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updated: 2/22/2011 10:26 PM

Another loss in confusing Illini season

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  • Ohio State's Jared Sullinger, center, goes up for a shot between Illinois' Mike Tisdale, left, and Jereme Richmond during the first half in Columbus, Ohio, Tuesday

      Ohio State's Jared Sullinger, center, goes up for a shot between Illinois' Mike Tisdale, left, and Jereme Richmond during the first half in Columbus, Ohio, Tuesday
    Associated Press

 

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Just when it seemed Illinois' season couldn't get any more unamusing or unpredictable, senior point guard Demetri McCamey apparently visited Bruce Weber on Sunday and volunteered to come off the bench Tuesday.

Against No. 2 Ohio State.

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On the road.

When the two teams to beat the Buckeyes this year couldn't have done it without a veteran guard playing the game of his life.

Meanwhile, freshman guard Crandall Head, who had played 15 minutes in the last 20 games, received his first start as D.J. Richardson came off the bench for the second time in his career.

Got all that?

Ohio State couldn't get enough of it as the hosts used blistering runs in each half to roll to an 89-70 Big Ten triumph at Value City Arena.

That represented the most points allowed by an Illinois team in regulation since Dec. 8, 2001, in a 94-91 win over Arkansas at United Center.

In other words, the most points during the 273-game Bruce Weber era.

The Illini coughed up 16 turnovers and allowed OSU to shoot 53 percent from the field -- an opponent's best showing since last year's 19-point home loss to Ohio State.

So, coach, what'd you think of that defensive effort?

"Awful," Weber said.

Ohio State junior William Buford, on the other hand, thought the Illini were great.

While Purdue face-guarded him throughout Sunday's loss -- Buford tied his season low with 7 points -- Illinois opted to trail him around screens in the first half.

"If I see that, my eyes get big," Buford said. "I just look to kill, basically. Just try to take advantage of what they give me."

The junior swingman wound up scoring all 17 of his points in the first 17 minutes.

Weber trotted out a triangle-and-2 to shut down Buford and Jon Diebler to start the second half -- and the strategy helped the Illini chop a 15-point halftime deficit to 49-43.

Then fifth-year senior David Lighty turned the game into his personal showcase.

He ripped off 13 OSU points in a row over just two minutes, 52 seconds to keep the Buckeyes (26-2, 13-2) 1 game ahead of Purdue.

During his run, Lighty (21 points, 6 steals) pickpocketed Head for a fastbreak dunk and free throw. He also ripped the ball out of McCamey's hands and flew down the court for another layup.

"I've said since the beginning: I love him," Weber said. "I think he's the MVP (of the Big Ten). Probably won't get it because people aren't smart enough. He's their heart and soul."

Meanwhile, Illinois' heart and soul finished with 15 points, 6 assists and 5 turnovers in 34 minutes off the bench.

Weber informed the team at Monday's practice of McCamey's apparent desire to come off the bench.

"Everybody was kind of shocked a little bit," McCamey said. "But at the same time, it was the betterment of the team. It's giving the young'uns to get a chance to get their feet wet and (me) just coming in knowing I've got to play well.

"Once I had that feeling at Minnesota, I'd come in and it'd be a smooth transition doing it before. But I think I'll be back in the starting lineup for the rest of the year. And it's basketball now. Biggest game of the year coming up against Iowa."

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