CHAMPAIGN IL - JANUARY 22: Illinois Fighting Illini head coach Bruce Weber looks on in the first half against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Assembly Hall on January 22 2011 in Champaign Illinois. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
When the No. 1 team needed its star to step up, Jared Sullinger did that and more.
Ohio State's freshman phenom scored 27 points and grabbed 16 rebounds Saturday afternoon as the No. 1 Buckeyes defeated No. 22 Illinois 73-68 at Assembly Hall and improved to 20-0 overall and 7-0 in Big Ten play on the season.
The Fighting Illini (14-6, 4-3) led by as many as eight points midway through the second half. Jereme Richmond found double figures again off the bench with 18 points and secured a double-double with 10 rebounds. Mike Tisdale and Mike Davis also stepped up with 15 and 11 points respectively. Illinois couldn't overcome quiet days from big scorers Demetri McCamey and D.J. Richardson, who combined for only eight points on the afternoon.
In addition to Sullinger's big performance, Jon Diebler had a nice day for the Buckeyes with 15 points on 3-5 shooting from 3-point territory. David Lighty had nine points, five rebounds and four assists.
Illinois outshot 39.6%-40.1% and outrebounded the Buckeyes 32-29. The big difference was at the foul line, where Ohio State made 16 more free throws than the Illini on 88% shooting from the stripe. The Buckeyes also won the turnover battle 9-7.
Illinois will now travel to Indiana on Thursday night to take on the Hoosiers in Bloomington. The Illini swept both meetings last season.
Ohio State will host No. 13 Purdue on Tuesday. It'll be a short turnaround for both teams as Purdue faces Michigan State late Saturday evening at Mackey Arena.