No. 4 Illinois outlasts No. 10 Ohio State for inside track to NCAA Tournament No. 1 seed

In a Big Ten regular-season finale with major NCAA Tournament seed implications, No. 4 Illinois outlasted No. 10 Ohio State 73-68 on Saturday to build its case to the committee for the final No. 1 seed called on Selection Sunday. 

The Fighting Illini (20-6, 16-4) are now well positioned to secure the final No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament when the NCAA selection committee announces seeds March 14. Illinois is coming off a 23-point win over fellow projected No. 1 seed Michigan, without best player Ayo Dosunmu. The Illini now also possess a top-4 NET score and nine Quadrant 1 (top-25 home, top-75 road) victories. 

The Buckeyes (18-8, 12-8) are reeling with four losses in a row but still have an outside chance of getting a No. 1 seed if they win the Big 10 tournament. Still, a top-25 strength of schedule and Jan. 16 win over Illinois will be appealing to the committee near the No. 2 seed line. 

Ohio State forward Kyle Young, left, knocks the ball away from Illinois center Kofi Cockburn, center, as forward Zed Key defends during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Columbus, Ohio, Saturday, March 6, 2021. (Photo: Paul Vernon, AP)

WINNERS AND LOSERS:Oklahoma State rolling; Villanova in trouble

Coach Brad Underwood's defense came up huge, with Illinois holding OSU scoreless in the final 3:48.

The Fighting Illini's two preseason All-Americans, Dosunmu (19 

points) and Kofi Cockburn (12 points) helped drive much of Illinois' offense but it was freshman Andre Curbelo who boosted the team with 19 points off the bench. 

E.J. Liddell led the Buckeyes with 19 points, while Duane Washington Jr. and Justice Sueing chipped in with 15 points apiece. 

Follow college basketball reporter Scott Gleeson on Twitter @ScottMGleeson 

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