COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP)Bruce Thornton scored 20 points, fellow freshman Brice Sensabaugh scored 14, senior Justice Sueing contributed a double-double, and Ohio State defeated Illinois 72-60 on Sunday, snapping a nine-game losing streak.
The Buckeyes had lost 14 of their past 15 games coming in but have showed signs of improvement since starting four true freshmen – Thornton, Sensabaugh, Felix Okpara and Roddy Gayle – in back-to-back games.
Ohio State led 41-29 at halftime before Illinois rallied in the second half. Terrence Shannon scored eight straight Illinois points, including back-to-back three-point plays, during a 12-2 run that got the Illini within 45-41 with 15:11 remaining.
Illinois, which erased an 18-point deficit against Northwestern last time out, got within 53-52 on a 3-pointer by Jayden Epps. Ohio State came right back with a putback layup by Sueing, followed by a thunderous dunk from Sensabaugh and a jumper by Sensabaugh. The Buckeyes did not miss another shot, finishing 7-for-7 over the final 6:21.
The Buckeyes pushed their lead to 64-53 when Thornton finished off a three-point play with 3:57 remaining. Ohio State maintained a double-digit lead over the last 2:35.
Sueing had 14 points and 11 rebounds for the Buckeyes (12-17, 4-14 Big Ten). Thornton made 8 of 11 shots and Sensabaugh was 5-for-11 shooting and grabbed six rebounds.
Coleman Hawkins had 14 points and seven rebounds for Illinois (19-10, 10-8). Matthew Mayer scored 11 points, and Shannon and Epps had 10 points each.
Thornton made 6 of 7 shots and scored 13 points to lead Ohio State to a 41-29 halftime lead. The Buckeyes hit on 60.7% of their shots to 36.7% for Illinois in the first half. Ohio State finished at 53.6% and Illinois hit 36.1% for the game.
Illinois had won 10 of 14 games after starting Big Ten play 0-3.
Ohio State has a home game against Maryland on Wednesday and plays at Michigan State on Saturday to close out the regular season. The Illini will be at home against Michigan on Thursday and at No. 5 Purdue on Sunday.
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