Columbus, OH (SportsNetwork.com) - LaQuinton Ross posted 18 points to lead No. 17 Ohio State to a 62-55 victory over Illinois on Thursday.
Lenzelle Smith had 16 points with five rebounds and Aaron Craft gave 11 points with six rebounds and five assists for the Buckeyes (16-4, 3-4 Big Ten), who had dropped four straight.
"We did not play perfect, but I loved our energy on defense," Ohio State head coach Thad Matta said. "Our problem is not solved, we have a long way to go, but the time off will be a great time to recollect, reflect and get healthy."
Joseph Bertrand had 19 points, Jon Ekey scored 11, and Nnanna Egwu added 10 points and nine boards for the Fighting Illini (13-7, 2-5), who have lost five in a row.
Tracy Abrams' layup with six minutes to play tied the game at 46 for Illinois, but Ross countered with a 3-pointer and Shannon Scott later hit a layup for a 51-46 lead with just under four minutes to play.
Abrams put in a pair of free throws with 2 1/2 minutes left to make it a 52-50 game, but Ross' three-point play at the other end gave the Buckeyes a five-point lead.
A turnover by Rayvonte Rice was quickly turned into a 3-pointer by Smith for a 58-50 lead with 1:16 left to seal the victory.
"In the second half, they turned it up and scored 38 points -- a good portion of those were off of live ball turnovers," Illinois head coach John Groce said. "I thought their ability to get deflections and get out in transition led to that."
It was a tight first half as neither team led by more than five, and after Smith hit a 3-pointer to give Ohio State a one-point lead, Egwu slammed a dunk to give Illinois a 25-24 lead at the break.
Trailing by three points, Ohio State got a layup from Ross to kick off a 9-0 run that Sam Thompson capped with a 3-pointer for a 40-34 lead with 12 minutes to play.