12-6, 3-2 Big Ten
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9:00 PM ET
9-10, 1-5 Big Ten
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OPPONENT: Since losing to Ohio State in the Big Ten opener 74-58, Illinois has lost 4 of 5, with 3 of those coming against Indiana, Wisconsin and Purdue, all on the road. Overall, Illinois has lost 5 of their last 6 and eight of the last twelve, but have been in most games with under two minutes to play.
Illinois is still tough defensively, as they rank fourth within the conference in field goal percentage at 39.1 percent and are allowing their opponents to score 62.3 points a contest. They are second only to Ohio State in 3point defense at 31 percent and hold a +5.2 rebounding margin, while scoring almost 66 points a game.
Obviously Illinois is not a good shooting team from any where on the floor, connecting on only 44 percent from the field, 59 percent from the foul line and 30 percent from deep. They do get 20.4 points from their bench and have not allowed an opposing team to shoot over 46 percent from the floor.
KEY PLAYERS: Illinois's senior duo of Shaun Pruitt and Brian Randle have lead the Fighting Illini lately, combining to average 30 points and 18 boards over the last three games. Pruitt still leads the team in scoring and rebounding at 12.9 and 7.9 respectively and ranks fourth in the conference at 54 percent shooting.
Randle has recorded a double double in each of his last two games and is averaging 14.3 points and 10.3 rebounds over his last four games. On the season he is second on the team with 10.5 points and 5.7 caroms per game.
Trent Meacham has also played fairly well as of late, scoring 11 points a game over the last four. He is the only other Illini player who scores in double digits, at 10.2 a game. Meacham continues to lead Illinois in three point attempts (102) and makes (39) and has taken only 45 shots within two point range, he also ranks second with 2.9 assists.
Calvin Brock and Demetri McCamey are the other two starting guards for Bruce Weber's team. McCamey entered the starting line up four games ago and has provided a little spark to this team. While he hasn't reached double figures in those games, he has grabbed five rebounds and dished out over four assists per game. Brock has averaged almost 11 points a game in the last five and shot 59 percent in that span. He has hit 6 of 8 three pointers within conference play.
Chester Frazier has produced a 19 to 4 assists to turnover ratio over the last four and leads Illinois with 4.9 per game, but still continues to be a non scoring threat at less than five a game. He has been coming off the bench recently as Frazier's shooting numbers are laughable at 32 percent overall, 54 from the line and 26 percent from 3land. Rodney Alexander will also give some minutes off the bench, chipping in with almost 5 points and 3 rebounds a game.
NOTES: After winning 5 straight, Illinois has lost four in a row to Ohio State... Eight different players have lead Illinois in scoring this year... Illinois has not allowed a team to score 80 or more points in 45 straight games...
BUCKEYE BREAKDOWN: Ohio State returns to the friendly confines Tuesday after losing three straight battles on the road, hoping to build upon recent stretches of play and start a realistic five game winning streak. The Buckeyes played good basketball for about 30 minutes in each of their recent losses and have showed flashes of bringing it all together, but the other 10 minutes is getting Ohio State in some deep holes.
Ohio State still leads the conference in overall and 3point field goal defense, forcing opponents into 29 percent shooting from downtown. This zone has really forced teams to adjust their normal offensive routines and only one team (UMBC) has scored more than 75 points. If Ohio State's shooting can catch up with their defense, they are going to peak at the perfect time in early March.
However, that shooting "if" is huge, as Ohio State's overall percentage has continued its downward trend and now stands at just over 45. Thad's team shot less than 41 percent in each of their three road losses and managed to make only 16 of their 64 three point attempts in that span.
They are making an impressive 70 percent of their free throws on the season, getting to the line 62 times over the last three.
KEY PLAYERS: It is evident teams are going to make Jamar Butler work for everything as the season progresses, forcing him to face full court pressure. While other players stepped up in Knoxville, if Jamar doesn't score, Ohio State is going to struggle. It is going to be interesting to see how Ohio State adjust to opponents game plan's for Jamar and if they can actually get something started off the high pick and roll. Remember Jamar scored a career high 32 against Illinois in the first match up.
Othello Hunter and Evan Turner really stepped it up Saturday, combining for 38 points and 24 rebounds. Tennessee's matador defense allowed both guys to be aggressive driving the ball and each found themselves playing 37+ minutes for the first time this year. Hunter is scoring just over 10 points a game over his last 4, while also grabbing 6 rebounds, but needs to replicate his performance and energy from Knoxville in order to help this team reach their peak.
Turner is scoring close to 12 points over his last five and has shot 50 percent or better in seven straight games. He is shooting 62 percent in conference play and 54 percent on the season, while also getting to the line 50 times, second to Jamar.
Lighty has scored in double figures only 4 times in his last 11 games, Koufos has attempted 11 free throws in his last seven games (while attempting 12 threes) and Diebler has missed his last 19 three point tries. I am not going to bang on these guys, but we all now how important this trio is to Ohio State's success.
NOTES: Thad is 4-1 against Illinois in his OSU career... Jamar Butler is 2nd nationally in free throw percentage and is 3 assists shy of second all time at Ohio State... Game will be televised on the Big Ten Network and lucky viewers will be blessed with Jim Jackson and Gene Keady doing color analysis... Buckeye seven foot recruit B.J. Mullens went for 62 points and 21 boards last night in Canal Winchester's 79-69 victory.