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Ross leads Ohio State past Illinois

Columbus, OH (SportsNetwork.com) - LaQuinton Ross posted 18 points to lead No. 
17 Ohio State to a 62-55 victory over Illinois on Thursday. 

Lenzelle Smith had 16 points with five rebounds and Aaron Craft gave 11 points 
with  six rebounds and  five assists for the Buckeyes (16-4, 3-4 Big Ten), who 
had dropped four straight. 

"We  did not play perfect, but I loved our energy on defense," Ohio State head 
coach  Thad Matta said.  "Our problem is not solved, we have a long way to go, 
but the time off will be a great time to recollect, reflect and get healthy." 

Joseph  Bertrand had  19 points, Jon Ekey  scored 11, and Nnanna Egwu added 10 
points and nine boards for the Fighting Illini (13-7, 2-5), who have lost five 
in a row. 

Tracy Abrams' layup with six minutes to play tied the game at 46 for Illinois, 
but  Ross countered with a 3-pointer and Shannon Scott later hit a layup for a 
51-46 lead with just under four minutes to play. 

Abrams  put  in a  pair of free  throws with 2  1/2 minutes  left to make it a 
52-50  game, but  Ross' three-point play at  the other end gave the Buckeyes a 
five-point lead. 

A turnover by Rayvonte Rice was quickly turned into a 3-pointer by Smith for a 
58-50 lead with 1:16 left to seal the victory. 

"In  the second half, they turned it up and scored 38 points -- a good portion 
of  those  were off  of live  ball turnovers," Illinois  head coach John Groce 
said.  "I  thought their ability to  get deflections and get out in transition 
led to that." 

It  was  a tight first half  as neither team led  by more than five, and after 
Smith hit a 3-pointer to give Ohio State a one-point lead, Egwu slammed a dunk 
to give Illinois a 25-24 lead at the break. 

Trailing  by three points,  Ohio State got a layup from Ross to kick off a 9-0 
run that Sam Thompson capped with a 3-pointer for a 40-34 lead with 12 minutes 
to play. 

                                   Game Notes 

Ohio  State  hosts Penn  State on  Wednesday ... Illinois  plays at Indiana on 
Sunday  ... These  teams will meet in  Illinois on Feb. 15 ... Ohio State shot 
41.7  percent, including  8-of-19 from 3-point range, while Illinois made 41.2 
percent of its shots, but went just 5-for-18 from long range. 

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