Big Ten Insider: No place like home for Illinois, Ohio State

Brian Chappatta

With the way they’ve been playing, Illinois must wish it could play all their Big Ten games in Champaign.

After its win at home against Purdue on Sunday, the No. 20 Illini (19-5, 7-4 Big Ten) are now 6-0 at home against Big Ten opponents – a stark contrast to their 1-4 conference record on the road.

This lack of consistency has plagued Illinois throughout Big Ten play this season, and last week was no exception as they lost in Madison to a Wisconsin team that had previously lost six straight.

“We had, I guess, an up-and-down week,” Illinois coach Bruce Weber said. “We caught Wisconsin when they were kind of wounded and had lost six in a row, searching for a win. They sure played well, so we had a disappointing loss.”

The Illini shot poorly in the loss, going 21-of-64 from the field. Weber acknowledged the team was concerned about the loss disrupting the progress they were really making. But their 18-point victory over Purdue quelled those lingering doubts, at least for the time being.

In this game, the shooting situation was reversed. While Illinois made nearly half their shots, they forced Purdue into 19-of-59 shooting from the field and a staggering 2-of-15 from 3-point range.

“Against Purdue we played a good 40 minutes of basketball on both sides of the court,” Weber said. “We were able to play a good first half and then knock their spirit out in the second half and get a good victory.”

Illinois hits the road this week, travelling to Northwestern Thursday and Indiana Sunday.

Buckeyes burst into bye with big wins

With two wins at home against Purdue and Minnesota, Ohio State leapfrogged both teams in the conference standings and is now tied with Illinois for the second-best conference record.

The Buckeyes (17-5, 7-4 Big Ten) began by snapping the Boilermakers’ (17-6, 6-4) six-game winning streak with an 80-72 overtime win in Columbus. Ohio State wingman Evan Turner led the team in the three main statistical categories, netting 16 points, 12 rebounds and 7 assists.

In the Buckeyes’ 64-58 win over Minnesota, Turner struck again, leading in the same categories with 18 points, 10 rebounds and 4 assists. He nearly single-handedly prevented the Golden Gophers (18-5, 6-5) from making a last-minute comeback, hitting seven free throws in the last 64 seconds.

With the way he has been playing, Ohio State coach Thad Matta believes Turner could be considered for National Player of the Year, but said it will ultimately be a team effort.

“I think that he’s putting himself in a position for (Player of the Year),” Matta said. “I think that the greatest thing to help that cause would be for us to win some more basketball games.”

Matta hopes the players can get some rest during their bye week but at the same time keep their focus and intensity.

“We got to keep progressing, we got to keep moving forward, we got to keep an edge about us,” Matta said. “The bye week is probably perfect timing for us, but we’ve got to be mature and understand that this team can get a lot better.”

Ohio State’s next game is Saturday in Madison against Wisconsin.

[email protected]