Andrew Holleran / Photo editor
Despite a midseason stretch that figured to knock the No. 14 Ohio State men’s basketball team out of the race for the Big Ten crown, the Buckeyes find themselves in a familiar position: on the cusp of their fourth-straight regular season championship.
After a four-game winning streak, highlighted by wins against No. 2 Indiana and then-No. 4 ranked Michigan State, OSU (22-7, 12-5 Big Ten) is set to take on Illinois in its regular season finale Sunday at the Schottenstein Center.
For the Buckeyes, it might be also be a chance at revenge after the Illini (21-10, 8-9 Big Ten) dominated the Buckeyes, 74-55, on Jan. 5 in Champaign, Ill.
“The benefit of playing a team twice is you get to play smarter basketball,” said senior forward Evan Ravenel at a Friday press conference. “You get an opportunity to right your wrongs.”
That opportunity comes three weeks after what might’ve been OSU’s lowest point-a 22-point loss against then-No. 20 Wisconsin in Madison, Wis.
Despite the setback, OSU coach Thad Matta left his lineup and rotation virtually unchanged.
“I think the biggest thing is we didn’t handle that situation well,” Matta said, reflecting on the Wisconsin loss. “We couldn’t stop the ball from rolling.”
OSU, though, finds itself with a chance at yet another league title.
The game also serves as Senior Day for the Buckeyes’ lone senior, Ravenel.
“It’s going to be a bittersweet feeling. I really enjoyed my time here,” Ravenel said. “My time here at Ohio State has been wonderful.”
A win Sunday could put the Buckeyes in position to be crowned Big Ten regular season co-champions.
Indiana hits the road to take on No. 7 Michigan Sunday and if the Wolverines and Buckeyes win, it would result in a four-way tie for first place in the conference.
Ravenel says the team isn’t letting the game in Ann Arbor, Mich., detract from his attention on Illinois, though.
“I’m not focused on what everybody else does. I’m just focused on what we do at 12:30 (Sunday’s tipoff),” Ravenel said.
Win or lose, the result could carry over positive or negative momentum into the Big Ten tournament, which starts Thursday.
As such, Matta said consistent play is the key for a team competing for not just the league’s tournament championship, but also a potential national title.
“Slip ups cost you,” Matta said. “The last couple of years we’ve had a bad half of basketball that cost us our season.”
OSU is set to take on the Fighting Illini Sunday at 12:30 p.m. at the Schottenstein Center.