Another big scoring performance from Malaki Branham in Ohio State’s 86-83 victory over Illinois Thursday night has Illini head coach Brad Underwood singing the freshman’s praises.

Branham scoring 31 points in Thursday night’s win, hitting 10-of-14 shots from the floor and connecting on 10-of-11 free throws. It was the third consecutive game in which the freshman scored more than 20 points.

Following the game, Underwood had major praise for the Buckeye, who has been playing at an extremely high level as of late.

“I think they have the best player in our league,” Underwood said after the game. “And his name’s not Liddell. … That young man’s pretty special.”

Branham scored 27 points in Ohio State’s 80-69 overtime victory over Indiana earlier in the week and racked up 22 points in a loss to Iowa. Thursday night’s performance marked the second time he’s eclipsed the 30-point mark, totaling a season-high 35 in an overtime victory over Nebraska in early January.

For the season, Branham is averaging 12.6 points, 3.7 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game. He’s also shooting at nearly a 50% clip on the year. He’s playing some of his best basketball at the right time.

The Buckeyes still have four games remaining on the schedule and are just 1.5 games back of first place in the B1G standings. Ohio State will close out the year against Maryland, Nebraska, Michigan State and Michigan.

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