Illinois vs. Ohio State Title on The Line

<p>Illinois leads the all-time series 98-59 over Ohio State, including a 38-37 advantage in games played in Columbus. Illinois has won the last three games in this series, most recently an 85-63 victory in Champaign on Jan. 7. Illinois' last win at Ohio State came in 1998.

Illini Streaks

* With Wednesday's dramatic overtime victory at Purdue, Illinois has clinched at least a share of the Big Ten Championship, its third league title in the last four seasons and fourth in the last seven seasons. With a victory over Ohio State, Illinois would claim its first outright conference title since 1952.

* Illinois' nine-game winning streak is the longest by any Big Ten team this season. It is also Illinois' longest winning streak since winning nine in a row in 2002. The last time Illinois won more than nine consecutive games came during the 1989-90 season when Illinois won its first 11 games.

* Among the 10 highest-rated conferences in the RPI, Illinois' nine-game winning streak ranks as the third-longest current streak behind St. Joseph's of the Atlantic 10 (27 games) and Stanford of the Pac-10 (26 games).

* Illinois' nine-game conference winning streak is its longest since also winning nine straight league games spanning the final seven games of the 2002 Big Ten season and the first two games of the 2003 Big Ten season. The last time Illinois won more than nine straight conference games was in 1955-56 when the Illini won 13 straight spanning the final three Big Ten games in 1955 and the first 10 Big Ten games in 1956.

* Illinois has won its last five Big Ten road games, its longest road winning streak since also winning five straight conference road games spanning the final four road games of the 2002 Big Ten season and the 2003 Big Ten road opener. The last time Illinois won more than five straight conference road games was in 1955-56 when the Illini won six straight spanning the final two Big Ten road games in 1955 and the first four Big Ten road games in 1956.

* A victory at Iowa Feb. 25 marked Illinois' 10th Big Ten win of the season, the fifth straight year the Illini have reached double figures in conference wins.

* A victory over Northwestern Feb. 28 marked Illinois' 20th win on the year, as the Illini recorded its fifth straight 20-win season, which is also its seventh in the last eight years and 23rd all-time.

* Illinois has earned a bye in the first round of the upcoming Big Ten Tournament for the fifth year in a row. The Illini will receive either the No. 1 or No. 2 seed.

* Illinois went undefeated in the month of February, winning all seven of its games. This marked Illinois' first perfect February record in 50 years, since the 1954 Illini also went 7-0 in the month of February.

* Bruce Weber is just the sixth coach in the Big Ten since 1951 (when Michigan State joined the league) to defeat every other conference team in his first season. The other five coaches to accomplish this feat were Indiana's Bob Knight in 1972, Iowa's Tom Davis in 1987, Penn State's Jerry Dunn in 1996, Illinois' Bill Self in 2001 and Wisconsin's Bo Ryan in 2002.

* Illinois is the only Big Ten team this season to defeat all four conference opponents it played just once. This is the third time in seven seasons (since inception of Big Ten Tournament) that the Illini have swept the four "single" games. The previous two times came in 1998 and 2001, when the Illini went on to win shares of the Big Ten title.

Weber Wins Big Ten Title in First Season

Bruce Weber is the 11th coach in Big Ten history to win a conference title in his first season. He is the third Illini rookie coach to win the league, following Doug Mills in 1937 and Bill Self in 2001.

With a win over Ohio State, Weber's Illini would claim sole possession of the title. Only two Big Ten coaches have ever won outright league titles in their first seasons, Wisconsin's Guy Lowman in 1918 and Minnesota's Bill Musselman in 1972.

Big Ten Tourney Seeding on the Line

Illinois is guaranteed either a No. 1 or No. 2 seed in next week's Big Ten Tournament. An Illinois win over Ohio State or a Wisconsin loss to Indiana would give Illinois the No. 1 seed. An Illinois loss to Ohio State along with a Wisconsin win over Indiana would give Illinois the No. 2 seed.

Deron Williams with Ed Hightower AP

Williams Finds His Name Among Big Ten's Best as Player of the Year Candidate

Deron Williams has returned to the level of play he exhibited prior to breaking his jaw in mid-December. In Illinois' win over Wisconsin Feb. 18, Williams led all scorers with a career-high 31 points to help pull the Illini closer to the top of the Big Ten standings. He shot 9-of-18 from the field against the Badgers, which included a career-high five 3-pointers and career-best 8-for-8 shooting from the foul line. In Wednesday's victory at Purdue, Williams recorded his third double-double of the season with 16 points and 10 assists. Williams is set to claim the Big Ten assists crown for the second straight year, becoming just the third player in league history to lead the conference in assists in each of his first two seasons.

In a win over Iowa Jan. 17, Williams scored 17 points, grabbed four rebounds and handed out four assists. He followed that performance with 12 points and eight assists in a win over Penn State Jan. 21. In Illinois' win over Michigan (Jan. 31), Williams scored 15 and led the team with five rebounds and five assists. He then erupted for 12 second-half points and had a game-high six assists in a win at Indiana (Feb. 3).

Williams recorded his second career double-double at Minnesota Feb. 8, scoring a team-high 19 points and dishing out a career-high 11 assists. He followed that with 15 points and six assists in the win over Michigan State Feb. 10. Williams has scored in double figures in 10 consecutive games with 12 points vs. Penn State (Feb. 21), 13 points vs. Iowa (Feb. 25) and 13 points vs. Northwestern (Feb. 28). Williams added seven assists and six boards against the Hawkeyes and had a game-high eight assists and six rebounds vs. the Wildcats.

The sophomore missed three games (Memphis, Missouri and Illinois-Chicago) due to a fractured jaw that occurred Dec. 11 against Maryland-Eastern Shore after running into a screen early in the second half. Williams had surgery on Dec. 12 to repair the double fracture and made a successful return to the court Jan. 3 vs. Illinois State. With his jaw still wired shut and making it difficult to breath, Illinois coaches hoped to get Williams a maximum of 18-20 minutes of playing time. But he defied those odds, coming off the bench to play 34 minutes. Williams fueled the Illini comeback against ISU, leading the team with 20 points, including four 3-pointers. He also had four rebounds and three assists in his first game-action in nearly one month.

Williams has been turning heads with his sensational play during his sophomore season. He leads the team and ranks ninth in the Big Ten in scoring (13.9 ppg) and has scored in double figures in 18 of 23 games. His scoring average so far is more than double his freshman average of 6.3 points. He scored a then-career-high 22 points vs. North Carolina (Dec. 2) and topped that with his 31-point in the win over Wisconsin (Feb. 18). Williams is shooting over 41 percent from the field (114-275) and leads the team in 3-point field goal percentage at 38.3 percent (49-128). While his scoring has improved dramatically, Williams remains an unselfish player with the ball in his hands, leading the Big Ten with 6.13 assists per game. He is also shooting 85.7 percent from the free-throw line, making 42-of-49. Williams had a streak of 26 consecutive free throws come to and end vs. Penn State on Feb. 21.

Story courtesy of Illinois SID office


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