David Lighty’s offense was released from captivity at halftime and the senior guard/forward led Ohio State to an 89-70 throat punching of Illinois at The Schott. Lighty poured in 17 second-half points, several on end-to-end breaks off of steals, to lead all scorers with 21, in a game of spurts. Every time the Buckeyes constructed a lead, the Illini crept back in with white-hot 3-point shooting, particularly in the first half. But Lighty and Ohio State (26-2, 13-2 in the B1G) were just too much for Illinois (17-11, 7-8), and when the Illini shots stopped falling, the Buckeyes pulled away for the lopsided win and a series sweep.
William Buford was as unstoppable in the first half as Lighty was in the second, with all 17 of his points coming before halftime, leading Ohio State to a 47-32 advantage. Buford missed all five of his second half shots, but Lighty, who went 2-of-6 for four first-half points, hit six of 10 shots and went 3-of-4 from the stripe after the break, finishing with six steals, four rebounds, two assists, only one foul and no turnovers in his most complete game of the year. Jon Diebler (13 points, 3-3 from deep), Jared Sullinger (12 points, 11 rebounds) and Aaron Craft (12 points, 6 assists, 2 steals) also reached double figures. The Buckeyes even got significant offensive contributions at key moments from Dallas Lauderdale and Deshaun Thomas, with six points each.
The Buckeyes opened on an 8-2 run, highlighted by a Lauderdale flush and jumpers by Buford and Diebler. Illinois crept back in with a pair of treys by center Mike Tisdale, who was 4-of-4 from beyond the arc in the first half and led the Illini with 12 points before the break. Buford and Sullinger hit layups to push the OSU lead to 14-8 before Demetri McCamey hit a three, assisted by D.J. Richardson. Neither McCamey nor Richardson started the game, as Bruce Weber tried to send his guards a message. McCamey responded with a 15-point, 6-assist, 4-rebound effort, which was much better than his first outing against the Buckeyes.
Brandon Paul’s layup closed the OSU lead to one point at 19-18, but the Buckeyes got a Lauderdale slam, and a trey and three free throws by Buford on an 8-0 run. Buford was hit in the act of shooting a three, bailing out the referees, who failed to call Mike Davis’ two-handed shove in the back of Aaron Craft on a loose ball, just seconds earlier. Tisdale and Jereme Richmond answered with 3-pointers. Lauderdale’s jumper and Lighty’s layup were followed by another Tisdale trey and McCamey added another after Lauderdale missed two freebies. In all, Illinois shot an astonishing 8-of-9 from deep in the first half (88.9%). Without the three-ball, the Illini would have been left in Ohio State’s dust early.
Ohio State scored the next nine points to pull ahead, 42-30, highlighted by Buford’s and-one. Brandon Paul hit a jumper to cut the lead back to 10 and end a four-minute scoreless drought, but Sully threw down a two-handed flush and Diebler hit a long ball from the corner just before the buzzer. The 14-2 run at the end of the half provided a 15-point lead and momentum at the break. The Buckeyes shot 57% to the Illini’s 52% in the opening half, but Illinois had nine turnovers and the Buckeyes had zero miscues and a 15-11 edge on the boards.
Illinois came out with more intensity and full-court pressure after the half, starting on a 7-0 run and forcing Ohio State’s first two turnovers of the contest. Sullinger dunked to stop the run, but the Illini got buckets from Richmond and Crandall Head to cut the lead to just six points, 49-43. Then Lighty took over, scoring 13 of the next 15 points in the game, including two 3-pointers, a dunk and an and-one free throw, pushing the OSU lead to 62-45. But back came Illinois again. Richardson and McCamey hit threes and Davis slammed to cut the lead to single digits again, 62-53. Thomas hit a three and got and and-one to push it back to 15 with 9:28 to play and the Illini never got it under 10 again. Ohio State closed on a 27-17 run, highlighted by six points by Craft, a Diebler triple and a put-back by Lenzelle Smith, Jr.
Just two days after committing 18 turnovers at Purdue, the Buckeyes lost the ball only three times – all in the second half – and forced 16 Illini miscues. The Buckeyes stole the ball nine times to Illinois’ 1, and won the rebounding battle, 29-28. Ohio State shut down Tisdale in the second half, as the big man got only two points after halftime. The hot Illini 3-point shooting of the first half turned into 3-of-12 after halftime, leaving Illinois with a still-excellent 52% from deep. Ohio State hit 53% of its shots, 47% from long range. Davis led Illinois with 18 points and seven rebounds. Richmond added 11 points and nine boards.
The Buckeyes are back in action Sunday at 4 p.m. against Indiana at The Schott.
Notes: Sullinger needs just three points to pass Greg Oden for third most in a season by a Buckeye freshman…Ohio State has won 20 consecutive home games…Lighty’s six steals were a career high and an OSU record vs. Illinois…Diebler extended his 3-point streak to 44 games…Craft passed Damon Stringer for second most assists in a season by an OSU freshman.