Five Things We Learned in a Win over Illinois
By John Porentas
1) Games between two offensively challenged teams are not exactly works of art. This was not a particularly fun game to watch. About the only saving grace for it is that one team won and could claim victory. Luckily for you, that was the Buckeyes. Imagine sitting through that game as an Illinois fan. On second thought, don't do that. It will only depress you. Instead think about the Mona Lisa. See, a work of art makes you smile. This game didn't.
2) Marc Loving broke out. Loving has been in a dreadful shooting slump, but once he saw one go through the net he was a changed player. He went from tentative to aggressive and made an important offensive contribution. We'll see if that carries forward to the next game, but I kind of think it will. Shooting slumps are very much a mental thing. Loving has what it takes to shoot and score, he just lost his confidence. It wouldn't surprise me one bit if this game ends up breaking him out for the rest of the season, and that would be really good news for a Buckeye team that has trouble scoring the basketball.
3) This wasn't a very good game for Amir Williams. Amir played very well against Illinois and Nnanna Egwu in their matchup in Columbus, but Egwu definitely won this meeting between the two. Egwu nabbed a career-high 14 rebounds to go with three blocks, two assists and four points. Williams failed to score and managed just three rebounds despite 38 missed shots by Illinois.
4) The Buckeyes might yet earn a bye in the B1G tournament. Four teams get byes in the B1G tournament. Currently the Buckeyes are in fifth place just a half-game behind Wisconsin. The Buckeyes are 7-6 in the league while the Badgers have played one less game and are 7-5, so they are currently percentage points ahead of Ohio State. OSU's remaining schedule includes home games with Northwestern, Minnesota and Michigan State and road games against Penn State and Indiana. Wisconsin meanwhile has road games against Michigan, Iowa, Penn State and Nebraska and home games against Indiana and Purdue. If the two teams end the season tied, the Buckeyes would get the tournament bye over the Badgers since they met only once during the regular season and the Buckeye took that game, thus giving them the tie-breaker for seeding.
5) Aaron Craft played a good offensive game, but the Buckeyes put the Illini away with Craft on the bench. The Buckeyes were clinging to a one-point lead in the second half when Craft went to the bench with foul trouble. The Buckeyes proceeded to go on an 8-0 run with Craft sitting to take control of the game and establish a nine-point lead. While he was technically on the floor when the next two points were scored, they were two free throws by Marc Loving that were earned prior to Craft's reinsertion into the lineup. Those two free throws gave OSU an 11-point lead and the Buckeyes never really were threatened again. That run by the way was keyed by Buckeye non-starters like Loving, Della Valle and Shannon Scott. Craft is a key component of this team, but they have it within them to get it done when he isn't available as they did against in this game.
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