Men's Basketball

Sunday Shootaround — Illinois at Ohio State Preview

Men's Basketball


The No. 17 Ohio State men’s basketball team (19-5, 10-1) hosts the Illinois Fighting Illini (12-11, 2-8) Sunday afternoon at Value City Arena. Tip-off is scheduled for 12:01 pm and the game will be televised on FS1.

The Buckeyes are coming off of a 71-56 win over Indiana this past Tuesday. Illinois last played on Tuesday as well, notching a 91-60 win over Rutgers.

Opening Tip

Who: Illinois (12-11, 2-8) at Ohio State (19-5, 10-1)

What: Men’s Basketball

Where: Columbus, Ohio — Value City Arena (18,809)

When: Sunday, 12:01 pm (FS1)

Why: Because it’s the final tuneup before the trip to Purdue.

Line: Ohio State -12

Ohio State

Three Point Territory

[Sharing is Caring] The Buckeyes currently have seven players with 25 or more assists on the year. C.J. Jackson leads the team with 103 helpers with Jae’Sean Tate next at 67. The last time an Ohio State team finished with seven players with 25 or more assists was the 2011-12 Final Four squad that finished the year 31-8 overall (13-5 in the Big Ten).

[20/20 Vision] Holtmann teams have won 20 or more games in each of his last four full years as a head coach. Ohio State is 19-5 overall heading into the home game vs. Illinois Sunday. Gardner-Webb won 21 games in 2013 with Holtmann at the helm. Butler reached 23, 22 and 25 wins over the last three seasons before Holtmann took over at Ohio State. Of Ohio State’s 14 head coaches in the history of men’s basketball, only Gary Williams and Thad Matta won 20 games in their first season in Columbus. Williams was 20-13 in 1987 and took the Buckeyes to the NCAA Tournament, where the team defeated Kentucky for its 20th win of the season before losing to Georgetown. Matta was 20-12 in 2005 but the Buckeyes were ineligible for postseason competition that year. The Buckeyes won their 20th game in the Big Ten Tournament over Penn State before ending the season with a loss to Wisconsin. Holtmann can become the first Ohio State coach in history to win 20 regular-season games in his first year in Columbus.

[The Series] Illinois leads the all-time series with Ohio State 102-71. The Buckeyes are 44-41 in Columbus and 26-60 in Champaign. The teams have met twice on neutral courts with each team winning once. Ranked Ohio State teams are 26-11 against Illinois. The last time Ohio State was ranked in the UI series was Jan. 3, 2015, a 77-61 win for No. 20 Buckeyes. Seniors Jae’Sean Tate and Kam Williams along with junior Keita Bates-Diop have the most experience among the current Buckeyes with four games played each against the Illini. Tate averages 8.3 points and 5.0 boards in the series. He has made 15-32 field goals (.469) in 27 minutes per game vs. Illinois. Williams contributes 6.8 points and 1.5 boards. Bates-Diop averages 9.0 points and 7.8 rebounds.


What You Should Know

+ Illinois is looking for its first road win this season and is trying for its first win against a top-25 opponent since recording a 68-66 victory over No. 20 Iowa in the second round of the 2016 Big Ten Tournament. Illinois’ last road win over a ranked team, meanwhile, was a 66-63 victory at No. 24 Iowa on March 8, 2014.

+ Illinois’ defense is forcing turnovers on 24.5 percent of opponent possessions during Big Ten play – the highest rate recorded by a conference team over the last 10 years (Purdue, 25.5, 2008). Illinois also leads the Big Ten and ranks fourth in the NCAA in turnovers forced (18.5 per game). Illinois has forced 17 or more turnovers in 13 games, including six times in 10 Big Ten games. Last year the Illini defense forced at least 17 turnovers in just five games of 35 games.

+ Sophomore Kipper Nichols is averaging 19.3 points (58) while shooting 60 percent overall (18-30), 50 percent from 3-point range (7-14) and 93.8 percent at the free throw line (15-16) over the last three games.

+ Illinois is undergoing a year of major transformation in its program. In addition to first-year head coach Brad Underwood implementing new offensive and defensive styles of play, the Illini have a number of new players taking on key roles. After losing two-thirds of its minutes from last year’s NIT squad, Illinois has newcomers playing the most minutes of any Big Ten team this season with freshmen Trent Frazier, Mark Smith, Da’Monte Williams, Greg Eboigbodin and Matic Vesel, graduate transfer Mark Alstork and walk-on Drew Cayce accounting for nearly half the team’s minutes played at a staggering 48.7 percent. Illinois stands as the only team in the conference above the 40 percent threshold. The Illini rank second in the Big Ten, meanwhile, in percentage of points scored by newcomers at 39.9 percent.

+ Illinois has been on the wrong end of a number of close games this season. The Illini have led during the second half in eight of its 11 losses. In five of those games, Illinois either led or was tied in the final minute. And in two more, the Illini trailed by just one possession down the stretch. Three of Illinois’ Big Ten games have gone to overtime, with a fourth decided at the buzzer.


After the win over Indiana, OSU head coach Chris Holtmann was adamant that the Buckeyes would need to pass the ball better against Illinois or else it would be a long day. The Illini force a turnover on every fourth possession, so they will pressure Ohio State’s offense constantly. When the Buckeyes aren’t turning it over, they will need to be converting baskets. Both Illinois and OSU are averaging 77 points per game, so this one could get up and down the court pretty good. The problem for the Illini is that they turn the ball over quite a bit as well and they don’t shoot it nearly as sharply as the Buckeyes. There will be pressure on C.J. Jackson, Andrew Dakich, and Jae’Sean Tate to be smart with the basketball, and they’ve had five days to prepare for what they are going to see.

Ohio State 76, Illinois 64