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Dosunmu's free throws in final seconds help No. 8 Illini hold off Bobcats

Preston scores 31 points with 8 assists, 6 rebounds

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – Ayo Dosunmu’s free throws with 2.3 seconds remaining put Illinois on top and allowed the eighth-ranked team in the country to hold off Ohio 77-75 on Friday at the State Farm Center.

Jason Preston’s floater with seven seconds to go gave Ohio a 75-74 lead, but Dosunmu came back the other way after a timeout, got to the basket and was fouled by Dwight Wilson. He connected twice.

Illinois took advantage of a foul to give after the Bobcats’ inbound pass, leaving them just 1.4 seconds. The next inbounds pass was stolen, and Trent Frazier added a free throw to close it out.

Preston’s biggest game of a huge opening week was not quite enough for the Bobcats (2-1). He finished with 31 points, eight assists and six rebounds without a turnover.

"Preston is a very, very good guard and I think we saw that today," Illinois coach Brad Underwood said. "He's an NBA talent."

Ben Vander Plas also excelled with 20 points, five rebounds and four steals.

Dosunmu's stellar play not only included the game-winning point for the Illini (3-0), but he kept them in it all day with 27 points, eight assists and seven rebounds.

"They drew up a great play," Dosunmu said. "I just wanted to get to the rim and it ended up successful and I made two free throws."

The Bobcats led 49-41 with 13:47 remaining, and after Illinois surged back on top 63-59 with 6:07 to go, Ohio made a push to go back ahead in the closing minutes.

Vander Plas drained a 3-pointer at the 2:23 mark to give the Bobcats a 70-67 lead, and Preston split a pair of free throws with 1:56 remaining to make it a four-point game. Frazier did the same at the foul line and then Dosunmu drained a game-tying 3-pointer with 1:14 left.

Preston got into the lane and dumped it off to Wilson for a layup with 45 seconds to go, putting the Bobcats back in front 73-71, but Da’Monte Williams answered back 10 seconds later with a 3-pointer that moved the Illinois back in front by one. That was followed by Preston’s go-ahead shot.

"I think we played well enough to win today," Boals said. "I'm proud of our guys. They fought hard and showed some real toughness today."

Illinois led 35-34 at halftime, but Ohio used a 13-4 early in the second half that included back-to-back 3-pointers by Vander Plas and Ben Roderick to go ahead 49-41. The Illini, though, answered with eight straight points to tie the game at 49 and later went up 58-53 on a Kofi Cockburn dunk assisted by Dosunmu.

Ohio scored three straight baskets to take a 65-63 lead, and the team’s traded baskets before Vander Plas’ 3-pointer and then the Preston free throw that made it a four-point game.

The Illini used a 9-0 run – with Dosunmu scoring seven – to go up 30-21 with 5:30 left in the first half. The Bobcats came back with 10 straight points to take a one-point lead late in the half, and Illinois eventually had a one-point edge at the break on a Dosunmu free throw.

Wilson had 12 points and eight boards for Ohio, which got only 12 points combined from players other than Preson, Vander Plas and Wilson.

Cockburn was a force inside for the Illini with 13 points and 14 rebounds. Williams also posted a double-double with 11 points and 10 boards. Adam Miller scored 11 points.

Illinois committed 16 turnovers, compared to only three by Ohio, but it countered with a 12-3 advantage in offensive rebounds.

A big difference was free throws. The Illini made 15 of 24 (62.5%) while the Bobcats were 4 of 9 (44.4%).

"I'm disappointed that we didn't win," Boals said. "I thought we deserved to win. I am super proud of our guys. They battled for 40 minutes and we just happened to come up short at the tail end. To come in here against a top-10 team in the country on day three and game three, the fight, heart and toughness that our guys showed was great. I could not be more proud of where we are and overall just really proud of them."

Ohio hosts Cleveland State at 2 p.m. Dec. 6 at The Convo.

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