On a night when the 3-point shot abandoned Ohio State, the big men came through. Kaleb Wesson scored 15 of his 19 points in the second half and freshman E.J. Liddell had his first career double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds. The two big guys led the Buckeyes (21-9, 11-8 Big Ten) to a 71-63 win over Illinois. Wesson was the one Buckeye who was on target from 3-point land, going 2-for-4 from deep but he and Liddell were most effective in the paint. The two were a combined 14-for-19 from the floor and Liddell came up with arguably the biggest basket of the night, slamming through a missed lay-up by Luther Muhammed with 9:02 left. The dunk snapped a 51-51 tie and gave Ohio State the lead for good.
In addition to the Buckeye bigs coming through, point guard C.J. Walker was outstanding as well, scoring 15 points with 5 assists and 2 steals. Walker was able to drive to the basket effectively and draw contact, going 11-for-13 from the free throw line. Muhammed had a tough night offensively, scoring only a single point, but was a major factor on defense. Illinois guard Ayo Dosunmu finished with a game high 21 points, but Muhammed made life difficult for the Illini star, especially down the stretch. Dosunmu was limited to just 2 points over the last 10 minutes of the game. Muhammed also came up with 3 steals.
The victory was Ohio State's 4th straight and 9th in 11 games. They close out the regular season at Michigan State Sunday afternoon (4:30, Channel 10) in what will be the final home game for Spartan superstar Cassius Winston. The Spartans will also be playing for at least a share of the Big Ten title. You can check out the highlights of the Thursday night win over Illinois below.