CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Just before halftime Saturday, Illinois point guard Tracy Abrams crashed into the Ohio State bench chasing a loose ball. After bending over in pain for a long minute he hobbled off the court without the ball.
Abrams' tough play already had the respect of first-year coach John Groce.
And after a hard-nosed effort, the 11th-ranked Illini had a 74-55 blowout over No. 8 Ohio State days after dropping their Big Ten opener — and getting out-toughed, as Groce put it — to Purdue.
"Oh, I love it; that's toughness plays, passion, inspiring plays," Groce said. "Any time a guy sacrifices his body to make a play for his team, that's the highest level of teamism — I don't know if that's a word."
The win by Illinois (14-2, 1-1 Big Ten) came at the expense of Groce's former boss, Thad Matta. Groce was an assistant to Matta at Ohio State (11-3, 1-1) before taking over at Ohio.
Matta agreed that Illinois earned the win with tough defense. But, as he watched 6-foot-11 sophomore center Nnanna Egwu score a career- high 16 — a number of them on long jump shots — the longtime coach said the game had a sense of inevitability about it, too.
"We'd seen that he could shoot, but when he started knocking down 17-footers, it was like, 'Geez, this is really their day,' " he said.
NO. 1 DUKE 80, WAKE 62: Ryan Kelly scored a season-high 22, his fourth straight 20-point performance against the Demon Deacons, for the host Blue Devils (14-0) in their ACC opener.
NO. 3 ARIZONA 60, UTAH 57: Solomon Hill had 19 points, Mark Lyons hit two free throws with 7.2 seconds left and the host Wildcats (14-0, 2-0 Pac-12) dodged a last-second shot for the second straight game.
NO. 10 GONZAGA 81, SANTA CLARA 74: Kelly Olynyk made a key putback with 1:55 left on the way to a career-high 33 points, and the visiting Bulldogs (15-1, 2-0 West Coast) held off a rally.
NO. 12 MISSOURI 66, BUCKNELL 64: Phil Pressey scored a career-high 26 for the host Tigers (11-2), who survived when the Bison's Mike Muscala missed both free throws with 1.9 seconds left.
ST. JOHN'S 53, NO. 14 CINCY 52: D'Angelo Harrison hit a go-ahead jumper with 29 seconds left as the visiting Red Storm upset the Bearcats (13-2, 1-1 Big East).
MARQUETTE 49, NO. 15 G'TOWN 48: Davante Gardner made two free throws with 8.3 seconds left for the host Golden Eagles, and the Hoyas (10-2) had their seven-game winning streak snapped in their Big East opener.
NO. 16 CREIGHTON 79, INDIANA ST. 66: Doug McDermott had 25 points and nine rebounds for the host Bluejays (14-1, 3-0 MVC), who used a 19-4 second-half run to break it open and win their eighth straight.
NO. 17 BUTLER 57, NEW ORLEANS 44: Kellen Dunham scored 15 for the Bulldogs (12-2), who improved to 7-0 at home with their ninth straight win.
NO. 18 MICH. ST. 84, PURDUE 61: Freshman Gary Harris scored 22 for the host Spartans (12-3, 1-1 Big Ten), who used a 28-7 second-half run to pull away.
NO. 21 NOTRE DAME 93, SETON HALL 74: Scott Martin had a season-high 22 points and hit a career-high six 3-pointers for the host Irish (13-1) in their Big East opener.
NO. 25 KANSAS ST. 73, NO. 22 OKLA. ST. 67: Rodney McGruder scored 26 of his 28 in the second half, and the host Wildcats (12-2) overcame freshman Marcus Smart's career-best 25 points for the Cowboys (10-3) in the Big 12 opener for both.
NO. 23 N.C. STATE 78, BC 73: Scott Wood atoned for a scoreless first half with 12 points in the second for the visiting Wolfpack (12-2) in its ACC opener.
RUTGERS 67, NO. 24 PITT 62: The host Scarlet Knights held off a second-half rally to hand the Panthers (12-3, 0-2 Big East) their second straight loss.
KENTUCKY: Montverde Academy's Dakari Johnson, rated the top center in this year's class by ESPN, committed to the Wildcats, who now have four of the nation's top 12 recruits in the Class of 2013.
MIAMI 62, GA. TECH 49: Rion Brown came off the bench to score a career-high 22 for the visiting Hurricanes (10-3) in an ACC opener.
UCF 99, FAMU 69: Isaiah Sykes scored 22 for the host Knights (10-4), who shot 72.4 percent in the first half and handed the Rattlers (4-11) their fifth loss in a row.
LSU 79, B-CU 63: Charles Carmouche's 17 points led four players in double figures for the host Tigers, who led Bethune-Cookman (5-10) wire-to-wire.
NOVA SE 79, ECKERD 74: The visiting Sharks hit 11 of 22 3-pointers to hold off the Tritons (6-3, 0-2 Sunshine State).
ROLLINS 72, TAMPA 66: The Tars shot 55.6 percent and rallied from a 13-point first-half deficit against the host Spartans (12-1) in an SSC opener.
SAINT LEO 69, LYNN 59: Marcus Ruh had 20 points and eight rebounds for the host Lions (9-2, 2-0 SSC).