Illinois can’t afford letdown at lowly Ohio State

The Illinois Fighting Illini look to strengthen their NCAA Tournament resume when they visit the slumping Ohio State Buckeyes on Sunday for a Big Ten matchup in Columbus, Ohio.

On Thursday, Illinois (19-9, 10-7) overcame a 16-point deficit in the final 11 minutes on their home court to rally past No. 21 Northwestern, 66-62, for their second straight win.

The Illini trailed by as many as 18 before outscoring the Wildcats 47-25 in the second half in front of a raucous home crowd. The Illini held Northwestern to just one 3-pointer in the final 20 minutes, while knocking down seven threes after halftime.

Dealing with illness before the game, Terrence Shannon Jr. came off the bench and scored 24 of his team-high 26 points in the second half rally. He was 7-for-8 from the field and converted all four 3-point attempts.

“That was UCLA-Terrence,” Illinois coach Brad Underwood said, referring to Shannon’s 29-point, 10-rebound effort in a 79-77 win against the Bruins on Nov. 18. “That was early-season (form). I had no idea what to expect. I had no idea pregame if he was going to play.”

“My thought process through the end of the game was just to get stops,” Shannon said. “I didn’t really care about the offensive end.”

Matthew Mayer scored all 14 of his points in the second half, making all eight of his free-throw attempts in the final 20 minutes.

Ohio State (11-17, 3-14) has lost nine straight, including all seven in February, and 14 of 15 overall. The Buckeyes missed five 3-pointers in the final 20 seconds of Thursday’s 75-71 home loss to Penn State, drawing the ire of many Buckeyes fans.

“Down four, you’re not going to get a super-clean look at that point. You need a three. At that point, you need to take a three,” Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann said.

Brice Sensabaugh led Ohio State with 20 points while Bruce Thornton added 19 in the loss.

“I think as coaches, we have to do a great job of defining of what wins and what loses in this league and in college basketball in the midst of these struggles right now,” Holtmann added. “We have to imprint it on their brains, what wins and what loses.”

–Field Level Media