If there's one sequence that perfectly sums up the struggles of Ohio State and Illinois the past few weeks, it's one that occurred midway through the second half of Thursday night's matchup between the cold-shooting Buckeyes and slumping Illini.
Ohio State guard Lenzelle Smith shot a wide-open right-wing 3-pointer that clanged hard off the rim, bounced high in the air and got stuck atop the backboard. That not too rare, but what happened next made the moment memorable.
Six-foot-11 Illinois big man Nnanna Egwu was given a mop and the responsibility of getting the ball down, and needless to say he struggled. He swiped at it once, and missed. He flailed at a few more times, and missed. Only on his fifth try with the mop did the sheepish Egwu finally dislodge the ball.
No moment could better typify a game between two teams who had both lost four in a row and played like it for much of the night. Ohio State eventually won 62-55, but it took more than 10 minutes into the first half for either team to hit double figures. Both teams shot well under 40 percent until the latter part of the second half and still finished with more turnovers than assists.
The only irony is that Smith and Egwu both were bright spots for their respective teams aside from the sequence above.
Egwu had a solid 10-point, nine-rebound performance and played with energy throughout the game. Smith sank four of his eight 3-pointers including one that all but sealed the Ohio State victory with 1:21 to play.