Fresh off a jump in the Associated Press Top 25 poll from No. 6 to No. 5, the Ohio State men’s basketball team will travel to Champaign, Ill. for a game against the Fighting Illini Tuesday.Coming off a week in which the Buckeyes (15-2, 3-1 Big Ten) posted wins against Nebraska and Iowa, OSU will attempt to continue to improve their standings in the Big Ten at Illinois (14-3, 3-1 Big Ten).OSU coach Thad Matta said Illinois has a great coach — Bruce Weber — and great players up and down its roster.“Like us, (Illinois’) got youth,” Matta said. “They’ve got guys that can have big nights. They’re finding ways to win basketball games, which at this particular juncture, is what it’s all about. They’ve had some close games, but they find ways to come out on top.”Junior guard D.J. Richardson is the Illini’s leading scorer, currently pouring in 13.2 points per game. Close behind Richardson in scoring is 7-foot-1 sophomore center Meyers Leonard, who is averaging 12.9 points and eight rebounds per game.OSU sophomore guard Lenzelle Smith Jr. said he thinks Illinois is as good as any team in the conference.“(Illinois) has guards just like we have pretty good guards. They’ve got big men (and) we’ve got big men,” Smith Jr. said. “So, I think it will be a pretty good game.”Sophomore forward J.D. Weatherspoon agreed, saying he expects every team to give OSU their best shot.“We’re the No. 5 team in the country and everybody is going to come at us,” Weatherspoon said.When it comes to traveling to Illinois’ Assembly Hall, there’s more for the Buckeyes to be concerned with than the opposing team, and Matta said Illinois has tremendous support at its home arena.Weatherspoon said he’s looking forward to a “fun time” in his first visit to Assembly Hall.“We are the Ohio State University,” he said. “That’s going to be a tough environment to play in. This is my first time (to Assembly Hall) … I’m going to be ready to play.”The Buckeyes and Fighting Illini tip off at 9 p.m.
Celebration in Ohio Stadium after the Buckeyes beat No. 2 Penn State 39-38 on Oct. 28. Credit: Jack Westerheide | Photo EditorFollowing Ohio State’s come-from-behind 39-38 victory against Penn State, the Buckeyes rose to No. 3 in the latest Associated Press Top 25 Poll. Penn State dropped from No. 2 to No. 7.The Buckeyes will hope to defend its ranking when it travels to Iowa City, Iowa, to play Iowa Saturday at 3:30 p.m.No. 1 Alabama, No. 2 Georgia, No. 4 Wisconsin and No. 5 Notre Dame round out the top five in the rankings.The Big Ten featured five teams in the top 25. Along with Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin, Michigan State remained in the poll, but moved down to No. 24 after its 39-31 loss to Northwestern.AP Poll Alabama (59) Georgia (2) Ohio State Wisconsin Notre Dame Clemson Penn State Oklahoma Miami (FL) TCU Oklahoma State Washington Virginia Tech Iowa State UCF Auburn USC Stanford LSU North Carolina State Mississippi State Memphis Arizona Michigan State Washington State
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Ohio State sophomore running back J.K. Dobbins (2) and sophomore offensive lineman Thayer Munford (75) celebrate after Dobbins scores a touchdown in the third quarter of the game against Penn State on Sept. 29. Ohio State won 27-26. Credit: Casey Cascaldo | Photo EditorA 1-point win over a top-10 Penn State team isn’t anything new for Ohio State.Last season, the Buckeyes came back from being down by 11 with less than five minutes to play to beat the then-No. 2 Nittany Lions 39-38 behind a historic performance from former quarterback J.T. Barrett.Ohio State lost the following week in a 55-24 beatdown to an unranked Iowa team in Kinnick Stadium.Now, 11 months later, No. 3 Ohio State faces a similar situation, and goes into a matchup against Indiana hoping history doesn’t repeat itself at Ohio Stadium.Running backs coach Tony Alford said he won’t make the same mistake he did last season against the Hawkeyes.“I didn’t do well enough to prepare my guys to play at the level they needed to play at to beat a good football team,” Alford said. “That’s on me.”Indiana, on paper, has the record to do it — the Hoosiers come into the matchup 4-1, their lone loss coming at home with a score of 35-21 against No. 20 Michigan State.The offense is led by redshirt sophomore quarterback Peyton Ramsey, another dual-threat quarterback who has 10 touchdowns on the season, eight through the air and two on the ground.This will be the fourth straight quarterback Ohio State has faced who is known for making plays with his feet after redshirt senior quarterback Trace McSorley broke the Nittany Lions record with 461 all-purpose yards, 175 with his feet.Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer said he sees a lot of McSorley in Ramsey’s game.“They have a guy that’s a dual [threat] in Ramsey. He’s a gutsy player, man, and he’s one of those guys that creates something out of nothing,” Meyer said. “Last year’s quarterback that they started, he was dropping seeds on people. This has the other element.”The quarterback “dropping seeds” last year was Richard Lagow, who threw 65 times for 410 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions in Indiana’s 49-21 loss to the Buckeyes in their opening game of the season.Ramsey completes 71 percent of his passes, with 1,039 yards, eight touchdowns and five interceptions. But don’t expect Ramsey to light up the stat sheet like Lagow; he averages nine yards per completion.In the run game, freshman Stevie Scott takes a majority of the carries, earning 4.7 yards per rush for 464 yards and four touchdowns. Ramsey is up to 170 yards rushing through five games.The offensive numbers don’t stand out much for the Hoosiers; they rank No. 65 in total offense with 412.2 yards per game and No. 80 at 28.2 points per game.But the defensive side of the football has been Indiana’s strong point thus far, ranking No. 25 with 321.8 yards allowed per game.The real strength comes from the pass defense, allowing only 163.6 yards per game, which is No. 14 in the nation. The Indiana defense also has accounted for 10 turnovers this season — tied for No. 13 in the NCAA.“They played very well. Their scheme is outstanding. I think they’re very well coached,” Meyer said. “They have answers for everything.”PredictionIndiana might be 4-1, but its weak schedule to this point does not suggest it is one of the Big Ten’s top teams, capable of upsetting Ohio State.The Hoosiers have not beaten the Buckeyes since 1988 — a streak of 25 games.But Indiana does have the benefit of following Penn State, which was at least a piece of Iowa’s stunning upset against Ohio State a season ago.A piece, yes, but Iowa had a stifling defense and home crowd that Indiana does not.Redshirt sophomore quarterback Dwayne Haskins showed some flaws against Penn State, but also many strengths, which he put on display in the fourth quarter to bring the Buckeyes back for a close win.No matter what the Hoosiers have done against the pass game to this point, they have not played a guy like Haskins yet.The running game has slowed to a halt in the past two games, but Indiana’s mediocre run defense could help running backs J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber get the ball moving.Ramsey is a solid quarterback, but he is no McSorley, and nothing on the Hoosiers offensive side stands out enough to get past a defensive line that has been nothing short of superb to this point.Expect this game to be closer than it should be, considering where it falls on the schedule, but Ohio State is more prepared for a game like this following Iowa last year, and has the pure talent and home-field advantage to avoid any potential trap Indiana holds.Wyatt Crosher: 34-17 Ohio StateColin Gay: 42-20 Ohio StateEdward Sutelan: 45-24 Ohio StateRachel Bules: 34-20 Ohio StateSydney Riddle: 38-18 Ohio StateClaire Kudika: 37-16 Ohio StateAmanda Parrish: 49-20 Ohio StateCasey Cascaldo: 52-21 Ohio StateJake Rahe: 56-7 Ohio State