COLUMBUS, Ohio – Ohio State is heavy on freshmen and sophomores, but it needed its most experienced player to hold off Illinois 75-73 for its sixth consecutive victory on Sunday.
Marc Loving, who had a career-high 27 points, had six straight points to carry Ohio State from a 61-59 deficit to a 65-61 lead with 2:21 to play, thanks to a dunk, a three-pointer and a foul shot.
He also added three free throws after that to seal the win for the Buckeyes (10-5, 2-0 Big Ten).
"As your lone upperclassman on the basketball team you hope that's something you can continue to count on," Ohio State coach Thad Matta said.
Loving made a career-best 14 free throws on 19 attempts.
"It's just the confidence my teammates have in me," Loving said. "They put me in the right positions, and I'm able to take advantage of those opportunities."
Illinois coach John Groce lamented the disparity in free throws. The Buckeyes hit 28 of 39 fouls shots off 23 Illinois fouls. The Illini (8-7, 0-2) made nine of 11 and were fouled 18 times.
"The things I have to look at on the film is we're the 11th-ranked in the nation in defensive free throw rate and fewest fouls and there's a 28 free-throw differentiation in the game," Groce said.