Illinois' Rodney Alexander (23) drives to the basket past Ohio State defenders during the second half (AP Photo)
Jan. 22, 2008
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- Buckeyes' David Lighty scored 16 points and had a critical rebound and two free throws with 30 seconds left to help Ohio State avoid a late collapse in a 64-58 victory over Illinois on Tuesday night.
The Buckeyes (13-6, 4-2 Big Ten), who ended a three-game losing skid, led 55-40 with 6:26 left and seemed in control of the game before the Illini roared back to make things uncomfortable in the final minutes.
Illinois (9-11, 1-6) cut the lead to 61-58 on Brian Randle's rebound with 33 seconds left. The Illini then fouled Ohio State center Kosta Koufos on the inbounds play, but he missed both shots.
Even though two Illinois players had the inside track on the rebound of Koufos' second miss, Lighty raced between them and got to there first and was fouled. He then hit both foul shots.
The Illini then missed their next shot and Koufos rebounded and was fouled, hitting another free throw to end the scoring.
Evan Turner added 14 points and Koufos had 12 for the Buckeyes, who grabbed their fifth consecutive win over the Illini, following five straight losses to them.
Ohio State was returning home after close losses at three difficult venues (Purdue, No. 11 Michigan State and No. 6 Tennessee).
The Buckeyes forged a 33-23 lead by halftime, hitting 62 percent of their shots from the field while the Illini were managing just 28 percent.
Meanwhile, the Buckeyes could do little wrong. Jon Diebler, who had missed his last 19 3-point shots, came off the bench and made his first attempt. That gave the Buckeyes a 13-8 lead.
They built it to 20-10 with a 7-0 run featuring a Lighty 3-pointer, freshman Evan Turner's stop-and-go layup and a dunk by Othello Hunter off an alley-oop assist pass from Lighty.
The game was held up for several minutes midway through the second half by a shot-clock malfunction.