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Illini basketball preview: Ohio State

Oof. That’s the best way to sum up Illinois’s loss to Michigan.

After leading by as many as 14 points in the second half, Illinois pissed it all away with poor perimeter defense, allowing Aubrey Dawkins to shoot the lights out from behind the arc and push the game to overtime. Nnanna Egwu fouled out early in the extra period and Illinois made only 2 field goals, losing the game 73-65.

This might just be a trend for the Illini now, and certainly a worrying one. This is the third time Illinois has at least had a chance to win against another decent team and blown it in the second half, the first being the Villanova game and the second the terrible collapse against Oregon. When I wrote my Big Ten preview I said Illinois needed to split the series with Michigan this year, and they’re still on track to do that, but after seeing how good they played in the first 30 minutes, losing that game seems worse.

Now Illinois heads to Columbus to face a very good Ohio State team. The question here will be who was more burned by conference season-opening losses: the Buckeyes or the Illini. Ohio State was shocked at home by Iowa, who never trailed after the opening minute. The loss was Thad Matta’s first ever in a home conference opener at OSU, and with his team falling in the rankings they might be eager to prove their worth.

But don’t let the loss fool you, the Buckeyes are a very good team. has them ranked as the 18th-best offensive team in the nation. After such a close game with Michigan, another loss will feel shitty, but I think that’s where Illinois is headed. It won’t help that the championship-bound football team will be on hand for Saturday’s game. Riding out this rough stretch won’t be fun for most Illini fans.

My prediction: OSU 80-Illinois 69

Game time is 2:30 on Saturday and it will be broadcast on ESPN2.

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