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CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) – Aaron Craft made two free throws with 15 seconds left and Jon Diebler forced an Illinois turnover with 4 seconds on the clock as No. 1 Ohio State held on for a 73-68 win over the 23rd-ranked Illini on Saturday.

Jared Sullinger had 27 points and 16 rebounds for the unbeaten Buckeyes (20-0, 7-0 Big Ten), who went on a 14-0 run in the second half in rallying for the victory.

The Illini (14-6, 4-3) made it close, though. Mike Tisdale’s 3-pointer brought Illinois within 69-68 with 16 seconds left. But Craft’s free throws and Diebler’s strip preserved the win.

Talk in Illinois for much of the week centered on the last time the two teams met with one undefeated, in March 2005. Ohio State ended Illinois’ unbeaten run that season, though Illinois went on to play in the NCAA title game, losing to North Carolina.

Sullinger’s brother, J.J., was part of that Buckeye team.

Sullinger scored 11 points early in the second half Saturday to keep the Buckeyes in the game, and told his teammates not to worry as they walked to the bench down 50-42 with just under 13 minutes to play.

He lived up to his billing, often dealing with two Illinois defenders.

Thirteen of his points came from the free throw line, where he missed only twice.

With 12:52 left in the game and the Buckeyes down 50-42 after Mike Davis’ layup, Sullinger walked to the bench telling teammates ”Don’t worry, don’t worry,” as he waved his hands back and forth.

Diebler and Deshaun Thomas must have listened.

Diebler started the key run with two free throws with 11:39 left in the game and he and Thomas hit 3-pointers on three-straight possessions to end it. The first one by Thomas tied the game at 50 and the last, also by Thomas, gave Ohio State a 56-50 lead it wouldn’t surrender.

In a rough, physical first half, Sullinger led the Buckeyes with 11 points and eight rebounds, playing much of the first 20 minutes with gauze in his nose to stop a nose bleed.

But Illinois’ Jereme Richmond, another highly recruited freshman, traded shots and boards with the big Buckeye.

After trailing 20-12 with just under 10 minutes left in the half, Richmond scored on three straight possessions, all in heavy traffic under the basket, to cut Ohio State’s lead to 20-18.

Sullinger, though, answered with 8:12 to play with a strong, two-handed dunk.

Illinois closed the first half with an 8-0 run, the last points coming from Brandon Paul’s jumper on the break that made the score 34-33.

Much of the run, though, was a direct result of work by Richmond.

He started it with a short bucket after grabbing the rebound off Tisdale’s miss with 2:24 to play, cutting the Buckeye lead 33-28.

On Illinois’ next possession Richmond fed Mike Davis for a dunk that cut the deficit to three.

With 54 seconds to play, Richmond buried a short basket over Sullinger, forcing the Buckeye freshman to the floor in the process. That put the Illini within two, and set the stage for Paul’s lead-grabbing layup and free throw.

Richmond had 18 points and 10 rebounds for Illinois and Tisdale added 15 points.

 

No. 1 Ohio State 73 (20-0, 7-0), No. 22/23 Illinois 68 (14-6, 4-3)                                                     
Assembly Hall – Champaign, Ill.
January 22, 2011
Attendance: 16,618
POSTGAME NOTES
 
 TEAM

  • The Buckeyes’ 20-0 overall record is the third-best start in school history (1960-61, 27-0; 1961-62, 22-0). Ohio State and San Diego State concurrently hold the nation’s longest active winning streak at 20 games.
  • As a ranked team, Ohio State is 381-105 all-time. The Buckeyes are 30-1 at home over the last two seasons.
  • Ohio State’s four returning starters for 2010-11 (Jon Diebler, David Lighty, Dallas Lauderdale and William Buford) have combined for 372 career starts and 477 games played.
  • Ohio State improved to 61-4 when ranked first in the country by the Associated Press.
  • The Buckeyes improved to 34-1 against Big Ten opponents when ranked No. 1 by the Associated Press.
  • The Buckeyes are 118-17 when ranked among the Top 3 in the country.
  • When ranked in the Top 10 nationally, Ohio State is 260-56 with wins in 51 of its last 53 outings.
  • Ohio State has won four consecutive games vs. Illinois.
  • Ohio State moved to 4-0 vs. Illinois when ranked No. 1 (last meeting was a 102-79 victory in Columbus on 2/24/62).
  • Ohio State is now 5-5 against Illinois when both teams are ranked (previous meeting when both teams were ranked was a 62-60 win by No. 7 Illinois over No. 16 Ohio State in Champaign, 2/9/1989).
  • Ohio State is now 381-105 as a ranked team improving to 136-221 vs. ranked teams. When both teams are ranked in the Top 25, the Buckeyes are 56-47.
  • The Buckeyes are 63-99 vs. the Illini all-time, improving their overall Big Ten record to 707-658. They are now 24-58 in Champaign.
  • Ohio State is 20-9 vs. Illinois when ranked among the Associated Press Top 25.
  • Ohio State has won its last 11 true road games dating back to the 2009-10 season (last road loss was at No. 11 West Virginia, Jan. 23, 2010).
  • The Buckeyes have won their last 10 road contests since losing to Minnesota 73-62 Jan. 9, 2010. It is the second longest Big Ten road winning streak in Ohio State history (previous best was 14 between the seasons 1959-60 and 1961-62).
  • The Buckeye freshmen have accounted for 47 percent of total scoring for the season, including 40 of Ohio State’s 73 total points against Illinois.
  • This is the 245th-consecutive game Ohio State has made at least one 3-point field goal (1/10/04 vs. Penn State was the last game with zero made).
  • Illinois went on a 10-0 run at the end of the first half and start of the second half to lead 36-33. Ohio State preceded the Fighting Illini’s run with a 7-0 run of their own.

 
THAD MATTA

  • The 20-0 record to begin the season is the best start for Thad Matta at Ohio State (previous best was in 2005-06, when the team began 11-0).
  • This season is the seventh-consecutive year Matta has guided the Buckeyes to a 20-win campaign. That extends the longest streak in Ohio State history.
  • Matta has won at least 20 games in each of his 11 seasons as a head coach. Only Mark Few (Gonzaga), among active coaches, has more consecutive 20-win seasons to start a career.
  • Matta improved his career record to 278-85 overall and 176-54 at Ohio State.
  • With the win, Ohio State is 39-19 (.643) in January under Matta and 6-0 this season.
  • Matta is now 9-3 vs. Illinois in his career, with an overall mark of 86-37 against Big Ten opponents.
  • Matta is 90-17 vs. non-conference competition at Ohio State and 86-37 vs. Big Ten foes (regular season and Big Ten tournament games) for an overall record of 176-54. He is 113-10 in games played in Columbus.
  • The Buckeyes moved to 2-0 when facing ranked teams on the year and 28-34 overall.
  • Ohio State improved to 3-0 on the season and 27-32 overall in games where they trail at the half.
  • During Matta’s tenure at Ohio State, the Buckeyes are 162-5 when leading with five minutes to play.
  • Ohio State improved to 14-0 on the season and 118-11 when scoring more than 70 points in a contest.
  • The Buckeyes are 18-0 this season and 146-43 when having 15 or fewer turnovers in a game (Ohio State had seven turnovers vs. Illinois).

JARED SULLINGER

  • Jared Sullinger finished the contest with a team-high 27 points. Sullinger has scored at least 10 points in 18 of 20 games. Sullinger was 13-15 from the free-throw line.
  • Sullinger also added a team-high 16 rebounds for his ninth double-double of the season.
  • It is the second time this season that Sullinger has grabbed 16 rebounds (UNC Asheville), which ties himself and numerous others for fifth-place for total rebounds by a freshman in a game.
  • The 13 made free throws by Sullinger are the second most in Ohio State history by a freshman. He set the record with 16 earlier this season vs. IUPUI on 12/9/10.
  • Sullinger’s 15 free throw attempts are tied for fourth-most as a freshman at Ohio State. He set the record earlier this season with 23 attempts vs. IUPUI on 12/9/10.

DAVID LIGHTY

  • Lighty has played in 140 games as a Buckeye, passing Jamar Butler for most all-time in an Ohio State uniform.
  • By playing all 40 minutes, Lighty joined teammate Jon Diebler in the 400 and 4,000 club (400 career field goals/4,000 career minutes). He has made 450 field goals and logged 4,015 career minutes in his 140-game stretch.
  • Lighty, the third player in Ohio State history to reach 1,000 points, 500 rebounds and 300 assists, ended the contest with nine points, five rebounds and four assists. Lighty’s current marks: 1,268 points, 509 rebounds and 325 assists.
  • Lighty recorded his 114th win as a Buckeye vs. Illinois on Saturday. He had 35 as a freshman, 25 as a sophomore, 29 as a junior and seven during the 2008-09 season when he received a medical redshirt because of a broken foot. He set the OSU record with his 112th win.
  • The game vs. Illinois marked senior David Lighty’s 108th career start for Ohio State. He is three starts away from tying Kelvin Ramsey for seventh-place in career games started in a Buckeye jersey.
  • With nine points, Lighty is 17 points behind Clark Kellogg for 26th-place in Ohio State history for career scoring.
  • Lighty had one steal, keeping his spot as second all-time at Ohio State with 167. He also recorded four assists to give him 325 for his career.

 
 JON DIEBLER

  • With three made 3-pointers vs. Illinois, senior Jon Diebler now has 319 for his career, fifth-place in career 3-pointers made in Big Ten history. Diebler is one away from tying Craig Moore (320, Northwestern, 2006-09) for fourth place.
  • With three made 3-pointers, Diebler extends his streak to 36 games in a row with at least one 3-pointer made.
  • Diebler’s current 3-point field goal percentage of 47 percent (59-125) puts him in the record books as having the best single season three-point percentage.
  • With 15 points against the Fighting Illini, Diebler now has 1,301 career points, 12 away from tying Jamar Butler for 24th-place.

 
WILLIAM BUFORD
• Junior guard William Buford knocked down seven points for the Buckeyes, pushing his career total to 1,158. Buford is in 33rd place for all-time career scoring at Ohio State. Lawrence Funderburke is 32nd with 1,179 points. 

 AARON CRAFT

  • Big Ten Freshman of the Week, Aaron Craft had four assists. He now has 97 assists on the season to just 39 turnovers.