No. 15 Illinois men’s basketball falls at home to No. 22 Ohio State despite late double-digit comeback


Cameron Krasucki

Graduate student guard Alfonso Plummer grabs a defensive rebound during the first half of No. 15 Illinois men’s basketball’s game against No. 22 Ohio State at State Farm Center on Thursday night.

By Jackson Janes, Sports Editor

An Illinois comeback late in the second half was not enough as the No. 15 Illini fell at home for just the third time this season, losing to the No. 22 Ohio State Buckeyes, 86-83.

Buckeye freshman guard Malaki Branham led all scorers with 31 points on 10-14 shooting, while Illini graduate student guard Alfonso Plummer recorded a team-high 26 points, 18 of which came in the first half, on 10-14 shooting.

Plummer came out hot, opening the scoring with a triple on the Illini’s first possession, and he helped give the hosts a spark on offense early.

Plummer hit Illinois’ first three field goals, all of which were treys, before junior center Kofi Cockburn started to find his groove in the paint. The Illini big man missed his first two shots from the field before knocking down his next two, helping Illinois get out to a 16-8 lead eight minutes into the contest.

After graduate student forward Jacob Grandison hit a hook shot in the paint, a fourth Plummer triple gave the Illini their largest lead of the half, a 21-8 advantage with 10:32 to play.

Get The Daily Illini in your inbox!

  • Catch the latest on University of Illinois news, sports, and more. Delivered every weekday.
  • Stay up to date on all things Illini sports. Delivered every Monday.
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.
Thank you for subscribing!

The Buckeyes started heating up offensively, though, using a 14-2 run, sparked by five points from both senior forward Justin Ahrens and freshman guard Malaki Branham, over the next four minutes to put the visitors right back in the game.

Illinois was able to extend its lead to seven points after Plummer hit his fifth and sixth 3-pointers. An efficient half from Ohio State graduate student forward Kyle Young, who scored a team-high 13 points in the opening frame while making all five of his field-goal attempts, saw Illinois enter the break with a 37-36 advantage.

Plummer led all scorers with 18 points, all of which came from behind the 3-point line, while Cockburn had an unusually inefficient half, scoring nine points on 4-12 shooting.

Ohio State came out of halftime on a 16-2 run, with freshman guard Malaki Branham’s seven points and junior forward E.J. Liddell’s five points fueling the big Buckeye burst. Illinois hit just one of its first eight shots and Ohio State took advantage to take a 52-39 lead, its largest of the game, with under 16 minutes to play.  

Sophomore guard Andre Curbelo snapped the long Ohio State run with a 3-pointer to cut the Illini’s deficit to 10, but the Buckeyes used a 6-0 run to extend their lead to 16, the largest advantage by either team.

Head coach Brad Underwood was hit with a technical foul, while Cockburn picked up his fourth foul with just under 12 minutes to play in the half, further adding to the Illinois’ second-half struggles.

The Illini used an 11-3 run to cut their deficit to eight with just over nine points to play, but the Buckeyes then began to pull away.

Branham was a big reason why, scoring eight points during Ohio State’s 13-5 run, which restored the visitors’ 16-point lead. Underwood was ejected during that stretch for arguing with the officials, though his dismissal sparked an 8-2 Illini run to cut Illinois’ deficit to 10 with four minutes to play.

With Cockburn on the bench after fouling out, the Illini used another run, this time 10-2, to cut their deficit to just two points with two minutes to play. 

Plummer knocked down his eighth triple, tying a program single-game record, before senior guard Trent Frazier knocked down three free throws and sophomore forward Coleman Hawkins emphatically flushed a dunk. Graduate student forward Jacob Grandison capped off the run with a steal and a layup at the other end, and the Illini trailed, 78-76, with under two minutes to play.

Hawkins fouled out with under a minute to play, but a Frazier triple, his first of the night, cut Illinois’ deficit to a single point.

After Young hit just one of his two free throws, a costly Illinois turnover on the ensuing possession gave the ball back to Ohio State, sealing the Buckeye win.



[email protected]