INDIANAPOLIS -- Once again, Illinois is finding its groove at the Big Ten tournament and can cement itself in the NCAA tournament field with 20 more minutes of good basketball. Ohio State needs a sharper second half to remain alive for a No. 1 seed.
Quick thoughts at the halftime break, with Illinois leading, 37-31:
Illinois did a great job of hanging tough despite Demetri McCamey's slow shooting start (0-for-5), and McCamey kept his head up, which hasn't always been the case this season. D.J. Richardson, Mike Davis and Brandon Paul sparked the Illini on a 14-0 run midway through the half that turned the game around. After getting picked by Evan Turner early in the half, McCamey returned the favor and scored his first points on a 3-point play. Illinois still likely needs more scoring from McCamey (three points, 1-for-6 shooting) to hold off Ohio State.
Three Illinois freshmen -- Richardson, Paul and Tyler Griffey -- are all making nice contributions today. Richardson leads Illinois with 11 points, including three 3-pointers, and Griffey has seven points on 3 of 3 shooting after replacing Mike Tisdale, who fell into early foul trouble.
Turner didn't have the greatest half with the ball i his hands (five turnovers), but backcourt mate William Buford picked up the slack with 11 points and five rebounds on 4 of 8 shooting. Buford will be Ohio State's top option in 2010-11 if he returns to school, and he certainly looks comfortable scoring the basketball today.
Turner fell to the floor at the end of the half after coughing up the ball, and he seemed to be upset with an Illinois player as he walked off the floor. McCamey, who teamed with Turner in high school, might have said something to the star. It'll be interesting to see how Turner responds in the second half.