COLUMBUS — Led by a front court showcase by Kaleb Wesson and EJ Liddell, the No. 19 Ohio State Buckeyes (21-9, 11-8) overcame deficit after deficit against No. 23 Illinois (20-10, 12-7) to win going away, 71-63 over the Fighting Illini.
Kaleb Wesson scored a team-high 19 points on 7-of-10 shooting, and the freshman Liddell scored 17 points on 7-of-9 shooting and also pulled down 11 rebounds. Point guard CJ Walker added 15 points, six rebounds, and five assists. Even though he shot just 2-of-10 from the field, Walker went 11-of-13 from the charity stripe.
Ohio State’s starting guard trio of Walker, Luther Muhammad, and Duane Washington shot a combined 5-of-28 from the field and 1-of-7 from three.
Illinois guard Ayo Dosunmo led all scorers with 21 points.
Walk-on senior Danny Hummer got the start on Senior Night and also got the scoring started for the Buckeyes on a driving layup on Ohio State’s first possession. He also added a steal on Illinois’ first possession.
With 16:33 to play in the first half and Illinois leading 5-4, Kaleb Wesson picked up his second foul and had to leave the game. In his place, EJ Liddell responded with a jumper on a pass from Hummer to tie the game at 6-6.
Illinois took advantage of Kaleb Wesson’s absence, however, by going on an 8-0 run, featuring three-pointers from Andres Feliz and Da’monte Williams. Williams came into the game averaging 2.4 points per game.
Liddell answered with a conventional three-point play to make it 14-9 with 12:54 remaining in the half. Seven-foot freshman Kofi Cockburn went on a 6-0 run by himself, capping his scoring with an emphatic dunk.
Trailing 22-13, CJ Walker cut it to seven points with a pair of free throws. Duane Washington then made it a 4-point game with a three-pointer. Kaleb Wesson free throws and an Andre Wesson layup tied it up at 24-24 at the 6:02 mark.
Ayo Dosunmo then went on a 9-point tear in the span of less than three minutes to help build a 37-30 halftime lead for the Illini.
Dosunmo had 14 points at the half on 6-of-8 shooting from the field.
Following a Feliz layup to open the half, the Buckeyes went on a 10-0 run featuring a hoop and harm for CJ Walker, a pair of free throws and a basket from Andre Wesson, and then a three-pointer from Kaleb Wesson to make it 40-39 Buckeyes at the 15:38 mark.
As they had all game, however, Illinois responded. This time it was an 8-0 run with five of those points coming from Dosunmo.
A three-pointer and layup by Kaleb Wesson cut the Illini lead to two points at 49-47 with 11:39 remaining. Two minutes later, Wesson tied it at 51-51 with turnaround jumper from the baseline.
Following a missed three-pointer from Feliz, the Buckeyes raced down the court on a fastbreak. Andre Wesson’s layup attempt rolled off the rim, but EJ Liddell was there to slam it home on the rebound, giving OSU a 53-51 lead.
A pair of free throws from Liddell a little over two minutes later made it 56-51. Alan Griffin scored to cut it to three, but Liddell dropped in a turnaround jumper to put it back up to five points with 5:14 remaining.
Kaleb Wesson went for a drive around Cockburn on the wing for a basket and a foul. He sank the ensuing free throw to give the Buckeyes a 61-56 lead with 4:26 to play. He then made it an 8-point game less than a minute later with a jumper.
Illinois cut it to six points with a step-back baseline jumper from Trent Frazier with just over two minutes to play.
Leading 65-58, Kaleb Wesson was whistled for his fifth foul. He was replaced by Duane Washington, who had sat for much of the second half. Washington immediately turned it over, which led to an Illinois basket. The Buckeyes answered right back, however, when Liddell followed up a Walker miss with a put back.
The Illini could get no closer as the Buckeyes held them at bay, snapping Illinois’ 4-game winning streak.
Ohio State will wrap up their regular season game with a trip to East Lansing to face the Michigan State Spartans on Sunday. The game will tip at 4:30 and air on CBS.
Senior Day videos will be added shortly.
[EJ Liddell photo courtesy ohiostatebuckeyes.com]