around dribbling and one-on-one play did not facilitate good ball movement, and that’s a big reason why Ohio State was able to lock down Illinois for an extended period of time. The Illini, after grabbing that 50-42 lead, went scoreless for the next five and a half minutes, and in that period of time, Ohio State unleashed a 14-0 run that turned the game on a dime. At the 9:33 mark of the second half, OSU got its first field goal from someone other than Sullinger, as Deshaun Thomas banged in a jumper to fuel the Buckeyes’ growing sense of confidence. It was amazing enough that it took over 10 minutes for a second OSU player to make a basket in the second half, but it was even more improbable – and instructive – that the Buckeyes were tied at 50-all when Thomas scored his drought-busting bucket.
The home stretch witnessed a rattled Illinois team unsuccessfully trying to grope for answers. Ohio State maintained the lead by feeding Sullinger for post-ups that led to baskets or foul shots. The Buckeyes’ player of the year candidate did the rest, finishing with 27 points and 16 boards in a manly performance on the road. On the other side of the divide, McCamey finished with only 5 points on 2-of-11 shooting in a plainly pathetic display.
One side’s star soared, while the other team’s star faded into dark obscurity.
That’s how college basketball games get won and lost. That’s why Illinois allowed one very Big (Ten) fish to get away on a Saturday that could sabotage the rest of the Fighting Illini’s season.
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