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Men’s basketball: Ohio State drops conference opener to Illinois, 75-70, despite Lyle’s 26

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Ohio State sophomore guard JaQuan Lyle drives to the basketball against a Connecticut defender in a game on Dec. 10 at the Schottenstein Center. OSU won 64-60. Credit: Alexa Mavrogianis | Photo Editor

The year 2016 was a year the Ohio State men’s basketball team and coach Thad Matta would like to forget. The Buckeyes had the opportunity to turn the page on New Year’s Day in Champaign, Illinois, and start 2017 and Big Ten play on the right foot.

However, the same head-scratching, disappointing outcomes seemed to have stuck with OSU into the new year.

The Illinois Fighting Illini beat OSU, 75-70, dropping the Scarlet and Gray to 0-1 in conference play and 10-4 overall. Malcolm Hill led Illinois with 12 points in the team’s 11th win of the season, moving to 1-1 in the Big Ten, 11-4 overall. Tracy Abrams had 16.

Sophomore guard JaQuan Lyle led the Buckeyes with 26 points on 10-of-18 shooting. He scored 18 of those points in the second half.

Lyle scored 16 straight points for the Buckeyes over a span that lasted almost seven minutes to take OSU’s first lead at 58-57 in the second half since the 10:05 mark of the first half.

Illinois guard Jalen Coleman-Lands hit a 3 with 3:28 remaining to retake the lead, 66-64. Down 69-67 with under a minute to go, Hill beat OSU junior forward Keita Bates-Diop to the rim, extending the Illini lead to four.

After two Illinois free throws, senior forward Marc Loving knocked down a 3 to cut the deficit to three points. Once Abrams hit two free throws for the Fighting Illini to go up five, Loving’s off-balanced 3 was rebounded by the Illini, ending any hope OSU had for a comeback.

OSU shot 42 percent from the field to Illinois’ 43 percent.

Illinois forward Leron Black dominated the glass with 15 rebounds while OSU’s redshirt junior center Trevor Thompson struggled with foul trouble and ended the night with six points and four rebounds.

Loving had 10 points.

OSU’s next try for its first conference win of the 2016-17 season comes on Thursday against the No. 15 Purdue Boilermakers (12-3, 1-1 Big Ten).

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