That was an impressive homestand.
Now, it's time to take the good times on the road. The Ohio State Buckeyes represent a tough, physical challenge for the resurgent Illini. Illinois has not been great on the road. Let's hope they've learned some things.
Wade in against Wesson
Kaleb Wesson represents the latest big man who could pose multiple problems for Illinois. The 6-foot-9, 270-pound forward is Ohio State's best post option, and he's got skills that should scare Illini fans. Think Jordan Murphy from Minnesota or Tyler Cook from Iowa.
While not as prolific a scorer as his Big Ten counterparts, Wesson is more versatile on both sides of the court for the Buckeyes. Averaging nearly 7 rebounds per game, he shows a propensity for the tougher minutiae associated with the position.
That could be problematic for a team with few defenders capable of consistently rebounding at a high rate.
Illinois' best bet is to attack Wesson with Giorgi and ADLR offensively. Run the iso plays similar to Rutgers for Giorgi to use his variety of scoring moves. Use ADLR as a battering ram to box up and draw fouls. Aaron Jordan and Feliz can be your smaller bulldogs. Bully up and attack their best big with the tenacity of the last month.
It's also important for Illinois to use its length on the perimeter to contain guards C.J. Jackson and Luther Muhammad. Ohio State is a team that likes to funnel its offense to the post (Wesson), as the guard play is a not as intimidating as some recent competition.
That being said, Jackson, Muhammad and freshman Duane Washington, Jr., are more than capable of shooting the doors off of the arena. It's a pretty simple game plan for Illinois: feed the guards and get Giorgi involved early and often.
Rotations Stay the Same
I've been a vocal proponent of giving the freshmen more playing in a presumably lost season. I must say though that Brad Underwood's player usage has been spot on recently. Kipper Nichols, Andres Feliz and ADLR being the first off the bench — after Tevian Jones — has worked well in their own individual ways.
If there was one area I could see an upgrade, it would be getting Jones more playing time at the expense of Da’Monte Williams.
Williams, while providing toughness and rebounding on defense, has added nothing offensively in recent weeks. Jones hasn't exactly been lighting it up after his breakout performance against Maryland. That being said, he's still a much more dynamic threat than Williams shooting the ball and slashing to the basket for some incredible plays around the rim. More lob plays to Tevian, please.
Also, ticking Alan Griffin's time up just a bit might help with length and shooting from outside. He made a shot against Rutgers!
What to expect
Again, this will be a tough test away from friendly confines. I would not expect to win. However, we are playing with house money right now, and as hot as we are, I wouldn't bet against us either. A toss up. That would have unfathomable just a month and a half ago.
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