In its second conference meeting of the season, No. 22 Ohio State traveled to meet last place Illinois in a Big 10 clash. The Buckeyes won the first encounter between the two, about a month ago, helping stop a four-game skid after they began the season 15-0.
This second matchup saw Illinois jump out to a quick lead which it held for the entire first half, only to see it quickly dissipate in the second when the Buckeyes found their groove. Once Ohio State was able to take the lead there was no looking back. It continued to extend the gap through its tough team defense and offensive contributions from unlikely sources.
The story for the Buckeyes was their ability to play and succeed with their leader Aaron Craft strapped to the bench for a portion of the second half. Craft found himself in foul trouble and was forced to the bench where normally Ohio State would then encounter difficulty. Instead, the Buckeyes were able to cope without their floor general, demonstrating the growth of their young players and their new found comfort in handling the pressure.
The night produced a positive outcome for Ohio State, as well as a sign that it is moving in the right direction to end the season. With the tournament just weeks away and teams building their resumes toward qualification, Ohio State is desperate to win some big games against quality opponents. However, it can’t afford to drop a game to a team with under-average accomplishments. It would spell disaster for its stretch run and making a statement for the committee that it weathered the storm and gotten back on track.
Sweeping the season series from Illinois and gaining their 20th victory of the season, the Buckeyes now look ahead to the comfort of home for their next two and continuing to move in the right direction to finish the regular season.