The Illinois Fighting Illini will play the #14 Ohio State Buckeyes on Sunday in Columbus, Ohio.
The Fighting Illini were upset by the Iowa Hawkeyes, 63-55, in their last game. The Hawkeyes played great defense in that game as they set a school record twelve blocks. Gabriel Olaseni led the team with seven blocked shots. Brandon Paul scored 18 points, but it was not enough to beat Iowa.
Sunday’s game will be the second meeting between Illinois and Ohio State this season. In their first meeting, the Fighting Illini defeated the Buckeyes, 74-55. Illinois had four players reach double-figure points. Brandon Paul scored a team-high 19 points. Illinois also limited the OSU offense. Aaron Craft and DeShaun Thomas were the only Buckeyes to score double-digits.
The Buckeyes come into Sunday’s game with an overall record of 22-7 and a Big Ten record of 12-5. Ohio State is coming into the season finale on a hot streak. They have won their last four games and upset the Indiana Hoosiers, 67-58, on Tuesday.
Ohio State’s best player by far is junior forward Deshaun Thomas.
So far this season, Thomas is averaging 19.8 points per game which is the best in the conference.
He has scored double-digits in every game this season. Thomas scored 26 points the last time against Illinois and 18 in the upset over Indiana.
Thomas is not just leading the Buckeyes in scoring, but is leading the team in rebounding (6.2 RPG).
Thomas was named a finalist for the Wooden Player of the Year award.
He joins a fourteen member list that includes three other Big Ten players (Trey Burke, Cody Zeller, and Victor Oladipo)
This will be 175th meeting between the Fighting Illini and the Buckeyes. Illinois leads the series 104-70.
The game against Ohio State on Sunday is a very important one for Illinois, especially after being upset by Iowa on Tuesday.
Right now, the Fighting Illini are projected as a 9th-seed in the South Region of the NCAA tournament according to ESPN’s Joe Lunardi. A win against the Buckeyes on Sunday would definitely help the Illini with their tournament resume.
Illinois will most likely be a tournament team, but they do not want to back their way in. They have already beaten the Buckeyes once this season. They have proven that they can beat OSU and that they are a tournament team. The problem is that they have not been the most consistent this season.
Sunday’s game also decides where the Illini will be seeded in the Big Ten conference tournament. At this point, Illinois sits at the 7th in the Big Ten standings.
Becuase of their loss to Iowa, Illinois cannot go higher than the 7th-seed in the tournament. However, a loss to the Buckeyes on Sunday would make them the 8th-seed.
As the 7th-seed, Illinois would play Nebraska in the first round of the conference tournament. As the 8th-seed, they would play Purdue in the first round of the conference tournament.
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