Losing streak over for Buckeyes

RUSTY MILLER AP Sports Writer Published:

COLUMBUS (AP) -- All Lenzelle Smith Jr. wanted was to see his teammates happy for a change.

They hadn't been for the past 19 days.

LaQuinton Ross scored 18 points and Smith had 16 -- and each added critical points down the stretch -- to help No. 17 Ohio State end a four-game skid with a 62-55 win over Illinois on Thursday night.

"You want to see your team smile as much as possible," said Smith, a senior. "I can tell you that prior to this game there were no smiles, there was no laughter. Guys were kind of in their shells. Now I feel like everybody's out now and I'm looking forward to playing the next game with a lot of confidence."

Aaron Craft added 11 points, six rebounds and five assists for the Buckeyes (16-4, 3-4 Big Ten), who had lost four in a row for the first time since 2007-08.

"This was a big win," coach Thad Matta said. "We told our guys this was a one-game season just from the standpoint that we knew we had six days off afterward. To their credit they did a tremendous job of laying it all on the line."

Over their win drought, the Buckeyes had wilted in the final 5 minutes, had shot poorly and hadn't been able to stop opposing teams.

Against another team stuck in a four-game slide, they finally found some answers.

Illinois (13-7, 2-5) pulled to 41-40 on 3s by Jon Ekey and Joseph Bertrand and pulled even at 46 on Tracy Abrams' slash through the lane. He missed the cap on a possible three-point play, however, and at the other end Shannon Scott fed Ross for a 3 from the left wing.

The teams traded missed chances until Smith stepped in front of a bad pass by Tracy Abrams and fed Scott for a left-handed layup with 3:50 remaining for a 51-46 advantage.

With the Buckeyes hanging on 52-50, Ross drove the lane against the Illinois zone and was fouled, banking in a shot and adding the accompanying free throw with 2:07 left.

"It was everybody being connected tonight," Ross said of the difference for the Buckeyes. "We had a lot of togetherness. You saw guys jumping up and down. It was just a group effort. Everybody did what they had to. We pitched in."

The Illini then turned it over on an offensive foul by Rice before Smith poured in a 3 from in front of the Ohio State bench for a 58-50 lead with 75 seconds remaining.

Illinois never threatened again.

"I thought Ross' and-1 was huge. I thought Smith's 3 was huge," said Illini coach John Groce, a former Ohio State assistant. "Those were two big plays."

Bertrand had 19 points, Ekey 11 and Nnanna Egwu 10 for the Illini (13-7, 2-5), who haven't won since Jan. 4 and play three of their next four games against ranked opponents.

Rayvonte Rice, averaging 17.4 points a game, was 0 for 8 from the field and went scoreless. The Illini have lost their last six Big Ten road games and fell to 1-4 against ranked teams this season.

"We tried to do our best to put the losing streak behind us," Craft said. "This game wasn't about that. It was about trying to come out and find a way to be better than Illinois. We were a tougher team down the stretch than we have been. That's what matters."

TOP 25


TUCSON, Ariz. -- Nick Johnson scored 18 points, Brandon Ashley added 15 and top-ranked Arizona remained unbeaten with a 69-57 win over Colorado.

Arizona (19-0, 6-0 Pac-12) had a week off after blowing out rival Arizona State and raced out to an early 14-point lead.

Aaron Gordon added 12 points for Arizona, which overcame a 3-for-15 night from 3-point range and some missed free throws down the stretch to extend the best start in school history.

A year after nearly pulling off an upset in the desert, Colorado (15-5, 4-3) had no chance for late-game heroics in its third game without injured leading scorer Spencer Dinwiddie.

The Buffaloes struggled to slow Arizona's bevy of scorers and couldn't overcome the big early hole, falling to 0-16 against No. 1 teams. Xavier Johnson led Colorado with 21 points and Josh Scott added 15.


TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Michael Frazier II scored 18 points and made five 3-pointers to lead Florida over Alabama.

It was the 10th consecutive win for the Gators (16-2, 5-0 Southeastern Conference), matching last season's longest streak.

The Crimson Tide (8-10, 2-3) had its league-best 14-game SEC home winning streak snapped.

Florida went 8 of 10 from the free throw line over the final 47 seconds to halt any Alabama threat.

Frazier shot 5 of 13, all from 3-point range. Casey Prather scored 14 points on 6-of-16 shooting for the Gators. Scottie Wilbekin had 10 points and four assists.

Trevor Releford led Alabama with 14 points and Nick Jacobs had 12. The Tide was without No. 2 scorer Retin Obasohan, who strained his left hip flexor in Tuesday's practice.

The Gators, who earned win No. 100 for the four-man senior class, have won the last eight meetings and 10 of 11. Alabama has lost three of its last four overall.



CINCINNATI -- Justin Jackson matched his career high by blocking seven shots and Sean Kilpatrick scored 19 points with a strong second half that carried Cincinnati past Central Florida for its 11th straight win.

Cincinnati (19-2, 7-0 American Athletic) is off to its best start since 2001-02, when it was in Conference USA. The Bearcats' winning streak is their longest since they opened last season with 12 wins.

And it's been mostly a matter of defense. The Bearcats have held their last 27 opponents under 70 points, the longest active streak in Division I. They took control of this one by opening the second half with an 18-5 run.

Central Florida (9-8, 1-5) has lost four in a row. The Knights were only 5 of 16 from the free throw line, had 14 turnovers and shot 34 percent from the field.


MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Shaq Goodwin had 20 points, Joe Jackson added 18 points and seven assists, and Memphis jumped out to a big lead early against Houston.

The Tigers (14-4, 4-2 American Athletic Conference) never trailed and led by 17 in the first half of their fourth win in five games.

Meanwhile, the Cougars (11-8, 3-3) have lost three of four.

TaShawn Thomas led Houston with 14 points and Brandon Morris added 13.

L.J. Rose had 10 assists for the Cougars, who shot 42.6 percent and committed 18 turnovers.

Memphis had 15 turnovers but overcame them with 59 percent shooting. The Tigers held a 48-36 advantage in the paint and outrebounded Houston 33-28.



STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- D.J. Newbill scored 16 points, including 12 in the second half, to lead Penn State past Nebraska 58-54.

Penn State (10-10, 1-6 Big Ten) won its first conference game of the season after losing its first six. Nebraska (9-9, 1-5) couldn't sustain the momentum of its biggest win of the season, a 68-62 win over No. 17 Ohio State on Monday.

John Johnson scored 13 for the Nittany Lions, and Brandon Taylor and Tim Frazier each had 11.

Terran Petteway paced the Cornhuskers with 15, and Ray Gallegos added 10.




KENT -- Shayne Whittington scored 18 points and hauled in six rebounds as Western Michigan coasted past Kent State in a 75-59 win.

David Brown contributed 17 points, Tucker Haymond had 16 and Austin Richie 11 for Western Michigan (10-7, 3-2 Mid-American Conference), which hit 26 of 52 from the field in snapping a two-game losing streak.

Kent State (11-7, 2-3) kept the game close through much of the first half but shot just 32 percent from the field.

Kris Brewer and Darren Goodson led the Golden Flashes with 10 points each.


MUNCIE, Ind. -- Franko House hit the go-ahead jumper with 45 seconds to go and Jesse Berry padded the lead with a pair of free throws as Ball State edged Buffalo 71-68 for its first Mid-American Conference win of the season.

Trailing 36-30 at the break, Ball State (4-12, 1-4) opened the second half with a 10-4 run capped by a trio of Berry free throws, then kept the score close as the lead see-sawed between the teams down the stretch.

Berry scored 21 points, hitting a perfect 10-for-10 from the free throw line, while Chris Bond contributed 16 points and 13 rebounds. House and Majok Majok had 12 points each for the Cardinals.

Buffalo (9-6, 3-2) tied the game at 67 on layup by Josh Freelove with 1:14 to play, but couldn't recapture the lead.

Javon McCrea led the Bulls with 28 points and 11 rebounds.




YOUNGSTOWN -- Lavonte Dority scored 27 points, including the game-winning free throw, and Valparaiso rallied to beat Youngstown State 74-71.

Jubril Adekoya scored 13 for the Crusaders (12-9, 4-2 Horizon) and Moussa Gueye 11.

Ryan Weber put Youngstown State (12-9, 3-3) up 11-8 with a trey and the Penguins pulled away to a 36-27 half-time lead.

Adekoya tied it at 40 in the second half with a layup and Valparaiso pulled ahead by five on a free throw by Dority, but Youngstown came back to lead 49-47 on a jumper by DJ Cole. Keith Carter's jumper put Valparaiso up 66-65 with 1:37 left and the lead flip-flopped until Dority hit a pair of free throws for a 72-68 lead. Youngstown State's Kendrick Perry made it 72-71 with a 3-pointer, but the Penguins got no closer.

Bobby Hain led Youngstown with 16 points, Perry had 15, Weber 14 and Cole 12.

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