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No. 3 Ohio State avoids upset scare, downs Illinois 87-81

Illinois guard Makira Cook, left, shoots in front of Ohio State guards Hevynne Bristow, center, and Rikki Harris (1) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Columbus, Ohio, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023.

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Taylor Mikesell scored a game-high 31 points as No. 3 Ohio State erased a halftime deficit and avoided an upset with an 87-81 win over Illinois Sunday.

Trailing by as many as 17 points in the second half, a 13-0 run in the third quarter helped the Buckeyes (17-0, 6-0 Big Ten) tie the game at 58 with 2:16 to go in the period.

Entering the fourth quarter tied at 65, Rikki Harris made a 3-pointer and Ohio State didn’t trail again.

“We kind of let them get comfortable in the first half,” Mikesell said. “Came out, put a lot more pressure on the third quarter and kind of got a little bit of a momentum shift and some more energy swing our way and then got some shots to fall.”

The Buckeyes shot 42.9% in the fourth quarter while the Fighting Illini (14-3, 4-2) went 1 of 7 from beyond the arc in that span.

Mikesell shot 50% from the field and Cotie McMahon added 22 points for Ohio State. Taylor Thierry had 12 points and swiped four steals.

Ohio State forced 14 turnovers, its fewest in four games. The Buckeyes converted 18 assists to nine turnovers.

Both teams matched one another in the first quarter. Illinois began 10 of 21 from the field and Genesis Bryant scored 10 points while the Buckeyes went 8 of 8 at the free throw line but shot 31.3%.

Knotted at 22 points after the opening frame, the Fighting Illini raced ahead on a 10-2 run and outscored Ohio State 25-15 in the second quarter. Illinois led 47-37 at halftime.

Illinois held a 43-36 rebounding advantage and out-shot the Buckeyes 49% to 43%.

Kendall Bostic notched her sixth double-double of the season behind 27 points and 15 rebounds. Bryant finished with 20 points, Makira Cook had 12 and Brynn Shoup-Hill tallied 10 for Illinois.

“The things that got us that lead, we weren’t doing,” Illinois coach Shauna Green said. “Taylor Mikesell went off. Just too many breakdowns.”

FLIPPING THE SWITCH

Exiting the locker room at halftime, Ohio State faced the prospect of losing for the first time this season and against the team not far behind in the conference standings.

After shooting 35.5% in the first half, the Buckeyes found their groove and shot 50% in the second, including a 58.8% clip in the third quarter during which they out-scored Illinois 28-18.

“Just competing at a level that we know we’re capable of and executing at a level that we know we’re capable of,” Ohio State coach Kevin McGuff said. “When we show how good we can be and we sustain it, to me that’s great competitive character.”

MCMAHON KEEPS MOMENTUM GOING

In her first season of college basketball, McMahon’s resume has become decorated.

McMahon has started all 17 games so far this season and been recognized as the Big Ten’s top freshman for four consecutive weeks.

She provided a lift and scored 11 points in the third quarter, adding four rebounds and as many assists.

“She’s really grown a lot,” McGuff said. “I’m really proud of her because she’s really playing hard. She’s practicing really hard. That’s been a big part of her growth is her practice habits are really good.”

CONTRIBUTING IN ALL PHASES

Bostic, the Big Ten’s leading blocker and rebounder, led the team with 11 points in the second half while noticing a double-double for the third-straight game.

“She was unbelievable today,” Green said. “She’s just continuing to get better and better offensively, which is something that we really talked about and wanted from her this year.”

BIG PICTURE

Illinois: The seven-game winning streak came to an end for the Fighting Illini, who are second in the Big Ten standings.

Ohio State: The Buckeyes continue their program-best start to the season despite the absences of guards Madison Greene and Jacy Sheldon, who are dealing with injuries.

UP NEXT

Illinois: At Minnesota Sunday.

Ohio State: At Nebraska Saturday.

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Associated Press

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