Buckeyes begin big week with victory

Published 12:00 am Monday, February 28, 2000

The Associated Press

Win twice – at Penn State Wednesday and at Minnesota Saturday – and the Buckeyes win at least a share of the Big Ten title.

Monday, February 28, 2000

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Win twice – at Penn State Wednesday and at Minnesota Saturday – and the Buckeyes win at least a share of the Big Ten title.

Ohio State set itself up for a rousing finish by using stifling defense, Michael Redd’s 21 points and a 20-3 second-half surge to get past Illinois 64-51 Sunday.

”Our destiny is in our own hands now,” said point guard Scoonie Penn, who scored 14 points.

The victory kept the Buckeyes (20-5, 11-3) in a virtual tie with Michigan State and Purdue for the top spot in the conference.

”If we’re good enough to do it on the road, we deserve it,” Ohio State coach Jim O’Brien said. ”And if we don’t, we have nobody to blame but ourselves. We’ve just got to win two more games.”

A capacity crowd of 19,100 said a long goodbye to three senior starters – Penn, George Reese and Ken Johnson – who played their final game at Value City Arena.

In addition, Redd’s father this week said that his son may forego his final year of eligibility to make himself eligible for the NBA draft.

The fans chanted, ”One more year!” as Redd shot free throws in the final minutes.

If it was Redd’s final home game, he made the most of it. He also had 12 rebounds as the Buckeyes dominated the boards in the second half. He also moved into fifth place – passing Jimmy Jackson – on Ohio State’s career scoring list with 1,787 points.

Brian Brown starred on defense and had 12 points and Reese finished with 11. Johnson blocked six shots and had six rebounds.

Illinois (18-8, 10-5) had won seven in a row and nine of its last 10.

Brian Cook led the Illini with 17 points. Dogged by Brown, Cory Bradford had 14 points on 5-of-15 shooting from the field. Frank Williams, who beat the Buckeyes on a 3-pointer at the buzzer in the Big Ten opener, mustered 11 points and was 3-of-15.

The Illini, shooting 44 percent for the year, hit just 18-of-59 shots from the field for 31 percent.

”They played a great defensive game and they attacked us offensively and were much more aggressive in the second half,” Illinois coach Lon Kruger said. ”They got all the loose balls with their hustle.”

The Buckeyes won the rebounding battle 40-30, outrebounding the Illini 15-4 during their second-half spurt.

A Cook basket staked Illinois, which had led by as many as eight points in the first half, to a 38-34 lead with 16:20 remaining.

But the Illini would miss 19 of their final 23 shots from the field and would score only three points and hit one field goal over the next nine minutes.

”Our guys deserve credit for how they guarded a very good team,” O’Brien said. ”I think the second half was our best effort this season – to keep Illinois to 21 points and 24 percent shooting in the second half is great.”

Rebound follows by Reese and Brown pulled the Buckeyes even before Penn gave them the lead for good on two foul shots with 13:11 left. Penn later stole the ball and hit the perimeter jumper at the other end to cap a 12-0 run for a 46-38 lead at the 10:18 mark.

After Lucas Johnson hit a 3-pointer to break the Illini’s six-minute scoring drought, the Buckeyes ran off the next eight points to build the lead to 54-41 with 7:18 remaining.

The lead never dropped below 11 points again.

”This keeps us in the hunt in the Big Ten,” Johnson said. ”The race for No. 1 is very close. Now we have to win our games down the stretch to stay in it.”