Ohio State’s Keita Bates-Diop rises above Illinois’ Maverick Morgan for the rebound. The Buckeyes dominated the glass Thursday night. Photo courtesy of Austin Yattoni.

With the game knotted at 58, Malcolm Hill stood between the halfcourt logo and the three-point line, watching the game clock dwindle. The Big Ten’s second-leading scorer dribbled twice through his legs and jabbed toward the lane with his right foot. Hill then stepped back for a three-ball over Ohio State’s Keita Bates-Diop, who got a piece of the ball and caused it to fall well short of the basket.

“He’s got a guy 6-foot-8 with a wingspan of plus-7 on him that’s already blocked two of our balls,” Illinois head coach John Groce said. “I’m sure (Hill) would be the first to tell you he’d like to drive it if he had to do it over again.”

Ohio State (14-8, 6-3 Big Ten) got it done in overtime against Illinois (10-11, 2-6 Big Ten), who battled back from a 13-point, second half deficit. Sophomore Bates-Diop led the way for the Buckeyes with 15 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks. Redshirt sophomore Trevor Thompson (16 points, five rebounds, seven-for-seven from the field) and junior Marc Loving (11 points, 10 rebounds) contributed for OSU coach Thad Matta’s bunch.


Malcolm Hill struggled with his shot against Ohio State. The Big Ten’s second-leading scorer went 3-14 from the field for 12 points in the loss. Photo courtesy of Austin Yattoni.

On a final possession in OT, Hill and Kendrick Nunn (game-high 24 points) had a chance to grab a quick two or tie the game at 66 with a three-ball. However, a botched handoff led to a turnover and a Mickey Mitchell breakaway layup, which sealed a 68-63 Buckeyes victory.

“I think the biggest thing – why did we get beat – poor free throw shooting, poor rebounding in the first half and then just poor decision making at the end of regulation and with overtime and some execution things we’ve got to get cleaned up,” Groce said. “That’s on me.”

Over the last month and a half, the Illini led the Big Ten in free throw shooting percentage. On Thursday night, Illinois shot just 18-for-31 (58 percent).

“That happens,” Groce said. “You hope it doesn’t happen in a game like this where it can be a determining factor, but it happens.”

The Buckeyes dominated the glass, finishing with 51 total boards versus the Illini’s 34. In their Jan. 3 matchup, Ohio State outrebounded Illinois 42-33 and won the game, 75-73. Five days after combining for 23 rebounds in a win at Minnesota, forward Michael Finke and center Maverick Morgan grabbed just two rebounds and five rebounds respectively Thursday night.

Big men Mike Thorne Jr. and Leron Black remain out indefinitely due to knee injuries.

Illinois gets Rutgers (6-15, 0-8 Big Ten) at home Sunday. Despite the final outcome against Ohio State, Groce was pleased with the grit and effort his team displayed.

“Clearly, the last two games are a step in the right direction in a lot of areas, so I’m not going to neglect that because we didn’t win the game,” Groce said.