Ohio State's rally falls short despite Darby's efforts

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) -- Coach Bill Self found little fault with
Illinois after a dominating first half he called his team's best of
the season.

There was plenty to go around by the end of the game, though.

The 16th-ranked Illini (16-4, 6-3 Big Ten) built a 32-point lead
early in the second half against Ohio State on Sunday only to have
it cut in half with about eight minutes left. Illinois held on for
a 76-57 victory, but Self was not pleased with his players' effort
in the second half.

"The last 15 minutes was probably the worst 15 minutes of
basketball we have played this year,'' he said. "But still, the
first 20, 25 may have been the best we've played all year.''

Brian Cook scored 22 points and reserve Roger Powell added 14
for Illinois, which made a season-high 12 3-pointers in winning its
14th straight home game.

The Buckeyes trailed by 32 points early in the second half. A
14-0 run, with half the points coming from Brent Darby, helped cut
the deficit in half with 7:58 left. But Ohio State never got the
lead under double digits and fell to 1-5 on the road this season.

Self said it shouldn't have been that close.

"I felt like the general consensus was, 'Hey Coach, what's the
big deal? We're up,''' he said. "That's not how I look at it

Playing without reserve center Nick Smith, out with a sore foot,
Illinois got help off the bench from Powell. The sophomore was
5-of-5 for the Illini, who shot 50 percent from the field. Illinois
also went 12-of-28 from 3-point range and held the Buckeyes (11-10,
4-6) to 31 percent shooting.

"We came out with a lot more passion on the defensive end and
pressured them out of their sets,'' Cook said. "Our intensity on
the defensive end was incredible.''

Darby lead the Buckeyes with 20 points, but was just 6-of-21
from the field.

Ohio State's zone defense frustrated Illinois early, collapsing
on Cook and James Augustine in the post and forcing the Illini to
shoot long jumpers. That didn't last long.

Held to one field goal over the first three minutes, Illinois
quickly adjusted and outscored the Buckeyes 14-0 over the next
5:02. Cook started the run with two free throws, and Dee Brown and
Sean Harrington made consecutive 3-pointers to give the Illini a
17-1 lead.

With Illinois working the ball inside and out for open looks, it
didn't matter what Ohio State did. Nothing was falling.

The Buckeyes missed their first eight shots and were held
without a field goal the first 6:45 of the game.

"I think the game was lost within the first eight minutes,''
Ohio State coach Jim O'Brien said. "They came out seemingly like
gangbusters. We really needed to keep pace early and we couldn't do

After a basket by Ohio State's Matt Sylvester made it 17-3,
Illinois outscored the Buckeyes 13-3. The Illini held Ohio State to
24 percent shooting in the first half, forced eight turnovers and
led 49-22 at halftime.

Cook made a short jumper and hit two free throws early in the
second half to give Illinois its largest lead of the game, 32

The Illinois crowd mockingly cheered Ohio State when Charles
Bass' basket cut the deficit to 29.

Ohio State eventually got the lead down to 67-51, but
consecutive baskets by Cook and two free throws from Harrington
pushed it back to 20.

Darren Williams tied a career-high with 12 points for Illinois
on 4-of-7 shooting from 3-point range.

The Buckeyes were playing short-handed for the second straight
game. Velimir Radinovic, the team's second-leading scorer, missed
the game with a compound dislocation of his pinkie. Guard Sean
Connolly also sat out with an ankle injury.

"It would be easy to sit back and say 'Woe is me. We don't have
our guys,''' O'Brien said. "We had to make sure these kids played
hard. I was very, very conscious that we continue to coach these
kids and do the right thing.''

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