Preview: Ohio State at #24 Illinois

By Corey Carpenter on January 20, 2009 at 7:00a
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Ohio State Buckeyes Ohio State 13-3, 3-2 Big Ten Roster | Schedule 7:00 PM ET - ESPN —— Assembly Hall Champaign, IL Illinois Fighting Illini #24 Illinois 15-3, 3-2 Big Ten Roster | Schedule

For a fourth straight time, Ohio State will face a ranked B10 opponent on the road, as Illinois finally cracked the top 25 this week.

Illinois is 10-1 at home, losing by 2 against Clemson in the ACC/B10 challenge, but Ohio State has won 5 straight in the series.

School is back in session and the Orange Crush will be in full effect tonight, living up to Assembly Hall's tough reputation. Thad's young team has been playing with confidence lately, but I think a near flawless executed game is the only way they come back with a win.

#NamePTSREBASSTPOS#NamePTSREBASST
2 Jeremie Simmons 7.3 1.9 3.1 G 3 Chester Frazier 5.2 4.5 5.9
33 Jon Diebler 10.8 3.4 2.8 G 1 Trent Meacham 11.7 2.6 2.7
21 Evan Turner 15.9 7.0 2.9 F 32 Demetri McCamey 11.8 2.7 4.9
44 William Buford 10.6 3.6 0.8 F 24 Mike Davis 11.3 7.3 1.7
52 Dallas Lauderdale 6.1 4.6 0.4 C 54 Mike Tisdale 11.7 4.3 0.6

Opponent

Illinois comes in as the best defensive team in the conference, giving up only 57 points a game and winning by an average of 13 points. In their last two home games, Indiana and Michigan scored a combined 96 points. They are also the top shooting team, connecting on 48 percent of their shots, including 38 percent from downtown.

Illinois isn't a deep team, but they have started the same lineup in 16 of their 18 games and are lead by senior guards Chester Frazier and Trent Meacham. Frazier won't score much, but he leads the conference in assists and Meacham is fifth, which helps Illinois rank second in the nation with 19.4 a game.

Bruce Weber plays all his starters at least 24 minutes a game and will bring in Calvin Brock, Dominique Keller and Alex Legion off the bench, who combine for 18 points and 7 boards. Weber is doing another amazing coaching job, leading Illinois to more wins already than their season total of 13 last year.

Buckeye Breakdown:

After three straight wins, Ohio State started receiving votes in both polls, but have their work cut out for them once again this week. They come in scoring 68 points a game on 46 percent shooting, including 35 percent from deep. It has been great to watch the light go on in terms of ball movement and penetration over the past couple of weeks, as Ohio State has assisted on 70 percent of their FG's (75 of 107) over the last four games.

Even though Buford was named Big Ten POW, I thought Jeremie Simmons had an equally important week, going for 19 points and 12 assists. I touched on it last game, but his continued improvement is a must if Ohio State is going to hang towards the top three of the conference. PJ Hill is also starting to grow on me. He is still late with post entry passes and can't shoot, but his defensive energy has seem to spark others when he is on the floor, especially Buford.

With the recent emergence of BJ Mullens, Ohio State now has 4 players scoring in double digits during conference play. Mullens leads the league in shooting at 72 percent and he has averaged 9 shots over the last 4 games. I still like Lauderdale starting for defensive purposes and so BJ doesn't pick up any quick fouls, but don't be surprised to see both of them together more tonight, as Illinois goes 6'10" and 7'1" across the front. Let's just hope the officials aren't persuaded by the home crowd.

The Buckeyes will be looking for their first three game winning streak in Champaign, since the 1977-1980 seasons and are a combined 22-57 there. OSU is 3-2 against ranked foes this year and all 3 wins have come on the road. I think Thad's boys are a bit more athletic inside and his guards provide more scoring punch. Good solid screens and movement without the ball will be key tonight. If the refs don't go ticky-tack with the bigs, I like Ohio State continuing their level of play and coming home with a close 62-59 win.

Etc

  • Ohio State is 24-2 over Michigan with Thad, Tress and Jim Foster as coaches.
  • The Bucks are 10-0 when the reserves outscore the opposition's.
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