Alston, Buckeyes runs over Illini

By By: Stephen Bourbon

Facing one of the worst offenses in the Big Ten, the Illinois defense made Ohio State look like the cream of the conference Thursday night.

In a matchup of middling Big Ten teams, it was Ohio State (14-10, 4-4 Big Ten) who pulled away with an imposing offensive attack in the 90-64 victory over the Illini (9-12, 2-5).

The Buckeyes aren’t normally the ones lighting up the scoreboard. Ohio State ranks second to last in the conference in scoring offense, averaging 65.1 points per game. The 90 points was a season-high.

Ameryst Alston led the way for Ohio State with 31 points and 10 assists. The sophomore came into the game averaging just 2.6 assists per game but posted the double-double in the victory. Raven Ferguson added 24 points, six rebounds and four assists and Martina Ellerbe recorded 12 points and nine rebounds.

The Buckeyes shot a scorching 57.7 percent from the field and outrebounded the Illini 34-21. Ohio State also had a 25-6 advantage in made free throws.

 “I thought Ohio State offensively was as good as I’ve seen them play,” head coach Matt Bollant said. “We struggled to guard (Alston and Ferguson) and their penetration broke us down. They did a great job of finding shots and getting fouled.”

Illinois couldn’t keep up with the Buckeyes on offense and posted only two bench points – a Taylor Gleason jumper with 1:23 left in a 23-point deficit.

Just one game after setting her career-high for points, freshman Jacqui Grant posted a new high water mark with 23 points on Thursday. Amber Moore broke out of her recent shooting slump to record 20 points. The Illini starters dealt with foul trouble – a problem that has plagued the team in recent contests. Ivory Crawford fouled out, while Moore and Alexis Smith picked up four fouls apiece.

“I’m probably as aggressive as any coach in the country with playing kids with foul trouble,” Bollant said. “But it’s pretty hard to do with three in the first half.”

Crawford recorded a season-high seven steals to go with 12 points.

The Illini were quick out of the gate, blitzing Ohio State to a 16-5 start. Over the next six minutes, that lead would disappear as the Buckeyes ripped off an 18-3 run to take the lead. Ohio State blew the game open late in the first half by pushing a three point lead to a 47-35 margin at halftime. The Illini would never get closer than 12 the rest of the way.  

“At halftime, we talked about getting some stops and getting back in the game,” Bollant said. “But we never did that throughout the whole second half.

“We’re obviously not where we want to be,” Bollant added. “We’re a ways off.”

Stephen can be reached at [email protected] and @steve_bourbon.