COLUMBUS, Ohio – 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.
No. 1 ARIZONA 69, COLORADO 57: In Tucson, Ariz., Nick Johnson scored 18 points, and Brandon Ashley added 15 as the Wildcats (19-0, 6-0 Pac-12) remained unbeaten.
No. 6 FLORIDA 68, ALABAMA 62: In Tuscaloosa, Ala., Michael Frazier II scored 18 points and made five 3-pointers to lead the Gators (16-2, 5-0 SEC) to their 10th consecutive win.
No. 15 CINCINNATI 69, CENTRAL FLORIDA 51: In Cincinnati, Justin Jackson matched his career high by blocking seven shots, and Sean Kilpatrick scored 19 points to lead the Bearcats (19-2, 7-0 American Athletic) to their 11th straight win.
No. 23 MEMPHIS 82, HOUSTON 59: In Memphis, Tenn., Shaq Goodwin had 20 points, and Joe Jackson added 18 points and seven assists as the Tigers (14-4, 4-2 American) never trailed in winning for the fourth time in five games.
VALPARAISO 74, YOUNGSTOWN STATE 71: In Youngstown, Ohio, Lavonte Dority scored 27 points, including the game-winning free throw, as the Crusaders (12-9, 4-2 Horizon) rallied from a 36-27 halftime deficit.
BALL STATE 71, BUFFALO 68: In Muncie, 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 the Cardinals won their first MAC game 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 three Berry free throws, then kept the score close as the lead see-sawed between the teams down the stretch.