Perfection denied: Buckeyes end Illinois’ dream of undefeated season
Columbus, OH (Sports Network) – Matt Sylvester buried a three-pointer with 5.1
seconds remaining and Ohio State held on to shock top-ranked and previously
unbeaten Illinois, 65-64, at Value City Arena.
Sylvester finished with a game-high 25 points and Terence Dials added a big
block down the stretch for Ohio State (19-11, 8-8 Big Ten). Dials ended with
21 points and eight rebounds.
“This game has been on our minds for awhile,” Sylvester said. “We wanted to
prove we can play with anybody.”
Dee Brown paced Illinois with 13 points. Luther Head added 12 points in the
loss for the Illini (29-1, 15-1), who were trying to become the first Big Ten
team to finish a regular season undefeated since Indiana in 1976.
After Sylvester’s three, Roger Powell, Jr. had a chance for the win but his
three-point attempt fell short and the crowd stormed the court.
Down 64-60 after a James Augustine walk, Ohio State made it a two-point game
on Sylvester’s layup with 1 1/2 minutes left. Dials then made a huge block on
Powell, but Sylvester missed a jumper on the other end with 50 seconds to
Illinois worked the shot clock down, as the Buckeyes decided not foul, and
Head missed a three-point attempt with under 15 seconds left to give Ohio
State one more chance.
Sylvester redeemed himself for his previous miss and knocked down the eventual
game-winner from the right wing with 5.1 seconds remaining.
“I hit the shot,” Sylvester said. “I told the guys I would hit the shot.”
Illinois had to go the length of the court and the ball was knocked out of
bounds by Ohio State with 2.2 seconds left. Powell then got the ball in the
waning moments and his three-pointer was off, sending the Value City Arena
into a frenzy.
Ohio State will play Penn State in the first round of the upcoming Big Ten
Tournament, but NCAA violations will keep the Buckeyes out of the NCAA tourney
OSU head coach Thad Matta guided Xavier to an upset of Saint Joseph’s last
season in the Atlantic 10 Tournament. The 20-point win by the Musketeers ended
the Hawks’ perfect season at 27-0.
The Illini, who blew a 12-point lead in the second half, were trying for their
third undefeated Big Ten season in school history, to go along with a pair of
12-0 records in 1914-15 and 1942-43. Illinois, the top seed in the Big Ten
Tournament, was also aiming for its second undefeated regular season in school
history. The 1914-15 team went 16-0 that year.
Illinois was in control early and used an 11-0 run to grab a 16-4 advantage.
Jack Ingram’s driving layup capped the surge less than six minutes into the
first half. The Illini later took a 23-12 lead on Brown’s three-pointer with
less than eight minutes to go, but OSU stormed back.
The Buckeyes countered with a 12-6 run to pull within five at 29-24. Sylvester
had eight points during the run and capped it on a pair of free throws with
three minutes remaining. Illinois then scored nine of the last 12 points of
the stanza for a 38-27 halftime lead. Brown led all scorers at the break with
11 points, while Dials paced the Buckeyes with 10.
After the Illini took a 51-39 lead on Brown’s free throw, the Buckeyes scored
eight straight points to pull within 55-51 on Dials’ jump hook with less than
eight minutes to go. OSU later cut it to 57-53, but Augustine’s three-point
play extended the lead to seven.
Je’Kel Foster then drained a three-pointer for the Buckeyes and the deficit
was trimmed to four points again at 60-56. OSU kept plugging away but
Augustine threw down a two-handed jam and Illinois owned a 64-58 advantage
that wouldn’t last.