Lighty, Buford Get Buckeyes Back on Track against Illinois
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Illinois hit eight of its first 10 shots from behind the arc and still trailed Ohio State by 15 points at the end of the first half.
It was that kind of night in Columbus, as the third-ranked Buckeyes (26-2, 13-2 Big Ten) rolled over Illinois (17-11, 7-8) by a score of 89-70.
Back in the friendly confines of Value City Arena, William Buford got the Buckeyes out to a hot start with all 17 of his points in the first half. David Lighty finished the deal with 17 of his game-high 21 points in the second half.
“I had some good looks in the first half, but they weren’t going in so I just stayed aggressive and they went down in the second,” said Lighty, who broke out of his slump with an 8-for-16 shooting night.
“I think they went to a triangle-and-two style defense to chase Jon (Diebler) around, and just started leaving me and (Aaron) Craft open.”
The Buckeyes shot 57 percent in the first half and did not turn the ball over once after having 18 turnovers in their loss at Purdue on Sunday. They finished with only three turnovers, and become the first team all season to shoot better than 50-percent from the field against the Illini.
“The most important thing is that we protect home court,” said senior Jon Diebler, who finished with 13 points on 4-of-5 shooting.
“Losing two games isn’t the end of the world. But in order to win the Big Ten you have to take care of your home court.”
The Fighting Illini used the unusual defensive look to confuse the Buckeyes early in the second half. It helped them opene on a 9-2 run, cutting the score to 49-43 after trailing 47-32 at the break.
It looked like they might catch Ohio State napping in the second half as they scored with ease inside, but Lighty put an end to the streak with a three from the top of the arc. He went on to pour in 13 straight points for the Buckeyes, including a run of 10 straight before the Illini could score another point.
“I think he’s the MVP, but probably won’t get it,” Illinois Head Coach Bruce Weber said after the game.
“He’s their heart and soul. Nothing against Jared Sullinger, he’s tremendous but Lighty is their heart and soul and he’s the reason they win.”
Sullinger quietly finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds in 38 minutes, but it was the run by Lighty that put the Illini away for good. In less than three minutes, Lighty connected on a pair of threes, threw down a monster dunk, hit all three of his free throws and came up with three of his game-high six steals.
“I was just trying to be aggressive,” said Lighty, who came into the game struggling mightily at the offensive end.
“Keep my hands in the lanes and play good defense.”
Lighty and his teammates were too sore to have a full practice on Monday after playing an intense game in West Lafayette just a day earlier. They didn’t play their best defense as a team Tuesday, but they forced Illinois into 16 turnovers, including nine in the first half.
“I think it was 16 - 0 on points off of turnovers, you can’t give them easily layups,” Weber said, after calling his own defense “awful.”
“Also Buford got off to a good start. We talked all day about being patient not taking quick shots and not turning it over. Then we took three quick shots and turned it over. We wanted to catch them off guard but they played at a very high level.”
The Buckeyes had five scorers in double-figures, and also had a key five-point stretch from reserve Deshaun Thomas, who scored six points and grabbed two rebounds in just nine minutes of action.
They will have four days of rest now before taking on Indiana (12-15, 3-11) Sunday in Columbus.
Game Play by Play
Season Stats Year to Date
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