Game Number two of the season series between the Ohio State Buckeyes and Illinois Fighting Ilini rolls on tomorrow night on ESPN/ESPN3 at 7 PM ET. The Buckeyes look to put two losses in their last three games behind them.
Meanwhile, the struggling Illini look to a repeat performance from Brandon Paul the last time these two teams met. After a in depth look at Bruce Weber’s fighting Illini earlier in the year, It’s time to get you updated on what’s happening lately.
It’s Ugly in Urbana:
For Buckeye fans squirming in their seats the last few weeks, remember that at this point of the year, Illinois fans have become accustomed to long, drawn out losing streaks at the end of the season.
Head coach Bruce Weber is yet again on the hot seat, after his squad has lost 8 of the last nine ballgames since beating Ohio State in heroic fashion earlier this season. Their only win was a one point squeaker against Michigan State. Since that point, the Spartans have shot to the top of the conference standings, while the Orange and Blue are competing with Penn State and Nebraska for last place in the conference.
Of course, by definition, you’re not really fighting for it when you lose to Nebraska by 23. A continuing sign that the wheels are falling off in Urbana. In Lincoln, the Illini were statistically out of competition with 9:30 to go in the ballgame.
It was so bad that center Meyers Leonard was crying on the bench after the game. Brandon Paul played a mere 26 minutes and was just 1-7 from the floor. But how can you blame them? Just a few days earlier, head coach Bruce Webber said that he had wished he would of benched his two best players in the month of January. After a tough loss to Purdue, the head man questioned his best playmaker’s three point attempt near the buzzer and said that Leonard and Paul lacked “Basketball Savvy.”
Worst of all, Weber questioned the progression of his program of the past three years, while setting back recruiting another 5.
Any regular Joe basketball fan could of told you what Weber stated out loud by watching a typical Illinois basketball game. The one thing that this team has lacked is heart and determination down the stretch. We all know they’ve had the talent to succeed the past few seasons.
But what does that matter now?
The talent that has been sold on Illinois basketball has just been slapped in the face.
David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune put it into perfect words earlier today.
Hopefully that is just the medicine the Buckeyes need to get back on the winning track.
Ohio State Woes:
The last three ballgames have been a nightmare for Ohio State fans, and a stretch where this team has been clearly outplayed. After being swept by the state of Michigan in their last two losses, the Buckeyes will look to bounce back at home at the comforts of Value City Arena.
That is if the Buckeyes’ top two scorers can look comfortable on the court.
Jared Sullinger looks to bounce back from 14 turnovers in three games. He will be matched up with fellow sophomore Meyers Leonard, who dominated him defensively at times the first time these two teams met. Sullinger has looked lost at times, specifically with positioning off the block and dishing the basketball back outside. He is key for the Buckeyes to get back to where they belong. If he can get going early, settle for the paint, and dish the basketball out to create ball reversal, Ohio State should be just fine.
Of course, it wouldn’t hurt if senior William Buford scored at a higher consistency.
His struggles have correlated directly with Ohio State’s losses. The team’s second leading scorer has put down 20% of Ohio State’s points this season. Buford is hot and cold in the last four ball games. Against Purdue and Minnesota the guard went 10/17 from the floor. In the games between those two, he has shot 5/24 from the floor.
That means Tuesday night we will see a non-stop scoring machine.
At least that’s the medicine I’ll feed myself in hopes that he turns things around.