Illini bounce Buckeyes out of Champaign in 69-60 win

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Caden Bargowski

Junior forward Coleman Hawkins goes for a difficult layup against Ohio State on Tuesday. Hawkins played a strong game, starting the Illini off with a three-point shot and finishing the game with a slam dunk.

By Drew Friberg, Sports Editor

With a winter storm on the radar, Brad Underwood and an Illinois team coming off a loss got the job done on Tuesday night, as they took down Ohio State, 69-60. In one of the more comfortable showings State Farm Center has seen this season, the Illini now move to 5-4 in Big Ten play this season.

After a four-win streak was snapped last time out against Indiana, Brad Underwood switched up his lineup. In for freshman guard Sencire Harris was fellow freshman guard Jayden Epps, alongside regular starters senior guard Terrence Shannon Jr., fifth-year forward Matthew Mayer, junior forward Coleman Hawkins and redshirt sophomore forward Dain Dainja.

From the get-go, Tuesday seemed like it would be the Illini’s night. A nice three drained by Hawkins to open up scoring alongside a Shannon drive to the basket put Illinois up 5-2 in the opening moments. As quickly as Illinois took the lead, Ohio State took it back, though, courtesy of some sharp shooting by Sean McNeil. At the first media timeout, the Buckeyes were up 9-5.

Disaster seemingly struck for the Illini just six minutes in, as Dainja picked up his second foul of the first period. But, as Harris subbed in, Illinois’ energy picked up and they went on a 9-0 run as Ohio State’s Justice Sueing and Illinois’ freshman forward Ty Rodgers picked up their second fouls as well. Although Illinois regained its lead after five more minutes of play, they were down two of their best rebounders for the rest of the half.

With 15 minutes down, the entire floor seemed to go cold from three. A combined 4-15 from beyond the arc, both teams had a rough time finding their rhythm. Where Illinois began to grow its lead was at the line.

After Mayer successfully drew Sueing’s third foul in the first half, he converted two of three attempts, putting the Illini on 9-11 from the charity stripe, compared to a humble 3-6 from the Buckeyes. They ended the half shooting 11-13 from the line while giving the Buckeyes no more attempts.

Shannon began asserting himself on the floor in the last 10 minutes of the first, and ended the half with 12 points, four rebounds, two assists and a steal to his name. His game-high point performance helped put the Illini up 34-26 at the half. From here on out, it was smooth sailing for Underwood’s men.

Picking up where he left off in half one, Shannon drew a foul and converted his two free throws, before dishing it to Epps in the corner for his first made three of the game. In just four minutes played in the second half, Illinois extended its lead to 14, now up 45-31.

After blowing the half open with a 10-0 run, Ohio State continued to be a pest. A 7-0 run in response kept the game closer than before, but not nearly close enough as the lead remained over nine points for what was left of the game. Dainja picked up his fourth foul of the night with 10 to go in the match and did not re-enter.

State Farm Center hadn’t seen a comfortable conference lead yet this season. The building was the loudest it has been this year as Hawkins and Rodgers threw down back-to-back slams in the dying embers of Illinois’ triumph. After holding a double-digit lead for the majority of the second half, the Illini took down the Buckeyes, 69-60.

Next up on the schedule for Illinois is a trip to Madison for a rematch against Wisconsin after beating the Badgers earlier this season.

 

@DrewFriberg9

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