Buckeyes ‘outplay’ Illini

By Lucas Deal

COLUMBUS, Ohio – This was not the road trip Illinois needed.

Eight days removed from their stunning 66-65 home loss to Penn State, the Illini hoped to use Sunday’s game against Ohio State to jump back into the thick of the Big Ten race.

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Instead, Je’Kel Foster and the Buckeyes just made things worse.

Foster hit all five of his three-point attempts in the first half and finished with 18 points and big man Terence Dials added 19 points and 16 rebounds as the 19th-ranked Buckeyes overwhelmed the No. 10 Illini 69-53 at Value City Arena in Columbus on Sunday.

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    “They outplayed us,” a visibly disappointed Bruce Weber said after the game. “We didn’t play at the high level that we need to.”

    The game was never very pretty for the Illini as Ohio State jumped out to an early 13-6 lead.

    A Dee Brown basket cut the lead to 19-15, but Ohio State responded with a 12-1 run to push the lead to 15. The Illini never led.

    “We let them dictate the game,” Weber said. “It kind of looked like the beginning of the year again.”

    In addition to Foster and Dials’ great games, sophomore point guard Jamar Butler also had a spectacular game, hitting 5-of-6 threes to finish with a game-high and career high 22 points. Ohio State was 13-for-23 from behind the arc in the game.

    “Butler might be the most improved player in the league,” Weber said. Buckeyes’ head coach Thad Matta agreed. “I’ve been saying that (about Jamar) since day one. I knew that on Oct. 15.”

    The Buckeyes led by as many as 21 early in the second half before Illinois used its only run of the game to cut the score to 53-44. The Illini had multiple possessions which could have cut the lead even smaller but couldn’t convert, and the Buckeyes responded with a 7-0 run of their own – pushing the game out of reach.

    “We had six shutouts in a row,” Weber said about Illinois’ run. “Then they had three baskets in a row and that was it. We couldn’t get over the hump.”

    Dee Brown led the Illini with 12 points and James Augustine added 11 – all of which came in the first 20 minutes.

    One bright spot for the Illini was the play of freshman guard Chester Frazier, whose defensive intensity and speed ignited Illinois’ run.

    “We have to use him more,” Weber said.

    The loss is Illinois’ second in a row and drops them to 20-4 overall, 6-4 in the Big Ten. Ohio State is now 18-3, 7-3 in the conference. The Buckeyes trail first place Iowa by only a half game.

    While the loss might not look good on the scoreboard for the next couple of days, Weber said the Illini must remember that this isn’t the same Buckeyes team that shocked them last March.

    “They’re playing at a high level right now,” he said. “They’re good and there’s no doubt about it.

    He also added that the Illini still have time to fix their mistakes. Unlike last season, the conference schedule isn’t over yet.

    “It’s not the end of the season,” he said. “If it was, imagine how bad that would feel.”