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February 15, 2014

Ohio State visits State Farm Center

John Groce and the Fighting Illini welcome his former mentor and the Ohio State Buckeyes to the State Farm Center Saturday night for an important matchup for both squads. The Illini are looking to get out of a quagmire that has seen them lose 9 of 10, while the Buckeyes want to solidify their NCAA resume for a higher seed in March.

With six winnable games down the stretch, Ohio State may be able to put together a nice resume, but the Illini are playing spoiler right now and want a shot at some post season event. They need to win their home games to have a shot.

Here are our keys and a pick.

Setting the stage

Illinois (14-11, 3-9) vs. #22/20 Ohio State (19-6, 6-6)
Feb. 15, 2014 // 7 PM CST // Champaign, Ill. // State Farm Center (16,618)
TV: BTN - Brian Anderson (Play-By-Play), Shon Morris (Analyst)
Radio: Fighting Illini Sports Network - Brian Barnhart, Jerry Hester


* Illinois is trying to end a 4 game home losing streak and beat a ranked Ohio State for the 3rd straight year in the State Farm Center. Illinois' last home win over a ranked opponent was their win over then #1 Indiana 74-72 a year ago.

* Malcolm Hill and Kendrick Nunn have combined for 23.5 PPG and 53.3% FG in their 2 starts.

* Time for the Illinois at Michigan State game March 1 has been moved to 3 p.m. CT on ESPN2. Date/Time/TV has been selected for the Illinois at Iowa game. It will be held March 8 at 7:30 PM CST on BTN.

Keys to the Game

1. Handle pressure - Ohio State will put a ton of pressure on the ball with Aaron Craft and they force numerous turnovers. Live ball turnovers lead to easy shots for a team that is not great on offense. And, Illinois doesn't get to shoot then.

2. Shot selection - What else leads to run-outs and easy baskets in transition? Poor shot selection. Illinois can't afford to just throw up poor shots so they don't turn it over, they need to actually get good looks and be patient on offense. They also have to shoot the good shots when they get them.

3. Extra on the glass - Ohio State is a bit susceptible to giving up offensive rebounds. Williams likes to go for blocks, and they aren't a big team. Second chance points can be a method for Illinois to score even when the initial offense falters.


Ohio State is playing better of late since they had their own losing streak, and Illinois has lost 9 of 10. The Buckeyes aren't a great matchup for the Illini, and the home court won't be enough. Illinois battles, but expect OSU to win it, 61-56 over the Illini.

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