Normally the headline would be that the Buckeyes were beat by the team, but that just wasn’t true tonight. In order for Illinois to win this game, they were going to need an all star performance from somebody. That somebody this evening was Brandon Paul. Coming into the game shooting 36.4% with a little over 12 PPG, he left the game with the third highest scoring outing in Illinois history, dropping a monstrous 43 points on the Buckeyes, including 8 of 10 from three point land. Paul also turned in the team high in rebounds with 8 boards.
Paul alone carried the Illini to the victory and were it not for his once in a lifetime performance, Illinois likely would have sunk into that good night. D.J. Robinson, the team’s leading scorer, had only 10 points on the night, if only because Paul held the monopoly on Illini scoring.
The score at the half was deceiving to anyone not watching the actual game. The Buckeyes held the 8 point lead at the break, even with allowing the Illini to shoot over 50% from the field in the opening period. There was a wealth of people proclaiming that Illinois could not possibly shoot that well in the second half, and were quickly quieted.
The teams traded baskets, and the lead, several times in the second half, with Ohio State holding a slim lead with just over five to play. Under Matta, the Bucks had only lost 5 games when leading with 5 left, but this would add up to number 6. Thad had to be furious at the effort that two of his best, Craft and Buford, were putting forth.
Craft appears to not have fully recovered from the Indiana game, and had several really bad turnovers that led to Illinois points. Buford’s shots are still is not falling the way it should, and the bad looks and rushed shots culminated in just 15 points for Buford. At this rate, the all time scoring record might be out of reach for the Senior. When you are considered the team’s second top scorer and you put up just 3 more than Craft who doesn’t shoot very much, you know that you need to hit the gym for extended shooting sessions.
Matta’s halftime speech seemed to light a small fire under the Bucks as they came out firing, going on a 9-2 run in the opening two minutes of the second half. But the Illini answered with a 7-0 run themselves to bring the deficit back to 2. Runs were traded back and forth with each team hitting almost impossible shots from behind the arc.
Sullinger dropped two three balls in the first half, which is a nice addition to his game from last year. Apparently the drop in weight has also allowed him to improve his outside game. However, the best shot of the night came from, you guessed it, Brandon Paul who drained his 6th three pointer over the head and outstretched hand of Craft. The rainbow looked almost like desperation right up until it tickled the bottom of the net.
While Deshaun Thomas and Sullinger each scored more than 20, the night belonged to the young man from Gurnee, IL. The loss stings, but I tip my cap to Brandon Paul. He simply had the night of his career, something he probably will not replicate anytime soon. So for now, BP3, enjoy this night and all the free drinks you’ll be offered. You’ve certainly earned it.
Final Score: OSU 74 – UoI 79
My Prediction: OSU 86 – UoI 65