Preview: Ohio State vs. Illinois
Any concerns that No. 17 Ohio State might struggle after losing freshman Luther Muhammed to a dislocated shoulder were eased with a Big Ten-opening victory over Minnesota on Sunday. The Buckeyes will try to win their second straight conference game when they travel to Chicago to face Illinois on Wednesday night.
Muhammed was averaging the second-most minutes on the team at 27.9 per game and his absence forced Ohio State to change its rotations against Minnesota in its first game without him. The Buckeyes used nine new lineup combinations and went with three guards on the floor at the same time for only 5 1/2 minutes after playing with three guards together for more than 25 minutes in the first seven games. Ohio State responded with six players scoring in double figures against a team that entered the game on a roll. Illinois is certainly not on a roll, having dropped six of its last seven games, including Sunday’s 75-60 loss at Nebraska.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network
ABOUT OHIO STATE (7-1): Junior Andre Wesson stepped up with Muhammad out and turned in arguably the best game as a Buckeye against Minnesota with a career-high 16 points. C.J. Jackson, Musa Jallow and Duane Washington Jr. were also significant contributors with 11, 11 and 10 points, respectively. Sophomore Kaleb Wesson, the team’s leading scorer and Andre’s younger brother, continued to produce with 15 points against the Gophers and fellow forward Kyle Young also reached double figures with 10 points and added a game-high eight rebounds.
ABOUT ILLINOIS (2-6): The Fighting Illini dug themselves into a big early hole at Nebraska and never could escape in their Big Ten opener. Freshman Giorgi Bezhanishvili (14 points), Kipper Nichols (12) and Ayo Dosunmu (10) combined for 36 of Illinois’ 60 points. Dosunmu (13.1 points per game) and Bezhanishvili (10.0) are two of the four players averaging in double figures for the season along with Trent Frazier (14.7) and Aaron Jordan (11.1) for the Illini, who are struggling with turnovers and putting opponents on the foul line.
1. Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann said Muhammad’s status is “day-to-day, week-to-week,” and was noncommittal about him being back for the Illinois game.
2. Ohio State is preparing to face its third straight different style of defense (Syracuse zone, Minnesota conventional and Illinois ball pressure).
3. Illinois, which has four players from the Chicago area on its roster, has played 52 games in the United Center with a record of 37-15.