Ohio State took advantage of poor perimeter shooting by Illinois, played stifling interior defense and also used streaky 3-point shooting for a 62-44 win against the Illini.
The Buckeyes held Illinois to 24 percent shooting Saturday. Meanwhile, Ohio State shot just 31 percent from 3-point range, but hit nine shots from behind-the-arc at critical times propelling the Buckeyes to a 12-point halftime lead and an 18-victory that reached as many as 24 points in the second half.
Despite Illinois holding 7-1 freshman Greg Oden scoreless in the first half, Ohio State was able to take a double-digit lead into the locker room after 20 minutes largely due to six 3-pointers and inspired play by 6-9 junior Othello Hunter.
Illinois hounded Oden early on with a ton of size, including 6-9 Warren Carter and 6-10 Shaun Pruitt. However, Oden took over in the second half scoring all of his 7 points and also grabbed 11 rebounds in the second 20 minutes for a game-high 15 rebounds. He added four blocked shots.
The big road victory for Ohio State set up a huge showdown in Madison, Wisc. on Tuesday in a nationally televised game on ESPN at 9 PM.
* Although Ohio State canned nine 3-pointers, the Buckeyes only shot 31 percent from outside the arc. They were streaky but they still didn't shoot very sharp.
* Ohio State looked improved on the offensive end, but there is still not enough motion or ball movement with their offensive sets. When Ohio State is taking control of the game with solid dribble penetration, everything else opens up for the Buckeyes. Against Wisconsin, Ohio State must get solid half-court execution.
* In the second half, Ohio State began playing somewhat stagnant at times and settled for jumpers. If Illinois had been hitting many shots, the game could have drawn much closer.
* Hunter continued his rapid development Saturday with 10 points, five rebounds and two blocks. He did a fantastic job helping on the weakside after Oden stood up his man defensively. Hunter and Oden are becoming a very good duo in the frontcourt.
* In playing arguably their best game of the year defensively, Ohio State did a nice job guarding the perimeter - especially against guard Jamar Smith. The Buckeyes held Smith to 3 points on 1-of-9 shooting on the afternoon.
* Despite double and triple-teams, Oden took over in the second half largely due to great positioning underneath the basket. The four times Oden scored (three field goals and a free throw off a shooting foul), it was because Oden had his defender backed down below the block.
* Mike Conley continues to be one of the top point guards in the entire nation. Conley settled the Ohio State offense with 5 points, six rebounds and eight assists Saturday.
* Despite Illinois having many opportunities for offensive rebounds with so many missed shots (44), the Buckeyes allowed just 10 offensive rebounds.
Tuesday is going to be the most important game of the season thus far for Ohio State. Wisconsin is about as disciplined a team as the Buckeyes will face the rest of this season.
It's going to be ultra important for Ohio State to limit the amount of touches Alando Tucker receives in the lane. Also, ball rotation will be important on defense against Bo Ryan's swing offense.
If Ohio State plays against Wisconsin the way they did against Illinois, they have a chance. If not, the chance exists in a hostile environment that Ohio State could lose by double-digits.