Columbus, OH (SportsNetwork.com) - A pair of struggling Big Ten Conference
foes get together on Thursday night, as the Illinois Fighting Illini come
calling on the 17th-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes.
Both teams are mired in four-game losing streaks, and they are separated by
only two games with regard to their overall records.
Illinois comes in at 13-6 (2-4 in conference), and the team has dropped recent
decisions to league rivals Wisconsin, Northwestern, Purdue and Michigan State,
the last two coming at home. The Illini are just 1-3 in true road games,
having lost their last three on enemy hardwood.
Ohio State began the season at 15-0, but the squad has fallen on hard times of
late, losing to Michigan State, Iowa, Minnesota and most shockingly, Nebraska.
The 68-62 setback to the Cornhuskers in Lincoln on Monday night, dropped the
Buckeyes' record on the road to 2-3. The knock on Thad Matta's team heading
into conference play was that it hadn't faced much in the way of top-flight
competition, an opinion that apparently has some merit considering the
Buckeyes recent troubles.
Illinois owns a 101-66 advantage in the all-time series with Ohio State, but
the Buckeyes have won 12 of the 17 meetings between the two since Matta took
over to start the 2004-05 campaign.
The two teams will meet again in Champaign on Feb. 15.
Poor shooting and a relaxed defensive approach did the Illini in last Saturday
against visiting Michigan State, as the team connected on only 37.7 percent of
its field goal attempts, while allowing the Spartans 55.8 percent success on
theirs. Tracy Abrams led the way for Illinois with 15 points, while Jon Ekey
and Rayvonte Rice chipped in with 12 points apiece. MSU nearly doubled UI in
points in the paint (38-20), while easily winning the rebounding battle by a
Rice continues to pace the Illini in the scoring column with his 17.4 ppg, and
he leads the team in rebounding (5.9 rpg) and steals (23) as well. Abrams
(12.8 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 3.4 apg) and Joseph Bertrand (10.6 ppg, 5.5 rpg) round out
the double-digit scorers for Illinois, which generates 69.3 ppg behind typical
shooting efforts of .416 overall and .311 from 3-point range, while at the
same time allowing the opposition to hit 41.3 percent of its total shots,
which includes a 34.0 percent showing from beyond the arc, on its way to only
Ohio State too put forth a dismal shooting effort in the recent loss to
Nebraska, converting a mere 39.6 percent of its field goal attempts, including
only 6-of-21 tries from 3-point land. In contrast, the Cornhuskers made good
on 50 percent of their total shots, despite missing the mark on 11 of their 13
long-range launches. Nebraska turned the ball over 17 times, but used a 20-14
edge in points from the foul line, coupled with a 33-27 advantage on the glass
to pull off the upset. Aaron Craft paced the Buckeyes with 12 points, seven
rebounds and three assists, while LaQuinton Ross and Lenzelle Smith, Jr. both
went just 4-of-12 from the floor to tally 11 and 10 points, respectively.
Ross and Smith, Jr. are OSU's only double-digit scorers on the season, the duo
combining for 25.8 ppg. The Buckeyes rely much more on contributions from
multiple players, as five others net between 6.7 and 9.2 ppg. As a team, Ohio
State is putting up 73.3 ppg, doing so on typical shooting efforts of .459
overall and .340 from beyond the arc. Where the team really earns its merit is
on defense, as opponents are permitted just 58.5 ppg on the strength of a 39.2
percent shooting performance, which includes a dismal 26.1 percent showing
from downtown. Add to that more than 15 turnovers per game, and it's not hard
to see why so many foes have fallen by the wayside this season.
The Sports Network