2012 Ohio State Basketball
Buckeyes Ap(Paul)ed in Loss to Illinois
You often hear athletes talking about being in "the zone" during game competition.
For basketball players, they compare this feeling as being able to throw a tennis ball into the ocean while standing on the beach.
On Tuesday night, Illinois junior Brandon Paul wasn't near an ocean; however, Lake Michigan wasn't too far away.
Paul dropped a career-high 43 (the third best scoring performance in Illinois basketball history) to lead the Illini (15-3, 4-1) past the 5th ranked Ohio State Buckeyes, 79-74, in Champaign.
Not only was Paul's scoring performance the third-highest in Illini history, but he also tied a school record with eight 3-pointers while grabbing a team-high eight rebounds.
It wasn't just Paul's gaudy stats that stood out on Tuesday, but it was also his clutch play down the stretch.
Paul scored the final 15 points for the Illini, including an off-balance 3-pointer that, with 43 seconds left, gave Illinois a 74-70 lead that all but finished the Buckeyes.
Buckeye head coach Thad Matta commented following the game about how Paul's performance was among the best he's ever seen during his time at Ohio State.
"I've seen (former Wisconsin Badger) Jordan Taylor have one of those nights and I saw (former Purdue star) E'Twaun Moore have one of those nights, and then I saw this," Matta said. "You have to give him credit; he made plays."
Despite Paul's heroics, the Buckeyes still led 39-34 at halftime, and were up 64-61 with just over five minutes to play.
With the game tied at 66 with just over two minutes to play, Joseph Bertrand swiped the ball from William Buford. Then, the Illini wisely put the ball in Paul's hands for a baseline 3-pointer that put the Illini up 69-66.
The Buckeyes were never able to regain the lead again as they dropped their second Big Ten game of the season.
Deshaun Thomas led the Buckeyes with team-highs of 23 points and six rebounds while Jared Sullinger added 21 points to go along with five rebounds. Buford contributed 15 points and Aaron Craft tallied 12 points and a team-high seven assists.
The loss puts the Buckeyes at 15-3 overall (3-2 Big Ten) and will surely drop them in the nation rankings.
Things won't get any easier for Ohio State as they welcome the 8th ranked Indiana Hoosiers into Columbus on Sunday looking to avenge their 74-70 loss to the Hoosiers on New Year's Eve.
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