Originally posted on Fox Sports Ohio  |  Last updated 1/5/13
Illinois got off to a surprising start using some of the best perimeter shooting in the country. Its offense has since fizzled and it's lost two of three. The 11th-ranked Fighting Illini will likely need to heat up again to get back on track as they host No. 8 Ohio State on Saturday. Illinois first-year coach John Groce and Ohio State coach Thad Matta are very familiar with each other, as Groce spent eight years as an assistant under Matta, including four with the Buckeyes. "First of all, he's a friend," Groce said of Matta. "He's done a lot for me personally and professionally. I wouldn't be standing here with this wonderful opportunity to be at the University of Illinois without him." Groce got the Illini (13-2, 0-1 Big Ten) off to a 12-0 start, and they played particularly well in their eight November games, shooting 41.9 percent from 3-point range while averaging 79.3 points. In their last five contests, however, they're hitting just 28.6 percent of their 3-point attempts and 39.7 percent of their field goals. It was still good enough for Illinois to survive against Norfolk State and Eastern Kentucky, but cost it losses to No. 12 Missouri and at Purdue. The Illini trailed the Boilermakers by 10 with less than three minutes to play on Wednesday and was able to chip the deficit all the way to two before ultimately falling 68-61 in their Big Ten opener. Shooting 35.6 percent didn't help matters. "One thing I will give our guys credit for is that we were down 10 and we fought and clawed our way back to get it to that free-throw block out," Groce said. "But our execution has got to get better." Brandon Paul (15 points on 5 of 10 shooting) was one of only two Illini players to shoot better than 33.3 percent, and has scored in double figures in all 15 games. The Buckeyes (11-2, 1-0) are all too aware of Paul's capabilities after he went 11 of 15 from the floor, including 8 of 10 from 3-point range, to lead Illinois to a 79-74 home win over then-No. 5 Ohio State last January. Six weeks later in Columbus, he was 2 of 9 for nine points as the Buckeyes won 83-67, beating the Illini for the 11th time in 14 meetings. Ohio State's defense is even more stout than it was last year, limiting opponents to 56.5 points and 36.8 percent shooting, which both rank in the top 20 nationally. It's held each of its last two opponents to 44 points. Ohio State's interior defense has been bolstered by 6-foot-11 center Amir Williams, who is averaging 2.3 blocks over his last four games and matched a season high with four in Wednesday's 70-44 home win over Nebraska. "It's great to have a center," said point guard Aaron Craft, who averages 5.0 assists and 1.7 steals. "(Williams) has been playing great coming in and understanding where he can impact the game: blocking shots, altering shots, offensive rebounds. These little things make a big impact on our team." Illinois' biggest concern, however, will be trying to slow down Big Ten scoring leader Deshaun Thomas (19.9 ppg). The junior forward, who outscored Nebraska 18-17 in the first half, combined for 42 points in two games against the Illini last season, and is shooting 70.4 percent from the floor in four career games against them.
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Clay Helton says OJ Simpson would not be allowed at USC practice

Kyle Shanahan claps back at Matt Ryan

The Astros are going from really good to possibly great

John Harbaugh: Ravens exploring signing Kaepernick

Bryce Harper blames ejection, meltdown on pregame playlist

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Defining Darvish: Is a deadline deal looming?

Kyrie Irving reportedly ignoring phone calls from Cavs

Congress demands NFL pays $18 million bill

Report: Pedroia cheered loudly when Price told Eckersley off

Giancarlo Stanton mocks Jason Grilli after blasting home run

Adrian Beltre ejected for bizarre on-deck circle incident

The 'Old Tom Brady is still the Ol' Tom Brady' quiz

BIG3 Week 6: Should we begin the MVP discussion as we head to Dallas?

Three Up, Three Down: Adrian Beltre is a national treasure

The 10 craziest NFL offseason stories

Box Score 7/27: USMNT brings home the Gold Cup

The 'Cooperstown: The New Class' quiz

For the revitalized Pirates, trade deadline has newfound meaning

Every MLB team's best and worst deadline trade from the last 25 years

The 'Kyrie revolts against the King' quiz

Box Score 7/26: Nothing but grand slams

The most memorable moments from the class of 2017 Baseball Hall of Fame inductees

BIG3 Ref Hotline Bling: James White slams the phone down

College Basketball News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Yardbarker Privacy Policy and Terms of Service. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

BIG3 Week 6: Should we begin the MVP discussion as we head to Dallas?

The 'Old Tom Brady is still the Ol' Tom Brady' quiz

The 10 craziest NFL offseason stories

For the revitalized Pirates, trade deadline has newfound meaning

The 'Cooperstown: The New Class' quiz

The 'Kyrie revolts against the King' quiz

BIG3 Ref Hotline Bling: James White slams the phone down

The 'When George Brett went completely batty' quiz

Finding the possible Achilles' heel for baseball’s best teams

Getaway Day: A pair of aces get lost in the shuffle

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker