Lindsey Fox / Asst. multimedia editor
Fresh off a jump in the Associated Press Top 25 poll from No. 6 to No. 5, the Ohio State men’s basketball team will travel to Champaign, Ill. for a game against the Fighting Illini Tuesday.
Coming off a week in which the Buckeyes (15-2, 3-1 Big Ten) posted wins against Nebraska and Iowa, OSU will attempt to continue to improve their standings in the Big Ten at Illinois (14-3, 3-1 Big Ten).
OSU coach Thad Matta said Illinois has a great coach — Bruce Weber — and great players up and down its roster.
“Like us, (Illinois’) got youth,” Matta said. “They’ve got guys that can have big nights. They’re finding ways to win basketball games, which at this particular juncture, is what it’s all about. They’ve had some close games, but they find ways to come out on top.”
Junior guard D.J. Richardson is the Illini’s leading scorer, currently pouring in 13.2 points per game. Close behind Richardson in scoring is 7-foot-1 sophomore center Meyers Leonard, who is averaging 12.9 points and eight rebounds per game.
OSU sophomore guard Lenzelle Smith Jr. said he thinks Illinois is as good as any team in the conference.
“(Illinois) has guards just like we have pretty good guards. They’ve got big men (and) we’ve got big men,” Smith Jr. said. “So, I think it will be a pretty good game.”
Sophomore forward J.D. Weatherspoon agreed, saying he expects every team to give OSU their best shot.
“We’re the No. 5 team in the country and everybody is going to come at us,” Weatherspoon said.
When it comes to traveling to Illinois’ Assembly Hall, there’s more for the Buckeyes to be concerned with than the opposing team, and Matta said Illinois has tremendous support at its home arena.
Weatherspoon said he’s looking forward to a “fun time” in his first visit to Assembly Hall.
“We are the Ohio State University,” he said. “That’s going to be a tough environment to play in. This is my first time (to Assembly Hall) … I’m going to be ready to play.”
The Buckeyes and Fighting Illini tip off at 9 p.m.