COLUMBUS, Ohio – David Lighty scored 17 of his 21 points in the second half and William Buford had all 17 of his in the first to lead No. 2 Ohio State past Illinois 89-70 on Tuesday night, an impressive bounce-back game after two recent losses for the Buckeyes.
Jon Diebler had 13 points, Aaron Craft 12 and Jared Sullinger 12 points and 11 rebounds for the Buckeyes (26-2, 13-2 Big Ten), who had lost two of three after winning their first 25 games.
Mike Davis scored 18 points, Mike Tisdale 14 and Jereme Richmond 11 for Illinois (17-11, 7-8), in dire need of more wins to make the NCAA tournament field. Demetri McCamey was held out of the starting lineup but had 15 points and six assists.
The Buckeyes never trailed after tying it 2-2, building a 15-point lead at halftime and then trading runs with the Illini.
Ohio State shot 53 percent from the field to end Illinois' string of 37 consecutive games holding an opponent under 50 percent. The last team to reach 50 percent was also Ohio State, which shot 53.1 against the Illini on Feb. 14, 2010.
The teams took turns spurting in the second half. The Illini scored 11 of the first 13 to pull within 49-43 before Lighty took over.
He scored Ohio State's next 13 points in a personal 13-2 run to build the lead back to 62-45.
Just that quick, the Illini responded with an 8-0 run to narrow the gap to 62-53.
Lighty then fed substitute forward Deshaun Thomas, caught in a recent shooting slump, for a 3-pointer. Seconds later, Lighty missed a jumper and Thomas fought off a defender for the rebound and converted it into a three-point play for a 68-53 lead.
Between them, Lighty and Thomas accounted for all 19 Ohio State points over a span of 7½ minutes.
The lead never dipped below double figures again.
McCamey, the 12th-leading scorer in Big Ten at 14.5 points a game, did not start for the Illini. He had started 26 of the Illini's 27 games, and over his career had started in 109 of 132.
The Illini hung through the first half, thanks to an exceptional shooting performance from behind the arc.
Tisdale hit more 3-pointers in a 9-minute span of the opening half — four — than he ever made in any of his 132 previous college games.
And he wasn't alone. The Illini were 8 for 9 on 3-pointers in the opening half but still fell behind 47-32 in the face of Ohio State's shooting and efficiency on offense. The Buckeyes were 20 of 35 from the field (57 percent) and didn't have a turnover — to Illinois' 52 percent shooting (12 of 23) and nine turnovers.
Buford was the chief reason the Buckeyes pulled away. He had 17 points to go with two assists, feeding Diebler for a 3 from the right corner at the buzzer to send the large crowd into intermission with a sustained roar.