#1 Ohio State Stays Unbeaten; Survives Illini in Champaign

To paraphrase Dean Martin's timeless lyrics and apply them to college basketball: "Everybody loses a ballgame sometime, everybody gets defeated somehow."

And on paper, it appeared Ohio State's trip to Assembly Hall meant "that sometime was now."

We know that OSU is the #1 team in the Big Ten
(after all, they're #1 in nation), but many experts (including ESPN's
Dan Dakich) believe Illinois to be the second best team in the
conference. So it makes sense that a road game against the Illini would logically be the hardest game left on the Buckeyes' schedule.

The Buckeyes also had been looking a bit vulnerable lately headed
into this one, as they've only beaten one of their six conference
opponents by more than five.

Factor in recent history being unkind to #1 teams playing at Assembly
Hall. Wake Forest got absolutely routed by the Illini in 2004, and
Georgia Tech suffered an overtime loss to Illinois in 1989 much like
their ACC brethren. Really, it's no wonder the ESPN College Gameday crew
picked Illinois to win this morning.

But overall, none of those factors mattered.

What ended up being most decisive was the Buckeyes' ability to effectively shut down Illini star Demetri McCamey,
who was scoreless at half and finished with just 5 points (2-11
shooting), 11 below his average. But freshman Jereme Richmond scored 12
in first half and 18 in the game, partially picking up the slack for
Illinois.

OSU was led once again by Freshman of the year front-runner and Wooden Award candidate Jared Sullinger, the double-double machine had 27 points and 16 rebounds on 7-15 from the floor.

The "hack-a-Jared" strategy (although solid in theory) failed
miserably as Sullinger shot 13-15 from the charity stripe, way above his
season average of 73%. The team itself outperformed their season FT
moving average, going 89% for the game, more than 20 points above the
mean for 2010-11.

"That's after practice, I shoot 25 (free throws) after practice, and
I'm pretty tired after practice, because our practices are harder than
the game," Sullinger said postgame.

OSU may have had more Jared than a Subway ad campaign today, but
fellow star freshman Deshaun Thomas contributed 8 points in just 12
minutes.

Ohio State's current 21 game winning streak is the fourth longest
streak in school history, and they are also riding a an 11 game road win
streak.

The Buckeyes were mired in a 50-42 deficit in the middle of the second
half, but then rattled off an 11-0 run, and before you know it were up
by six with six minutes to go, changing the entire scope of the game.
OSU certainly had a little help from the officials, and the raucous
early-rising Assembly Hall crowd certainly let the guys in stripes know
it.

But perhaps the biggest disparity occurred behind the arc, where the
Illini shot a very uncharacteristic 24% juxtaposed against the Buckeyes
48%.

Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net. He's also a regular contributor to the Tribune's Chicago Now network, Walter Football.com, Yardbarker Network, and Fox Sports.com

He does a weekly radio segment on Chicagoland Sports Radio.com and Cleveland.com

You can follow him on Twitter @thesportsbank

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    Paul M. Banks

    Fulbright scholar in media studies, MBA, small media business owner, Published author, Founder of The Sports Bank.net, a Fox Sports affiliate Member: Society of Professional Journalists, Football Writers Association of America, U.S. Basketball Writers Association. Former political writer for Washington Times.com, NBC Chicago.com and numerous business journals Credentialed for: United Nations, Rose Bowl, BCS National Championship, Final Four, Stanley Cup Finals, and NBA Playoffs. Been featured on: Fox Sports 1, Fox Sports Live, The History Channel, CBS and ESPN radio. Does weekly segments for NBC and Fox Sports Radio stations across the nation.

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