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LIVE! Illini close out Buckeyes, get back in win column | Sports

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FINAL — Illinois 69, Ohio State 60

The game wasn’t as close as the final score would indicate, with Illinois using enhanced energy to overwhelm the visiting Buckeyes at State Farm Center.

Terrence Shannon Jr.’s 17 points, seven rebounds and three assists paced the Illini (14-6, 5-4 Big Ten), which picked up 14 points from Jayden Epps, 12 points, eight rebounds and two blocked shots from Matthew Mayer, and an 11-point, nine-rebound, six-assist, three-block performance from Coleman Hawkins.

Brice Sensabaugh keyed Ohio State with 14 points, though he scored just five of those in the second half. Justice Sueing added 13 points.

* * *

3:26 second half — Illinois 69, Ohio State 52

Illinois is pulling away from Ohio State and having some fun on the offensive end, with Coleman Hawkins and Ty Rodgers each rattling the rim on a dunk courtesy passes from each other.

Buckeyes big man Zed Key has fouled out with just eight points score. Paired with Brice Sensabaugh having two points in the second half, it’s pretty easy to understand why Ohio State’s offense hasn’t fully gotten back into this despite good contributions from Justice Sueing and Bruce Thornton.

Illinois also looks extremely strong on the boards here. The rebounding edge is up to 40-25.

* * *

7:31 second half — Illinois 60, Ohio State 47

Illinois is starting to look comfortable in the offensive end against after a bit of an Ohio State push, as three Illini are in double figures scoring for the night.

Terrence Shannon Jr. (14 points), Jayden Epps (14 points) and Matthew Mayer (12 points) all have hit that mark, with Epps pulling off a sneaky pass-off-the-defender baseline out of bounds play to give himself a free layup.

The Illini are rebounding well down the stretch, too, holding a 35-24 edge in that regard. That’s even with Dain Dainja (four) in foul trouble, though the Buckeyes’ Zed Key also has four fouls.

* * *

11:17 second half — Illinois 52, Ohio State 39

The Buckeyes are getting a few of the looks to fall from closer to the rim, but they still have a little ways to go to completely erase their deficit against the Illini.

Bruce Thornton is up to eight points on 3-of-5 shooting for Ohio State, and Justice Sueing has six points in 3-of-6 shooting. The Buckeyes are looking for a consistent scoring option beyond Brice Sensabaugh, who still is stitting on nine points on just 3-of-10 shooting.

Matthew Mayer and Coleman Hawkins each have brought in six rebounds tonight, though Mayer also has three fouls. Terrence Shannon Jr. has added another five fouls, helping Illinois to a 28-23 lead in that department.

* * *

15:13 second half — Illinois 48, Ohio State 31

Illinois has crafted its biggest lead of the night as Dain Dainja logs an offensive rebound and a putback slam dunk before recording a steal on the other end, eventually leading Jayden Epps to hit a three-pointer.

The State Farm Center crowd was pretty loud for that moment, though it arguably was louder for OSU’s Isaac Likekele missing two consecutive free throws to gift chicken McNuggets to all in attendance.

Illinois has extended its rebounding lead to 26-19 and holds a 9-0 edge in fastbreak points.

* * *

Halftime — Illinois 34, Ohio State 26

Jayden Epps records a nice take straight at Zed Key under the net, drawing a foul and nailing two free throws to give the Illini an eight-point halftime lead.

Terrence Shannon Jr. boasts 12 points, four rebounds, two assists and one steal for Illinois, which has gotten eight points, four rebounds and two blocked shots from Matthew Mayer.

Brice Sensabaugh’s nine points and Sean McNeil’s five points paces Ohio State, which is shooting just 31 percent from the field to the Illini’s 45 percent. Illinois also outrebounding its foe 18-16, though losing 7-3 in offensive boards.

* * *

4:23 first half — Illinois 27, Ohio State 19

Terrence Shannon Jr. pulled off a steal-and-score play to force a Buckeyes timeout, putting home a two-handed slam for his 11th and 12th points of the night. He’s also 6 of 6 from the free-throw line, adding three rebounds and two assists.

Ohio State is having some foul issues, namely with Justice Sueing (three fouls). Brice Sensabaugh also has two fouls, though that total is matched by Illinois’ Dain Dainja and Ty Rodgers.

The Illini have done well getting the ball high to low with the long pass on a few occasions. A feed from above the three-point arc to a man directly under the net has led to easy layups for Brandon Lieb and Jayden Epps, as well as a near miss from Rodgers.

* * *

7:41 first half — Illinois 19, Ohio State 17

Brandon Lieb is getting some playing time amid foul trouble for Dain Dainja. He blocked a shot by OSU’s Brice Sensabaugh and converted a nearly uncontested layup off a nice feed from Terrence Shannon Jr. from above the arc.

Sensabaugh has proven tough to stop for the Buckeyes, as he’s up to nine points (albeit on 3-of-7 shooting from the field). Shannon boasts eight points to lead Illinois, including a 4-of-4 clip from the free-throw line.

* * *

11:44 first half — Illinois 10, Ohio State 9

Matthew Mayer is looking back to his healthier self tonight.

After dealing with an illness Thursday, Mayer has recorded a blocked shot and a three-pointer to help the Illini regain the lead over the Buckeyes.

RJ Melendez also did a nice job driving to the net and hitting a delayed-release layup. And Terrence Shannon Jr. had a couple good possessions dealing with OSU’s Justice Sueing — first guarding him on the defensive end, then driving to the rim to draw a foul the other way.

* * *

15:54 first half — Ohio State 7, Illinois 5

Illinois has done well to defend the rim so far, with Matthew Mayer and Jayden Epps putting forth good straight-up contests underneath and Dain Dainja doing well not to let OSU’s Zed Key back him down.

But both Sean McNeil and Brice Sensabaugh have gotten a mid-range shot to fall, and McNeil added a pretty clean three-pointer.

Coleman Hawkins fought hard for an offensive rebound on Illinois’ first possession and was rewarded with a corner three-pointer. He’s got a tough matchup tonight, getting first crack at dealing with the freshman star Sensabaugh.

* * *

PREGAME — 10 minutes before opening tip-off

Jayden Epps is entering the starting lineup for Sencire Harris. This will be just the second start of the season for Epps, who typically has played quite a few more minutes than Harris in recent games despite the latter getting the start.

Illinois’ other starters are the usual: Terrence Shannon Jr., Matthew Mayer, Coleman Hawkins and Dain Dainja.

Starting for Ohio State: Bruce Thornton, Sean McNeil, Isaac Likekele, Brice Sensabaugh and Zed Key.

* * *

PREGAME — 30 minutes before opening tip-off

Brad Underwood said Monday that Luke Goode is getting closer to a return to typical practice repetitions with his teammates, in the recovery from surgery on his foot required after an October injury.

What exactly that means for the sophomore guard’s on-court involvement, once he’s available to play in games, remains to be seen.

“Great question. I don’t know,” Underwood said. “Getting him involved in practice will be fun. It’ll be interesting to see, because we know his shooting, we know his toughness, we know his rebounding. Those are all things we saw last year. But he hasn’t done it in a game this year.

“You’re talking about a guy who was utilized last year, but not in major-minute roles. And we’ll see what that looks like as we move forward.”

* * *

PREGAME — 60 minutes before opening tip-off

Just one Big Ten team received recognition in the latest Associated Press Top 25 poll, released Monday. But it was the highest possible recognition, as Purdue returned to the No. 1 spot following a stint at No. 3.

Indiana wasn’t far outside the list at No. 27, with Michigan State (32nd), Illinois (tied for 33rd) and Wisconsin (37th) also receiving votes.

When Illinois coach Brad Underwood was asked Monday about the lack of Big Ten representation in the AP Top 25 of late, he responded “rightfully so.”

But that doesn’t mean he’s happy about it.

“It’s ridiculous we only have one team ranked. I think there should be seven or eight of us,” Underwood said. “This might be a year where there’s one dominant team (Purdue), if you want to look at it right now. But they’ve also won four or five really close games. So take it for what it is. It’s a great league.”

* * *

PREGAME — 90 minutes before opening tip-off

Welcome to State Farm Center, where Illinois men’s basketball (13-6, 4-4 Big Ten) is looking to bounce back from a lackluster showing last Thursday versus Indiana.

The new task at hand is defeating Ohio State (11-8, 3-5), which ended a five-game losing streak last Saturday by knocking off Iowa.

The Illini’s only health concern of note seems to have been resolved. Guard/forward Matthew Mayer was dealing with an illness during the Indiana game, according to coach Brad Underwood, but is feeling better after a couple days away from the court.

The Buckeyes, meanwhile, have some questions marks. The biggest is Zed Key, who suffered a knee injury late in the Iowa game. Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann said Monday that Key is “day-to-day” with the malady, likely making him a game-time decision.

Except, that’s no longer a question mark as of earlier today.

So that’s a big target for guys like Dain Dainja, Coleman Hawkins and Ty Rodgers to deal with tonight.

Holtmann also utilized a first-time starting lineup versus Iowa that didn’t include two typical starters in redshirt-senior forward Justice Sueing and graduate guard Sean McNeil.

What version of the Buckeyes presents itself to Illinois on Tuesday remains to be seen.

Until we have a better understanding of that, here’s some pregame content to help prepare you for the game.

The Illini are trying to bounce back from a sluggish loss to Indiana, while the Buckeyes hope to build off a weekend win, their first in their last six games.

RJ Melendez is one of the first players off the bench for Illinois men’s basketball these days. Whether or not that changes in the near future, it sounds like the number of minutes he garners is going up.

Illinois men’s basketball beat writer and AP Top 25 voter Scott Richey weighs in on his latest ballot

“You’ve got a real opportunity to get a world-class education here — you might as well give it all you got in sports and do the same in the classroom, that way you always have a fallback option,” Rick Schmidt said.  

The rest of the conference, Illinois certainly included, is a bit of a mess 

One thing is clear: Post play was a major issue for both Illini basketball teams in home losses to Hoosiers

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