When the Illinois Fighting Illini and the meet up with the Ohio State Buckeyes in Champaign on Tuesday night, all eyes will be on big men Meyers Leonard and Jared Sullinger. The Illini are home underdogs against the fifth-ranked Buckeyes, but this is an opportunity for the team to make a statement in the Big Ten. If they can keep it close and limit turnovers that plagued them in narrow wins over the Northwestern Wildcats and Nebraska Cornhuskers, they actually have proven capable of pulling out tight games this season and are 5-1 in games decided by less than five points.
Sullinger has dominated on most nights so far this season for the Buckeyes, and leads the team with an average of 17.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game. With Leonard dealing with constant double teams, D.J. Richardson currently leads the Illini with an average of 13.2 points per game, while their star big man has put up averages of 12.9 points and 8.0 rebounds. Here is what the staff at Hail To The Orange thinks about the Sullinger-Leonard matchup:
I desperately want to see Sullinger and Leonard go at each other one on one, not just because I think Meyers can hold his own on the defensive end, but because I think we could see his offensive numbers explode again. The last time a top tier center guarded Meyers one on one, it was Robert Sacre, and Meyers got 21 points and six boards. If Ohio State decides they can lock down the wings so as not to risk a Brandon Paul or Joe Bertrand points bonanza, Meyers could actually have an opportunity to establish himself down low and work his game once again.
Game date, time: 8:00 p.m. CT, Tuesday, Jan. 10th, 2011
Location: Assembly Hall, Champaign, IL
Radio: AM 560
Spread: Buckeyes are currently favored by nine points, and the over/under is currently set at 123.5 points.
For more coverage of the Illini, be sure to explore Hail to the Orange. Stay tuned to SB Nation Chicago for live, in-game scores and updates. News and analysis on the Ohio State Buckeyes is available at Along The Olentangy.