The Illinois Fighting Illini knocked off the Ohio State Buckeyes, currently ranked fifth in the nation, on Tuesday night by a score of 79-74. It was an extremely tight game between Big Ten rivals, but Illinois junior guard Brandon Paul was absolutely electric in leading the Fighting Illini with a career-high 43 points.
In the first half, Ohio State built a lead as large as eight points, but Illinois would never go away. The Buckeyes led 39-34 going into halftime and extended that lead to 48-37 early in the second half. The Fighting Illini responded, though, scoring nine unanswered points to get right back into the game. With the home crowd behind Illinois, it continued to rain down shots at a stunning rate. The Fighting Illini finished the game shooting 60 percent from the field, including 11-for-18 from three-point range.
The big story on the night truly must be Paul, the junior guard for Illinois, though. One of the veteran leaders of the team, he put on a marquee performance that will likely be talked about in Champaign for years. Paul scored an incredible 43 points despite taking only 15 shots. He was 11-for-15 from the field overall, 8-for-10 from three-point range and 13-for-15 from the free throw line. And beyond the scoring, he grabbed eight rebounds, blocked four shots, dished three assists and nabbed two steals.
The win bumps Illinois to 15-3 on the season, while Ohio State has an identical 15-3 record after its loss. The Fighting Illini are now in second-place in the Big Ten conference standings behind No. 7 Michigan State, the only team without a conference game loss.
For more coverage of the Illini, be sure to explore Hail to the Orange. Stay tuned to SB Nation Chicago for live, in-game scores and updates. News and analysis on the Ohio State Buckeyes is available at Along The Olentangy.