E.J. Liddell scored a career high 26 points in the return to his home state to lift No. 21 Ohio State to an 87-81 win over No. 14 Illinois on Saturday in Champaign, Ill.
The previous best for Liddell, the 2018 and 2019 Illinois Mr. Basketball, was 21 points last month against Rutgers.
On Saturday, Liddell made 10 of 16 field goals -- including 4 of 7 on 3-pointer attempts. He had made three from beyond the arc this season entering the game.
The Buckeyes (11-3, 5-3 Big Ten) led by 15 at the half en route to winning their third straight.
Justin Ahrens, Seth Towns and Duane Washington Jr. each had 11 points for the Buckeyes.
For the Illini (9-5, 5-3), Ayo Dosunmu led with 22 points followed by Kofi Cockburn (15) and Adam Miller (14).
The Buckeyes were up by 18 in the first half and 43-28 at the half but they could not put it away.
The game turned into a series of shots from the line as Justice Sueing and Dosunmu exchanged a pair of free throws, and Washington hit both of his with 23 seconds left to put the Buckeyes ahead 83-78.
Miller made a triple with 15 seconds as the Illini cut the deficit to 83-81, only to see Washington make two free throws. Musa Jallow added two more with two seconds on the clock.
Liddell missed all six shots from the floor in the 81-71 win over Northwestern on Wednesday. However, he led all scorers with 13 points through 20 minutes and helped spark a 15-0 run with eight points to break a tie at 15.
The next games for the Buckeyes and Illini have been indirectly affected by the COVID-19 issues in the Penn State program.
Ohio State hosts Purdue on Tuesday in a game originally scheduled for Jan. 27. Illinois' home game vs. the Nittany Lions was moved from Wednesday to Tuesday.
--Field Level Media