CHAMPAIGN — Illinois junior guard Tracy Abrams reluctantly gave the Ohio State defense credit on Saturday night.
All the 22nd-rated Buckeyes did at the State Farm Center was hold the Illini to a season-low 39 points as Ohio State defeated Illinois 48-39 in a Big Ten Conference game before an announced crowd of 16,618.
"It's a matter of you being tough,'' said Abrams, who had 13 points, but he also had three turnovers and no assists in the game. "I give those guys a little bit of credit, they played hard and smart. But, it's a matter of you being tough, knowing that you are going to get it wherever you want to go.''
But Illinois (14-12 overall, 3-10 in the Big Ten) wasn't able to get where it needed to go offensively and even when the Illini did get a good opportunity, they failed to convert. Ironically, the 39 points is the lowest for Illinois since setting an Assembly Hall record with just 33 points in 2009 against Penn State.
During a 14-minute stretch of the second half, Illinois made just one field and two free throws, while missing one dunk and one easy layup.
"Obviously, our offense was anemic today,'' Illinois coach John Groce said. "I thought Ohio State had a lot to do with that. I thought they imposed their will on the defensive end — especially in the second half.
"I thought in the first half, we didn't take advantage of the shots we had. I thought we executed really well. I thought the ball moved well in the first half. Maybe, we will look at it and feel like we should have been up more than 3.''
The Illini, who scored 15 points in the game's first 7 minutes, 26 seconds, had a 23-20 lead at halftime, but that included making just 3-of-16 shots in the final 12 minutes of the half.