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Illinois scored just nine points over the first 15:35 minutes of the second half.

While each team struggled with its shooting, defense also played a key role.

The Illini paid close attention to Ross, who was averaging a team-high 14.6 points. He had just one field goal in the second half and was 3 for 8 from the field for the game.

Rayvonte Rice, Illinois’ leading scorer with 16.8 a game coming in, had trouble getting open for much of the night. He had seven late points to finish with 11.

“Honestly, we were just playing him straight up,” Matta said. “We didn’t do anything special or strategically, just guard him.”

Illinois’ shooting percentage was a sickly 29 percent in the first half. But the Illini still had the lead at the break, using their defense and a flurry of early 3-pointers to grab the advantage.

But that poor shooting percentage kept getting lower as the game went along.

The Illini hit just one of their first nine shots in the second half, a seven-minute stretch during which the Buckeyes grabbed a 30-25 lead.

Then the Buckeyes pulled away. Amedeo Della Valle had a layup and Marc Loving made consecutive jump shots to put the Buckeyes up 38-29.

Loving had eight points. He had gone a stretch of six games without making a field goal.

“We rode those guys,” Matta said of his reserves, who gave Ohio State 17 points. “They were dog tired and I didn’t care. I was leaving them out there.”

While the Buckeyes managed to find a little offense, Illinois was missing - jumpers and finger rolls and even a dunk attempt by Jon Ekey that skidded harmlessly across the top of the rim.

Illinois went 8:14 without a field goal before Abrams tossed in a 3-pointer with 4:25 to play, making it 42-32.

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Follow David Mercer on Twitter: https://twitter.com/davidmercerap