By Joseph Phillips, Crusader Sports Editor
The Illinois Fighting Illini fell to 9-5 on the season with an 87-81 loss to the Ohio State Buckeyes on Saturday, January 16, at home.
Buckeyes forward EJ Liddell, an Illinois native, led all scorers with 26 points.
“It’s my home-state school, but that’s not what motivated me today,” Liddell said.
“It was my teammates. I felt like I needed to do more to help us win today. I didn’t really have the best game against Northwestern, and that’s why they stayed in it most of the time. But I just felt like today, I just did everything I could for my teammates. Tonight it was just scoring, and that’s how we got the win.”
Liddell, who was recruited by the Fighting Illini in his senior year in high school, scored 17 points last season in his debut against his hometown team.
Liddell and the Buckeyes attacked the Fighting Illini defense early in the first half, outscoring their Big Ten opponents 43-28 at halftime.
Buckeyes coach Chris Holtmann said he was very impressed with his team’s performance.
“I think what it says about our young men right now at this point is they’ve really embraced what each guy can bring to the team,” Holtmann said. “They’ve been able to come in and play effectively.”
In the second half, the Fighting Illini fought back. The group trimmed a 15-point lead to two points, with 15.5 seconds left in regulation. But after fouls by the Fighting Illini defense, the Buckeyes offense nailed several clutch-free throws down the stretch.
Final Score: Ohio State 87, Illinois 81.
With the loss, the Fighting Illini dropped to 5-3 in conference play.
Guard Ayo Dosunmu led the Fighting Illini with 22 points but fell short in his team’s comeback effort. Center Kofi Cockburn added 15 points and 11 rebounds in the loss.
Chicago Crusader Players of the Game:
Guard Ayo Dosunmu, Illinois, score d a team-high 22 points.
EJ Liddell, Ohio State, led all scorers with 26 points.