Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Buckeyes Foul, Thomas Hits, Illinois Wins 80-68

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Buckeyes Foul, Thomas Hits, Illinois Wins 80-68

Article excerpt

Figuring they'd rather take their chances with Deon Thomas at the free-throw line instead of giving him freedom around the basket, the Ohio State Buckeyes played a heavy-handed game on the Illinois senior Tuesday night.

Bad idea.

Thomas nailed a school-record 19 free throws and the Illini scored an 80-68 victory in a Big Ten Conference basketball game at Assembly Hall.

Just why the Buckeyes decided to get physical with Thomas is a bit of a mystery, considering the comments made by the officials before the game.

"They told us they weren't going to have a lot of bumping down at the post," Thomas said. "Maybe their captain didn't tell them."

Ohio State coach Randy Ayers laughed when he heard that officials Ed Hightower, Jody Sylvester and Verl Sell had laid down the law before the game.

"They didn't tell me that," Ayers said. "There was a lot of physical play at both ends of the floor. I think Deon got the benefit of the doubt a lot of times. He's a senior and he uses his body extremely well. He's not only one of the best players in our conference, he's one of the best players in the nation."

In an attempt to shut him down, Ohio State just kept trying to deny him shots.

"Deon only got seven field-goal attempts," Ayers said. "But he was on a roll at the free-throw line."

Before canning the first 3-pointer of his career with only two seconds left in the game, Thomas had made only one field goal in the game but still had 21 points.

"It was obvious that their game plan was to rotate people on Deon and not give him field goals," Illinois coach Lou Henson said. "They were going to give fouls and force him to make free throws."

Thomas said the calls were stricter in this game, but "there were some nasty smacks on the arm, and I hope they continue to call it like this. You can't impede the shot. They also were calling it when you got a hand in the back tonight, and I hope they continue to call that. …

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