- Associated Press - Saturday, February 15, 2014

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) - Ohio State trailed by three at halftime, and coach Thad Matta told the Buckeyes he thought they would find a way to win.

Turns out, he was right.

Aaron Craft scored 14 points and No. 22 Ohio State held Illinois to 28.3 percent shooting on the way to a scrappy 48-39 win on Saturday night.

Craft picked up two early fouls and spent two long stretches on the bench. But he was still the Buckeyes’ best option on a tough offensive night for each team.

“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 (20-6, 7-6 Big Ten), 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.

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

“Obviously our offense was anemic today,” Illinois 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.”

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.

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

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