Ohio State Basketball: Buckeyes Fall to Illinois, NCAA Tournament Hopes Shattered

Photo Credit : The Ohio State University Athletics March 15, 2024

The Ohio State basketball team saw its NCAA Tournament hopes shattered after a disappointing loss to Illinois in the Big Ten Quarterfinals.

Illinois finished as the second-best team in the Big Ten this season behind the All-Big Ten first-team selections of Terrance Shannon Jr and Marcus Dosmak. This was seen as one of the toughest matchups the Buckeyes would have as the Illini defeated them in Columbus earlier this season.

The game started hot for both teams, as they traded baskets on each end of the court. The Buckeye trio of Battle, Thornton, and Gayle scored the first nine points for Ohio State, followed by Ty Rodgers, Coleman Hawkins, and Terrance Shannon scoring the first eight for Illinois. Dain Dainja started his night with four points to go with a pair of rebounds to help put the Illini up early.

Referees dictated the game early as Jamison Battle and Devin Royal each picked up two early fouls and had to sit for the majority of the first half. Terrance Shannon helped put Illinois up by five at the under-eight media timeout. The bench came into the game for the Buckeyes and brought them back into the game.

Devin Royal started things off with a jumper, followed by a Roddy Gayle dunk. Zed Key went on to complete an and-1, and Felix Okpara slammed it down to put the Bucks up 27-25. Terrance Shannon tied it before there was a two-minute scoring drought from both teams. Luke Goode hit a three to put Illinois up by two going into the half.

The foul trouble for Ohio State ruined its chances of outplaying the Illinois big men in the second half. Jamison Battle, Devin Royal, and Felix Okpara each had three fouls going into the halfway point of the second half. Freshman Scotty Middleton once again had a breakout game, finishing with five points while also getting several key stops on the defensive end.

The fouls kept stacking up for the Buckeyes as they put Illinois into the bonus with ten minutes left in the game. It caused Ohio State to lose Felix Okpara due to fouling out and the physicality of Devin Royal.  Illinois did not give up in the latter part of the game. Coleman Hawkins grabbed two key offensive rebounds which would be the clinching tactic for the Illini to move onto the semifinals and one step closer to winning the Big Ten Championship.

Ohio State ended up not being able to stop Dain Dainja who finished with eighteen on the night, Terrance Shannon also finished with twenty-eight for the Illini. Bruce Thornton would record his first double-double as he finished with twenty points and ten assists.

This likely ends Ohio State’s chances at receiving an At-Large bid to the NCAA Tournament, and defer to an NIT Tournament bid. Interim Head Coach Jake Diebler mentioned the team would decide together if accepting an NIT bid would be best for them. However, it is expected that Ohio State would accept the bid and be one of the highest seeds. Buckeye Nation will find out Sunday where and who they will be playing.