Buckeyes and Illini meet in Champaign
Champaign, IL (Sports Network) – Winners of two straight and six of their
last seven games, the sixth-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes get back on the
hardwood this afternoon, as they make the trip to Champaign to battle the
Illinois Fighting Illini in Big Ten action from Assembly Hall.
The Buckeyes opened league play with a 74-67 victory over Indiana on
Tuesday. The win pushed the team to 12-2 overall. The only two losses this
year have come on the road at second-ranked North Carolina and against
defending national champion Florida.
The Illini are 12-4 on the season, but have dropped two straight games,
including their Big Ten opener at Michigan on Wednesday (71-61).
Illinois holds a 100-61 edge in the all-time series with Ohio State, but
the Buckeyes have won the last two meetings. Illinois has won five straight
over Ohio State in Champaign.
Freshman center Greg Oden is beginning to peak and that can’t be good for the
rest of the Big Ten. Widely regarded as the best freshman in the country, Oden
certainly looked the part in the Big Ten opener against Indiana, hitting 6-
of-11 shots from the floor and 9-of-10 from the free-throw line to finish with
a team-high 21 points. Othello Hunter (14 pts), Daequan Cook (12 pts) and Ron
Lewis (10 pts) joined in as well, as OSU shot 50 percent from the floor in the
win. The Buckeyes are one of the more explosive Big Ten teams, averaging a
hardy 81.4 ppg, on .508 shooting. There is plenty of scoring depth, with four
players currently averaging double digits. Cook comes off the bench, but still
leads the team in scoring at 15.6 ppg. Oden has definitely lived up to the
hype. The seven-footer is converting 67.8 percent of his shots this year,
averaging 15.4 ppg. He also leads the team in rebounding (8.7 rpg) and blocked
shots (26). Lewis and Ivan Harris give the team offensive support with 13.4
and 10.1 ppg, respectively.
The Illini are not an offensive juggernaut by any stretch of the imagination
and may lack the offensive firepower to play an up-tempo game against Ohio
State. The team does however, thrive at the defensive end, holding foes under
60 points per game (59.7) and forcing almost 17 turnovers (16.8). Forward
Warren Carter is the team’s top option in the frontcourt, averaging 13.9
points and 6.5 rebounds per game. Center Shaun Pruitt aids Carter down low
with 11.3 points and 7.3 rebounds per outing. Shooting guard Jamar Smith gives
the team balance from the perimeter at 13.5 ppg, while fellow sophomore
Chester Frazier (8.7 ppg) runs the offense, doling out nearly six assists per
game (5.9). Smith led the team with 17 points on Wednesday, but it wasn’t
enough in a 10-point loss to Michigan. Carter chipped in with 14 points,
followed by Frazier, who finished with 11. The Illini failed to find their
shot in the game, connecting on just 37.7 percent from the floor.