Champaign, IL (SportsNetwork.com) - Aaron Craft led with 14 points as the No. 22 Ohio State Buckeyes defeated the Illinois Fighting Illini, 48-39, at State Farm Center.
LaQuinton Ross supplied nine points and six rebounds, while Marc Loving had eight points off the bench for the Buckeyes (20-6, 7-6 Big Ten), who have won four of their last five.
Tracy Abrams scored 13 points, Rayvonte Rice contributed 11, and Nnanna Egwu had 14 boards for the Fighting Illini (14-12, 3-10), who have dropped two straight and 10 of their last 11. Illinois shot 28.3 percent (15-of-53) from the field.
"Obviously our offense was anemic today. I thought Ohio State's defense had a lot to do with that. They imposed their will defensively." said Illinois coach John Groce.
Craft's 3-point play brought the Buckeyes within 10-9 nearly five minutes into the game. Craft accounted for seven of Ohio State's first nine points.
A few minutes later, Egwu tipped in Joseph Bertrand's miss and Abrams knocked down a three to give the Illini a 15-9 lead
Ross' layup ignited a 7-2 run that contained a three from Amedeo Della Valle and a layup from Shannon Scott that capped the run at 7:47 to get the Buckeyes within 17-16.
Trailing 23-20 at the break, Ross drained a three to tie the game 22 seconds into the half.
Craft knocked down a three in the midst of a 7-0 spurt for the Buckeyes that ended with a jumper from Lenzelle Smith Jr. that made it a 30-25 game with 13:28 to go.
Illinois got within one on a pair of free throws from Abrams, but Ohio State built a healthy lead thanks to a 12-0 run. Loving was strong, scoring the final eight points to give the Buckeyes a 42-29 lead with 5:25 remaining.
Rice's triple and two layups gave the Fighting Illini six straight points to make it 44-39 with a minute left. Smith and Craft both hit a pair of free throws to account for the final score.