Live! vs. No. 22 Ohio State
No. 22 Ohio State 48, Illinois 39 — FINAL
CHAMPAIGN — Despite a career-high 14 rebounds from Nnanna Egwu, the Illini dropped their 10th game in the last 11 tries, ending a two-game home win streak against the Buckeyes.
Tracy Abrams scored 13 points an Rayvonte Rice 11 for Illinois, which was held to a season-low point total.
Egwu added six points to go along with his 14 boards.
Ohio State got 14 points from Aaron Craft, the lone Buckeye to reach double figures. LaQuinton Ross added nine and Marc Loving eight off the bench.
The Illini shot 28.3 percent from the floor (15 for 53). Ohio State shot 38.3 percent (18 for 47).
More later on HQ.
No. 22 Ohio State 32, Illinois 29 — 11:44 second half
Nnanna Egwu continues to be a rebounding machine tonight. Before the first media timeout of the half, the 6-foot-11 junior had already tied his career high with 12 boards. He's got 13 now to go along with six points.
Illinois is having trouble getting their shots blocked this half. The bench is calling for some shot fakes.
Spoke to Rakocevic at halftime. The 6-foot-10 sophomore said Illinois has been in constant contact much of the season. He feels like his game would fit in well with the Illini.
He's wearing a bright orange hoodie tonight.
Ohio State has found LaQuinton Ross matched up against some smaller guards frequently throughout the night and the Buckeyes have tried to exploit that by posting the 6-foot-8 Ross up. Paul Keels told us before the game he's been doing a lot more of that lately.
Interesting thing at halftime, the Illinois women's soccer team took the floor to singe "Hail to the Orange" and both teams were coming onto the floor at the same time. The Ohio State players walked through their line and did their halftime layup line through the soccer players. The soccer ladies were a bit intimidated, I believe.
No one was injured, however.
Illinois 23, No. 22 Ohio State 20 — Halftime
The Buckeyes played the final 10:10 of the half without Aaron Craft, who picked up a pair of fouls. Craft was having an outstanding game to that point.
Upon exiting the game midway through the half, Jon Ekey and Joseph Bertrand were greeted warmly by the Illinois coaches. "Great job, guys, great job."
After Illinois botched something, John Groce told the bench "Understand the game plan, fellas."
Illinois held the Buckeyes without a field goal for a seven-minute stretch from 15:38 to 8:35.
So many folks have been compiling that Rayvonte Rice has been shooting too much, including tonight. The Illinois bench has been calling for him to be more aggressive. He's your best playmaker.
Tracy Abrams is wearing the team LeBrons from like 2009. I was always a fan of that shoe.
Caught Rob Jordan dancing during the under-4 timeout. Aaron shook his head and told his dad to stop.
The Illini shot 9 for 31 (29 percent) from the floor and 3 for 11 (27.3 percent) from three in the half.
Tracy Abrams led the way with six points, Kendrick Nunn had five. Nnanna Egwu had 11 rebounds and blocked two shots. Egwu tied a career-high on Wednesday with 12 rebounds at Nebraska.
Ohio State shot 9 for 28 (32.1 percent) from the floor and 1 for 8 (12.5 percent) from three-point range. Aaron Craft led the way with seven points, all in the first 10 minutes. LaQuinton Ross and Sam Thompson had four apiece.
Illinois won the rebounding battle 22-18.
Gonna talk to Nick Rakocevic now.
Illinois 15, No. 22 Ohio State 9 — 11:37 first half
The Illinois fans gave the team a nice hand heading into the under-12 timeout. As always, these dudes are playing hard.
Aaron Craft has been getting to the bucket at will. That can't happen.
Craft also has two relatively easy steals and should have had a third. Can't be lazy with the ball with him on the floor.
When Jon Ekey hoisted a three, Rayvonte Rice yelled from the Illinois bench "JON EKEY!" mimicking PA announcer Mike Cation. Ekey missed the shot, but Abrams cleaned up with a three of his own.
Tracy's bagged a pair of treys.
After going scoreless in the previous meeting against Ohio State, Rayvonte Rice scored the first points of the game on a transition layup.
Tracy Abrams, who had not made a field goal in the last two games, buried a three-pointer early. Abrams was working on his shot yesterday with Jamall Walker.
After he missed a jumper on the second possession of the game, John Groce yelled "Good shot" to Malcolm Hill.
Nnanna Egwu tapped the ball back court on an offensive rebound and it was retrieved by Jaylon Tate. I'm told you can't call backcourt on a tap like that because there was no control. Is that true?
No. 22 Ohio State (19-6, 6-6) at Illinois (14-11, 3-9) — Tipoff (BTN)
John Groce and his old boss Thad Matta spent a few moments before the game chatting one another up on the court. A lot of folks took out their cameras for the moment.
Matta has been under the weather, I'm told.
You'll notice Matta using an Ohio State-branded chair on the tema bench. It's used because of the serious back issues the coach has been dealing with for years. The chair sits higher off the ground than the other seats on the bench.
Tracy Abrams, Kendrick Nunn, Rayvonte Rice, Malcolm Hill and Nnanna Egwu are your Illinois starters.
Aaron Craft, Lenzelle Smith Jr., Sam Thompson, LaQuinton Ross and Amir Williams will go for the Buckeyes.
Nnanna Egwu is the poster boy tonight.
The for families who have donated more the $9 million toward the State Farm Center renovation project were honored here on the court prior to the game. I spoke with associate athletic director of development Howard Milton and he's pleased with the progress. Check the coverage tomorrow for more on that.
No Comment sang the National Anthem. They were outstanding.
Bo Boroski, Mike Kitts and Donnie Eppley are your officials tonight.
Reilly O'Toole, Steve Hull and Ryan Lankford are seated courtside.
For those wondering about the case of my missing suitcase, it somehow ended up in Beijing. It landed in Savoy today and will be delivered to me tomorrow. John Groce said I should write a book or something about that.
No. 22 Ohio State (19-6, 6-6) at Illinois (14-11, 3-9) — 7 p.m. BTN
I just caught up with Aaron Jordan on the heels of his great game last night. Jordan said he was in attack mode last night and was focused on getting to the basket. He's been doing that much more this season to make himself tougher to guard. Everyone knows him as a three-point shooter. Jordan was joined by his dad Rob and friend Sam.
Speaking of three-point shooters, Ohio State's Lenzelle Smith Jr. was on the court well after the initial warmup getting up some extra threes. He was the only player from either team on the floor at the time. The native of Zion in North Suburban Lake County, came over to the front row of A-Section and signed some autographs for Ohio State fans here in attendance.
Smith and Rayvonte Rice were AAU teammates, in case you missed that nugget from the last time these two teams played.
The Orange Krush is here plenty early in their seats around the court. Only two more home games after tonight for those kids.
Tonight will be the final time Aaron Craft plays at State Farm Center. Despite what many of you might be feeling, he's only been at Ohio State for four years.
Paul Keels, the Ohio State radio voice, says Craft will likely give pro basketball a shot. He's a pre-med student so medical school is a option, as is coaching.
This will be the first home game in which Kendrick Nunn and Malcolm Hill will be a part of the starting lineup. Looking forward to seeing what kind of reception to popular freshmen receive.
There's an Orange Krush member in the front row wearing a No. 25 jersey. He's got to be a Nunn fan.
No. 22 Ohio State (19-6, 6-6) at Illinois (14-11, 3-9) — 7 p.m. BTN
Good evening from State Farm Center, where Illinois will look to end a four-game home losing streak and look to make it three in a row at home against Ohio State.
One of the first people in the building tonight was Aaron Jordan. The 2015 commit is fresh off a 38-point performance last night in Plainfield East's loss to Plainfield South last night. Jordan scored his 38 points on 12 of 18 shooting. That's some efficiency. And, he didn't make a single three-pointer in the game.
Westchester St. Joseph's 2016 forward Nick Rakocevic is expected to be in attendance tonight, I'm told. Rakocevic is considered by many to be the top player in the state in his class.
John Groce watched Brunson play last night and also took his wife out for dinner for Valentine's Day.
"She's special, she gets it," Groce said of Allison.
Last year the Groces spent Valentines Day on a plane to New Mexico on a recruiting trip.
Brunson is exactly what Illinois needs right now, a true point guard who can make the offense go.
The DIA is placing little orange notes on each seat here tonight reminding fans to behave themselves and to conduct themselves in a respectful manner in light of the incident last week at Texas Tech involving Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart. This is Illinois' first home game since then.
Sam Thompson of Ohio State and Nnanna Egwu greeted one another when the Illinois big man took the floor. Thompson (Whitney Young) and Egwu (St. Ignatius) went to high schools separated by fewer than 2 miles on Chicago's near West Side.
Just saw the Illinois big men doing rebounding/putback drills. Jon Ekey finished a couple of impressive tip dunks. He's missed a few of those this season.
Bob Baptist of the Columbus Dispatch just told me he saw Loren Tate Way for the first time a few hours ago. He got a kick out of that.
He wants to know what the Columbus paper is going to do for Bob Hunter.
Illinois will wear white tonight. Ohio State will wear red. I really like their shorts. You probably don't care.
Be back soon.