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Paul dominates as Illinois topples No. 5 Ohio State

Jan 11, 2012 - 4:51 AM Champaign, IL (Sports Network) - It was simply Brandon Paul's night.

Illinois' junior guard was sensational Tuesday, dropping 43 points behind eight three-pointers to lead the Fighting Illini to a 79-74 upset of No. 5 Ohio State.

Paul shot 11-of-15 from the field, 8-of-10 from behind the arc and 13-of-15 from the foul line. He also pulled down a team-high eight rebounds and had four blocks, carrying the Illini (15-3, 4-1 Big Ten) to a third straight win.

Deshaun Thomas and Jared Sullinger netted 23 and 21 points, respectively, to pace the Buckeyes (15-3, 3-2), who were coming off lopsided wins over Nebraska and Iowa.

Ohio State was in for a much stiffer test against Illinois, which was 10-0 at Assembly Hall coming in and leaned on a red-hot Paul down the stretch.

Paul scored the Illini's final 15 points, the biggest coming on a three- pointer that broke a 66-66 tie with two minutes left in regulation.

Sullinger answered with a jumper while getting fouled, but the All-American missed the free throw. Paul sank two free throws before a Thomas layup pulled Ohio State within 71-70 with 1:20 to play.

On the following touch, Paul drained a step-back, NBA-range three-pointer with a hand in his face to beat the shot clock, then he swatted Sullinger at the other end.

Sullinger scored later in the possession, but Paul had two successful trips at the foul line around a Tracy Abrams steal to essentially seal the win.

The game was tight throughout, featuring eight ties and eight lead changes.

Sullinger converted a three-point play and drained a rare three-pointer on consecutive possessions late in the first half, which ended with the Buckeyes holding a 39-34 lead.

Ohio State scored on its first four possessions out of the break, taking the biggest lead of the game, 48-37, on Thomas' three-point play.

Illinois inched back with the next nine points, none coincidentally coming from Paul.

The remainder of the game, however, was Paul's for the taking. He drained back-to-back three-pointers to ignite a 10-0 run that gave Illinois a 57-54 lead with just under 11 minutes remaining.

Game Notes

The Buckeyes had won five straight over the Illini...Paul had seven of Illinois' 18 turnovers...Illinois shot 60 percent from the floor, compared to Ohio State's 47 percent shooting effort...William Buford scored 15 points for the Buckeyes, while Meyers Leonard netted 14 for the Illini.