NCAA Basketball

Thoughts on Ohio State basketball’s 69-60 road loss to Illinois

Ohio State seemed to find its offensive groove again in its win against Iowa, but the Fighting Illini had an impact on it. Illinois would put the clamps on the Buckeyes, hold down the offense and get a 69-60 home victory.

Not much went right for Ohio State in this, another frustrating effort from Chris Holtmann’s pack. The loss snapped a six-year winning streak in Champaign for the Buckeyes.

There were plenty of thoughts after an effort like this, most of them very similar to what we saw during the last five-game losing streak. Find out below my thoughts on another hard-to-watch Ohio State loss.

The offense we saw against Iowa was not there tonight

Why it mattered

After the offense erupted against Iowa for 93 points, you would have thought the Buckeyes got their mojo back. Well, that wasn’t the case as they battled mightily against the Illini. The lack of ball movement reared its ugly head again and it showed. The Buckeyes would shoot under 40% from the field and just 60% from the line. On the 22 shots made, Ohio State had just 8 assists, further extending the non-existent offensive flow. You can’t expect to go on the road in the Big Ten and win with poor shooting and no ball movement.

The Illini’s length gave the Buckeyes trouble

Why it mattered

The home team started three players 6-feet, 9-inches or taller, and that bothered the smaller Buckeyes. It wasn’t just the rebounding that hurt, it was also contested shots and passing lanes. The Illini outrebounded the Buckeyes, 44 to 30, while forcing 6 turnovers (though it seemed like more). The home team’s long arms slowed down the transition game and didn’t allow an Ohio State fast break basket. There isn’t much to counter the length and that made the night very difficult on the Buckeyes.

Zed Key’s struggles continue

Why it mattered

We didn’t know if the big Buckeye veteran would play after tweaking his knee late against Iowa. (autotag)Zed Key(/autotag) ended up starting the game, but he didn’t make much of an appearance again. He would falter late after scoring just 8 points and grabbing just 3 rebounds. It’s been a big battle for Key this season with injuries, but you can’t deny he’s a warrior. However, he needs a rest. Knee, shoulder and other pains have Key able to use a week off, even as the losses continue to mount.

Sensabaugh struggled

Why it mattered

The first half was a solid effort from (autotag)Brice Sensabaugh(/autotag), but the second was a different story. Nine points at the half, it looked like the freshman would be out for another 20-point effort. It didn’t happen.

Sensabaugh scored his first points of the second half with just under five minutes left to play. He would add a few more points to finish with 14, some of the scoring coming when the Illini had the game in hand. For as effective a scorer as he was against Iowa, it was a complete 180 against Illinois. For this team to score at a high level, its best player needs to be exactly that.

The ice was cold

January 24, 2023; Champaign, Illinois, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini forward Matthew Mayer (24) blocks the shot of Ohio State Buckeyes guard Isaac Likekele (13) in the first half at State Farm Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Why it mattered

After nearly posting a triple-double in the last game, (autotag)Isaac Likele(/autotag) was rewarded with another start. He wasn’t nearly as efficient in this one, shooting 2-of-8 and scoring just 5 points. Likelele added just two assists and five rebounds while committing a turnover. The urgency that “Ice” played with in the last game was not present against Illinois. He needs to produce better if the Buckeyes have a chance to win, and tonight was not the best effort for Likelele.

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The story originally appeared on Buckeye Wire

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