- Associated Press - Saturday, February 15, 2014

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) - Illinois was hoping to stop its extended slump and build momentum for a strong finish when it hosted No. 22 Ohio State on Saturday night.

Instead, the Illini turned in a befuddling offensive performance.

Illinois shot just 28.3 percent from the field and had 13 turnovers in a 48-39 loss to the Buckeyes.

“Obviously our offense was anemic today,” coach John Groce said. “I thought Ohio State had a lot to do with that. I thought they imposed their will on the defensive end, especially in the second half.”

Tracy Abrams had 13 points for Illinois (14-12, 3-10 Big Ten), which has lost 10 of 11. Nnanna Egwu had a career-high 14 rebounds but fouled out late.

“I give those guys a little bit of credit - they play hard, they play smart,” Abrams said. “(But) it’s a matter of you being tough and getting it where you need to go.”

Aaron Craft led the Buckeyes (20-6, 7-6) with 14 points, even after spending two long stretches on the bench in foul trouble.

“It was rough - I’m sitting on the bench. It’s tough when you don’t have a say,” Craft said. “My teammates did a great job, controlling the perimeter. Guys just did a great job executing, finding ways to keep it close and that’s what we needed.”

LaQuinton Ross added nine points for Ohio State, which trailed 23-20 at halftime. The Buckeyes made 38 percent of their shots.

Matta remained confident despite the slow start, delivering a positive message at the break.

“We’re down three,” Matta said he told his players. “Trust me, something’s gonna fall for us.”

And it did.

Ross and Craft each hit a 3-pointer as Ohio State started the second half with a 10-2 run.

The Buckeyes finished with 10 steals. Shannon Scott had five and Craft had three.

“I thought the 10 steals in that type of game, that’s a large number,” Groce said.

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