CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Illinois played like a desperate team. Ohio State performed like a team that hadn't been on the road since November.
Forcing turnover after turnover from the normally sure-handed Buckeyes, the 11th-ranked Fighting Illini led wire-to-wire Saturday, notching a 74-55 Big Ten Conference rout at Assembly Hall.
Coming off a 68-61 upset loss Wednesday night at Purdue, Illinois (14-2, 1-1) dictated with defense and its ability to get to the rim whenever it wanted to against a normally stingy opponent.
Brandon Paul paced the Illini with 19 points, while center Nnanna Egwu chipped in 16 points, nearly 10 above his per-game average. Tracy Abrams added 13 points, six rebounds and five assists in a solid all-around performance and Joseph Bertrand came off the bench to score 12 points.
Deshaun Thomas fired in a game-high 24 points for No. 8 Ohio State (11-3, 1-1), but he had little help from his teammates. Aaron Craft added 11, most coming in garbage time.
Illinois set the tone immediately, jumping out to a 9-2 lead that it gradually built up to as high as 16 before settling for a 37-25 advantage at intermission. Its three-guard lineup consistently penetrated the lane, outscoring Ohio State 16-10 in the paint in the half.
More important, the Illini forced 11 turnovers from a foe that came into the day averaging only 10.3. Playing their first game away from Columbus since a loss at Duke on Nov. 28, the Buckeyes were guilty of everything from bad passes to double dribbles to offensive fouls off the ball. Illinois netted 16 points off those errors.
It got no better for Ohio State in the second half as Illinois opened with a 19-6 run, establishing a 56-31 lead when Abrams bombed home a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 10:41 remaining.
Thomas led a brief burst to respectability for the Buckeyes, pulling them within 60-46 on a turnaround jumper with 6:37 left. But the Illini promptly ripped off seven straight points to end any hopes of a miracle rally.
NOTES: Abrams was the Big Ten Player of the Week after pouring in a career-high 27 points and grabbing eight rebounds in his team's 81-79 win Dec. 29 over Auburn in Chicago. ... The Illini entered the game averaging 25.6 3-point attempts, accounting for about 42 percent of all field goal tries. They are hitting a more-than-respectable 37 percent. ... Ohio State's 25 first-half points represented a season low.