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Saturday, January 5, 2013
Rapid Reaction: Illinois 74, Ohio State 55

By Scott Powers, ESPNChicago.com


A quick look at No. 11 Illinois' 74-55 win against No. 8 Ohio State at Assembly Hall on Saturday in Champaign, Ill.

Overview: Illinois has proved twice now this season that it can bounce back from a loss. That wasn’t a trait of last season’s team, which had two three-game losing streaks and a six-game skid.

The Illini needed Saturday’s win after falling at Purdue in their Big Ten opener this week. An 0-2 start with upcoming games against Minnesota and at Wisconsin wouldn’t have been ideal for Illinois.

Illinois also showed it doesn’t have to rely on the 3-pointer to beat top teams, as it did against Butler and Gonzaga. The Illini were 8-of-27 from 3-point range Saturday, but they did the bulk of their damage inside. Illinois had five players score nine or more points. Brandon Paul led the way with 19 points.

On the other end, Ohio State couldn’t get much to fall. The Buckeyes were 20-of-60 from the field and 4-of-19 from 3-point range. Deshaun Thomas scored 24 of the team’s 55 points.

Turning point: Illinois came out motivated after losing to Purdue. The Illini used a 12-2 run early in the first half to go up 25-11. Ohio State was able to cut the lead to eight at one point, but the Illini wouldn’t give in any more than that and led by 20-plus points throughout most of the second half.

Key player: Illinois sophomore center Nnanna Egwu appears to improve by the game. He scored a career-high 16 on Saturday, and added eight rebounds, one block and one steal.

Key stat: Ohio State was averaging 10 turnovers heading into Saturday’s game. The Illini forced the Buckeyes into 10 turnovers in the first half alone. Ohio State finished with 16.

Next game: Illinois will host its second consecutive top-10 team when No. 9 Minnesota comes to town Wednesday. Ohio State heads to Purdue on Tuesday.