CHAMAPAIGN, Ill. (AP) — Malcolm Hill was placed into a familiar position at the end of Illinois’ 75-70 win over Ohio State on Sunday night.
With five seconds left on the shot clock, Hill received the inbound pass and drove to his left for a layup to give the Illini a 71-67 lead with 55-seconds left. A Tracy Abrams rebound and free throws from himself and Jalen Coleman-Lands sealed the thriller for the Illini.
After suffering an 84-59 loss at Maryland on Tuesday, Illinois coach John Groce was happy to see how his team responded when Ohio State fought back against his team.
“We felt like we needed to be more resilient and handle a team’s run,” Groce said. “We had to respond to that and our response to that was much better than it was the other night. We have to go back to being who we are with that.”
Hill had 20 points, Abrams scored 16 and Leron Black grabbed a career-high 15 rebounds for Illinois.
The Illini (11-4, 1-1 Big Ten) looked like a different team against the Buckeyes, making stops and going on runs to help its lead. Illinois led by as many as 15 points in the latter part of the first half after the Buckeyes went through a couple of scoring droughts.
But Sunday had a familiar feel when Ohio State came back to take the lead in the second half. Illinois had previously folded and given up the lead for good, but the Illini made sure they wouldn’t lose it again.
“We were very composed, we weren’t rattled at all,” Abrams said. “They went on a run, but we stayed together and stuck with that next-play mentality.”
The Illinois bench out-scored Ohio State’s 25-9, led by big men Michael Finke and Maverick Morgan with 12 and 11 points, respectively.
JaQuan Lyle led Ohio State (10-4, 0-1 Big Ten) with 26 points, 18 of which came in the second half.
Lyle proved to be a lone bright spot for Ohio State coach Thad Matta in a game where his team got down and couldn’t get all the way back up.
“He had a great pace about him today; he did a great job of finishing,” Matta said. “He kept things simple, which was crucial for him.”
Ohio State couldn’t rebound from scoring droughts in both halves despite a hot start to the second in which it took the lead in the final five minutes of the game. Although it seemed like the Buckeyes conserved energy, which led to the hot start in the second half, Matta wasn’t as optimistic about the energy to start the second half.
“We conserved by getting down by 15,” Matta said. “We weren’t as sharp as we needed to be in the first half.”
Illinois: Coach John Groce’s team won a game it needed to if it wants to be considered an NCAA Tournament team. The road doesn’t get easier for the Illini, with matchups against Indiana, Michigan, Maryland and Purdue coming up.
Ohio State: The Buckeyes couldn’t contain Illinois in their Big Ten opener. Ohio State will need to move past Sunday’s loss with Purdue coming in to town to start a difficult stretch of conference play.
Tracy Abrams continued a strong senior campaign, scoring 16 points, including a few key free throws at the end of the game to secure the win.
HE SAID IT
“(The win) means a lot, especially with the fast start. I’m sure there are fans that don’t believe us, but for those fans who do believe in us we appreciate it. The (Maryland game) was just one loss.” Malcolm Hill
Illinois will have almost a week to prepare for a battle against rival Indiana in Bloomington on Saturday.
Ohio State will have a few days off before hosting Purdue on Thursday.
Copyright 2017 The Associated Press.