Illini fall in double overtime to Ohio State

It was billed as a contest of high school teammates turned rivals, as Evan Turner’s Buckeyes and Demetri McCamey’s Illini took the court in the semifinal round of the Big Ten Tournament on Saturday. And the contest became exactly that, as Turner and Ohio State defeated Illinois 88-81 in two overtimes.

Despite the loss, head coach Bruce Weber appreciated the strides made by his squad this weekend.

“I wasn’t very proud to be their coach at the start of the week. I didn’t like how they played, I didn’t like how they competed,” Weber said. “And in a week, I think they grew up, they matured, they competed.

“That was a tremendous effort (Friday), maybe even a better effort (Saturday),” Weber added.

Turner finished with 31 points and 10 rebounds, though he fouled out with one minute to play in the second overtime. But the damage was already done, as Turner put the game away with 12 points after regulation.

For his part, McCamey led the way for the Illini offense, tallying 22 points and five assists.

But McCamey said it came down to more than just his faceoff with Turner

“It wasn’t a one-on-one battle. It was two teams duking it out toward the end,” McCamey said. “I believe it was one of the best games we played, and it was one of the best games they played down to the wire.”

Down by eight with just over 13 minutes to play in the first half, the Illini went on a 14-point run and held on to take a six-point lead into the half.

But fueled by some trash talking from the Fighting Illini, Turner and the Buckeyes went on a run of their own in the second half, scoring 20 unanswered points.

“They were just running their mouths too much,” Turner said.

“I knew what type of team we had,” Turner added. “I knew what we had was tougher than what they had.”

The Illini refused to roll over, though, coming all the way back to take a 66-64 lead near the end of regulation. But a layup by Turner with 11 seconds to play sent the game to overtime, where Illini junior center Mike Tisdale fouled out halfway through the first of the two overtimes.

Tisdale’s defensive responsibility then fell on Tyler Griffey, who ended the game with 13 points and five rebounds. But the freshman wasn’t satisfied with his performance on the afternoon.

“It’s a tough one to swallow, especially for me,” Griffey said. “I felt like I could have done a couple things better.”

Junior forward Mike Davis posted a double-double, tallying 13 points and 18 rebounds. And freshman guard D.J. Richardson got in on the scoring with 15 points.

Ohio State sophomore guard William Buford went off for 22 points and junior guard Jon Diebler added 14.

“They just have so many weapons,” Weber said. “We defended pretty well and just as we got into the stretch, we just couldn’t stop them.”

Coming into the tournament, the Illini knew they had to at least beat Wisconsin to keep their NCAA Tournament hopes alive. Illinois met that challenge against Wisconsin on Friday. Now all they can do is wait.

“It’s out of our hands now,” McCamey said. “We believe we were one of the top 65 teams, and I think we deserve it, but at the same time it’s out of our control and it’s up to the (NCAA Tournament selection) committee.”