CHAMPAIGN (HOI) -- Coming off a home loss to unranked Maryland last weekend, the 14th ranked Fighting Illini were searching to get back on track with a home matchup against No. 21 Ohio State. However the wheels fell off the tracks in the first half for Illinois (9-5), trailing 43-28 at halftime before falling to Ohio State (11-3) 87-81.
Illinois tried to make a run at a comeback late in the game, but ultimately couldn't overcome their sluggish start.
"We have to quit riding the emotional rollercoaster that is this team right now and it's frustrating, I wish I had the exact answer. We're gonna have some very tough meetings, we gotta get this figured out. We're excellent, we're one of the best teams in the country when we play and when we don't, it's time to put a stop to the don'ts and we gotta do that," explained Illinois Head Coach Brad Underwood.
The Illini had Big 10 championship expectations heading into the season, but back-to-back losses at home have put a dent in those plans early on. It's been a tale of two teams, where they've looked unbeatable at times and uninspired at other times.
"When we turn it on it's good, but we can't have a turn on and a turn off button, we just always gotta keep it on go," said Illinois freshman guard Adam Miller.
Junior guard Ayo Dosunmu had a shaky start to the game, but did finish with 22 points (6-16 FG, 1-3 3PT), 5 assists, and 4 rebounds. Sophomore center Kofi Cockburn was super effective in the second half after Illinois began feeding him the ball more. Cockburn totaled up 15 points (7-7 FG) and 11 rebounds, but was just 1-5 on free throws. Miller, a Peoria native, had 14 points (4-9 FG, 3-8 3PT) and 7 rebounds.
Former Kevin Brown Memorial Tournament of Champions standout E.J. Liddell led the Buckeyes with 26 points (10-16 FG, 4-7 3PT) and 7 rebounds.
Illinois will have just three days to try and figure things out. They host Penn State on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. on the Big Ten Network.