2011 Ohio State Basketball
Gritty Victory Keeps Buckeyes on Top
Pride, heart and composure.
These are all characteristics of a great basketball team which often are overshadowed by talent.
The No. 1 ranked Ohio State Buckeyes proved they have plenty of all those characteristics Saturday afternoon as they traveled to the hostile confines of Assembly Hall and gutted out a 73-68 victory over the No. 23 ranked Illinois Fighting Illini, thereby preserving their perfect record.
Jared Sullinger was dominate, scoring at will in the paint and seemingly gobbling up every rebound on his way to a 27 point, 16 rebound performance all while playing 40 minutes for the Buckeyes, who improve their record to 20-0 overall and 7-0 in the Big Ten.
Sullinger’s numbers look gaudy, but it was the way he and his fellow Buckeyes teammates played that was most impressive.
After trailing 34-33 at halftime, the Buckeyes came out ice cold in the second half. Sullinger's nine points over the first 6:30 were all they could muster. The offensive went stagnate caused by limited movement as four other Buckeyes got caught standing around watching as Sullinger worked the paint.
OSU sliced into the Illini lead with each trip down the floor, and with back-to-back triples by senior Jon Diebler and freshman Deshaun Thomas, the Buckeyes capped off a 14-0 run giving them a 56-50 lead with 7:47 to play.
The Buckeyes wouldn’t surrender the lead again.
The Illini had a chance to tie the game with a three in the closing seconds, but the stifling, on-ball pressure defense by freshman Aaron Craft on senior Demetri McCamey forced McCamey into a poor pass which turned into a loose ball snatched up on the floor by a diving Sullinger with 4.5 seconds remaining.
On the ensuing Buckeye possession, William Buford, the Buckeyes second leading scoring who struggled all day scoring just seven points, sank a pair of free-throws to close out the victory.
A victory which would have not been possible if it hadn’t been for the play of three true freshman for the Buckeyes.
Craft’s defensive pressure on Demetri McCamey forced the Illini standout into off-balance shots as McCamey shot a measly 2-of-11 from the field contributing a mere five points.
And Sullinger, well, he just dominated the entire game hitting big free-throws (13-of-15) down the stretch.
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