Tuesday NCAA: No. 5 Ohio State at Illinois in Big Ten action

By on Jan 10, 2012

Category: NCAA Basketball

Great Big Ten matchup tonight as No. 5 Ohio State, the conference favorite, faces a dangerous test at Illinois. The Buckeyes are 8.5-point college basketball bets favorites on WagerWeb.com.

Of course OSU (15-2, 3-1 Big Ten) is led by national player of the year candidate Jared Sullinger. He earned his first Big Ten player-of-the-week award of the season on Monday after scoring a season-high 28 points in the Buckeyes’ win at Iowa on Saturday and averaging a double-double in two games last week. The sophomore center had 19 points and 12 rebounds against Nebraska on Wednesday and had eight rebounds and four steals in addition to his season-high point total at Iowa. In conference play, Sullinger leads the Big Ten in scoring (19.8 points per game) and rebounding (10.8) as well as field goal percentage (.660).

He also was dominant in his only previous visit to Champaign, totaling 27 points, 16 rebounds and three blocks while playing the full 40 minutes of a 73-68 win Jan. 22. Sullinger sank 13 of 15 free throws in that game and Ohio State outscored the Illini 36-11 at the foul line in the season sweep, capped by an 89-70 home win Feb. 22.

Sullinger had 12 points and 11 boards in that victory and had little trouble in the season series despite the Illini (14-3, 3-1) countering with 7-foot-1 center Mike Tisdale. Now the 7-1 Leonard gets the challenge, having made the quantum leap from a little-used reserve freshman for coach Bruce Weber to one of Illinois’ primary offensive options.

The sophomore is second on the team in scoring at 12.9 points per game and pulling down a team-best 8.0 rebounds per contest after averaging 2.1 and 1.2, respectively, in 2010-11. Leonard, though, might have trouble staying on the court if he’s guarding Sullinger because foul trouble has limited him to 24 minutes in two of the past three games.

Illinois (14-3, 3-1) is led by guard D. J. Richardson, averaging 13.2 points, although he is coming off a wrist injury and isn’t 100 percent. The Illini’s three Big Ten wins were in double overtime against Minnesota, by one point over Northwestern, and by five over Nebraska, a team the Buckeyes beat by 31.

Illinois, which is 10-0 at home this year, leads the all-time series with the Buckeyes 99-64. Ohio State has closed the gap of late with a five-game win streak and wins in 10 of the last 12 meetings. The Buckeyes have won four of the last five in Champaign. All-time, Ohio State is 24-58 in games at Illinois.

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