CHAMPAIGN, Ill.: E.J. Liddell scored 26 points and No. 21 Ohio State beat No. 14 Illinois 87-81 in a brutal Big Ten matchup on Saturday.
The game was very physical, mostly in the second half. One technical was called, on Ohio State’s Duane Washington Jr., and the officials had to step in many times to avoid fisticuffs.
Washington, Justin Ahrens and Seth Towns each added 11 for Ohio State (11-3, 5-3). The Buckeyes were missing injured guards C.J. Walker and Jimmy Sotos.
Ayo Dosunmu led Illinois (9-5, 5-3) with 22 points. Kofi Cockburn scored 15 and freshman Adam Miller added 14 points for the Illini.
Illinois closed to 83-81 with 15.5 seconds left on a long 3-pointer by Miller.
On the Buckeyes inbound pass, replays show Washington clearly stepped out of bounds with the ball. But a foul was called on Trent Frazier and Washington sank both free throws to make it 85-81.
Ohio State scored 10 straight points for a 10-2 lead. In a first half marked by runs and some inconsistent play, the Buckeyes led 43-28 at the break.
Ohio State managed to confound Illinois big man Cockburn for most of the game. It was arguably the worst half for Illinois this season, other than perhaps the Jan. 7 Northwestern game, when Illinois also trailed by 15 before rallying to win.
Ohio State: After securing a tough win on the road, expect the Buckeyes to move up in the rankings.
Illinois, with another conference loss after falling 66-63 at unranked Maryland on Jan. 10, will likely fall several slots.
Ohio State: Hosts Purdue on Tuesday. The Boilermakers beat Ohio State 67-60 at Purdue on Dec. 16.
Illinois: Hosts Penn State on Tuesday. The Illini defeated Penn State 98-81 on Dec. 23.
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