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Game 21 preview | No. 14 Illinois at Ohio State; 6 p.m., Tuesday

Jan. 30—Lineups

No. 14 Illinois (15-5, 6-3 Big Ten)

Starters

G/F Ty Rodgers So. 6-6 6.6 Saginaw, Mich.

G Terrence Shannon Jr. Sr. 6-6 19.9 Chicago

G/F Marcus Domask Gr. 6-6 15.2 Waupun, Wis.

F Quincy Guerrier Gr. 6-8 11.3 Montreal

F Coleman Hawkins Sr. 6-10 11.9 Sacramento, Calif.

FYI: Domask has led Illinois in assists the last three games and in four of the last six, as he's become a more productive facilitator as the season has progressed. The Southern Illinois transfer averaged 1.6 assists in his first 10 games with the Illini and had two games with zero. He hasn't had an 0-fer in his last 10 games and is averaging 5.3 assists in that span.

Off the bench

P Name Yr. Ht. PPG Hometown

G Luke Goode Jr. 6-7 7.7 Fort Wayne, Ind.

G Justin Harmon Gr. 6-4 7.0 Chicago

F/C Dain Dainja R-Jr. 6-9 5.7 Brooklyn Park, Minn.

Ohio State (13-7, 3-6 Big Ten)

Starters

P Name Yr. Ht. PPG Hometown

G Bruce Thornton So. 6-2 16.1 Fairburn, Ga.

G Roddy Gayle Jr. So. 6-4 13.8 Niagara Falls, N.Y.

G Evan Mahaffey So. 6-6 4.6 Cincinnati

F Jamison Battle Gr. 6-7 13.8 Robbinsdale, Minn.

C Felix Okpara So. 6-11 6.5 Lagos, Nigeria

FYI: Thornton has scored in double figures in 17 of 20 games this season, although two of his lowest-scoring games this year have come in his last six. Penn State held the Buckeyes guard to a season-low three points on 1 of 9 shooting in what turned out to be a 79-67 Ohio State win on Jan. 20. Thornton scored a career high 29 points in the Buckeyes' 92-81 win against Alabama on Nov. 24.

Off the bench

P Name Yr. Ht. PPG Hometown

F Zed Key Sr. 6-8 8.2 Bay Shore, N.Y.

G Dale Bonner Gr. 6-2 4.9 Shaker Heights, Ohio

G Scotty Middleton Fr. 6-7 4.4 Miami

Details

➜ Site: Value City Arena at The Schottenstein Center (18,809); Columbus, Ohio.

➜ Radio: Brian Barnhart (play-by-play) and former Illini Doug Altenberger (analysis) will have the call on the Illini Sports Network on WDWS 1400-AM, WDWS 93.9-FM, WHMS 97.5-FM, WPXN 104.9-FM, WDAN-1490-AM and WDNL 102.1-FM.

➜ Streaming: Jac Collinsworth (play-by-play) and former Illini Stephen Bardo (analysis) will have the call on Peacock.

➜ Series: Illinois leads 109-82.

➜ Last meeting: Ohio State won 72-60 on Feb. 26, 2023, in Columbus, Ohio.

➜ FYI: The last two decades of the Illinois-Ohio State series have favored the Buckeyes. While the Illini have won three of the last five games, Ohio State has a 23-12 advantage dating back to the 2003-04 season. That includes a 13-4 edge for games in Columbus in that span.

Beat writer Scott Richey's storylines

Playing 'zone' defense creates new look for Illini

Illinois dropped back into what most basketball fans would call a 2-3 zone for a few possessions in Saturday's game against Indiana. It's how former Illini Deon Thomas, who was on the radio call for the game, described it. But that's not how Illinois coach Brad Underwood would put it. While Illinois' defense against the Hoosiers might have looked like a zone, it apparently wasn't. "It's not zone," Underwood said. "You can call it that if you want. We don't play zone. It's not a zone. It's switching man we kind of just made stuff with and threw it out there. It's kind of distorted a little bit. We let (Coleman Hawkins) play center field with it, but we still do a ton of switching. It's truly man with Coleman just kind of roaming the paint."

Chasing Big Ten title means wins need to stack up

Luke Goode didn't move off the underlying idea of taking every game one at a time as he discussed Tuesday's showdown with Ohio State. But the Illinois guard didn't shy away from the importance of the upcoming road game in Columbus, Ohio, as it might pertain to the Big Ten standings and the Illini's pursuit of a Big Ten title. Goode understands where Illinois stands in that race — behind Wisconsin and Purdue. "We can't afford to lose many more games if we want a chance at a regular season title," Goode said. "We're going to go in there with full confidence ready to go. Now that we have three losses, Wisconsin only has one and Purdue only has two, and you know they're not going to lose a lot the rest of their season. We've got to match that."

Infusion of veteran shot-making for the Buckeyes

Jamison Battle leads the Big Ten in three-point shooting at 44.2 percent. It's a career-high for the fifth-year forward, who started his career at George Washington and spent the past two seasons at Minnesota. Battle is scoring less than he did in his first season with the Gophers, but more than he did in a down 2022-23 season and with significantly more efficiency as a 46/44/92 shooter. "He's just an elite shooter," Underwood said. "They lost a couple guys last year. ... All those guys were really, really, really good shot makers and then (Brice Sensabaugh) was a pro. He gives them tremendous shooting. He's a veteran. He's old. He's been around and been through the league. He's a good rebounder for his position. You put him with Gayle and Thornton, and that's a very good 1-2-3."

The News-Gazette's pick

No. 14 Illinois 74, Ohio State 69

Ohio State desperately — desperately — needs a win. The Buckeyes have dropped five of their last six games after a 12-2 start and just got throttled by Northwestern in a 25-point loss in Evanston on Saturday night. Ohio State has fared better at home with a 9-2 record at The Schott albeit with an 11-point loss to Wisconsin earlier this month. Illinois isn't in quite as desperate of straits, but Tuesday's game is a Quad I opportunity. The Illini's postseason résumé could use a boost on that front (N-G prediction record: 17-3).