Bruce Thornton scored 20 points, fellow freshman Brice Sensabaugh scored 14, senior Justice Sueing contributed a double-double, and Ohio State defeated Illinois 72-60 on Sunday, snapping a nine-game losing streak.
The Buckeyes had lost 14 of their past 15 games coming in but have showed signs of improvement since starting four true freshmen - Thornton, Sensabaugh, Felix Okpara and Roddy Gayle - in back-to-back games.
Ohio State led 41-29 at halftime before Illinois rallied in the second half. Terrence Shannon scored eight straight Illinois points, including back-to-back three-point plays, during a 12-2 run that got the Illini within 45-41 with 15:11 remaining.
Illinois, which erased an 18-point deficit against Northwestern last time out, got within 53-52 on a 3-pointer by Jayden Epps. Ohio State came right back with a putback layup by Sueing, followed by a thunderous dunk from Sensabaugh and a jumper by Sensabaugh. The Buckeyes did not miss another shot, finishing 7-for-7 over the final 6:21.
The Buckeyes pushed their lead to 64-53 when Thornton finished off a three-point play with 3:57 remaining. Ohio State maintained a double-digit lead over the last 2:35.
Sueing had 14 points and 11 rebounds for the Buckeyes (12-17, 4-14 Big Ten). Thornton made 8 of 11 shots and Sensabaugh was 5-for-11 shooting and grabbed six rebounds.
Coleman Hawkins had 14 points and seven rebounds for Illinois (19-10, 10-8). Matthew Mayer scored 11 points, and Shannon and Epps had 10 points each.
Thornton made 6 of 7 shots and scored 13 points to lead Ohio State to a 41-29 halftime lead. The Buckeyes hit on 60.7% of their shots to 36.7% for Illinois in the first half. Ohio State finished at 53.6% and Illinois hit 36.1% for the game.
Illinois had won 10 of 14 games after starting Big Ten play 0-3.
The Illini will be at home against Michigan on Thursday and at No. 5 Purdue on Sunday.