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Ohio St.-Illinois Preview
Wednesday, December 05, 2018
Latest Line: Ohio St -5.5 O/U: 143
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When one of the winningest coaches in college football history decides to announce his retirement, Ohio State's next basketball game against Illinois on Wednesday night at the United Center in Chicago takes a back seat to the big Urban Meyer news of the day.

Nonetheless, the No. 19 Buckeyes (7-1) are aiming for a 2-0 start in Big Ten play after a convincing 79-59 victory at home on Sunday night over Minnesota.

Ohio State cancelled a scheduled news conference on Tuesday with coach Chris Holtmann to preview to game against Illinois after the Meyer retirement story broke in Columbus. But Holtmann took some time to reflect on the impact that Meyer had on him in the short time they were acquainted after the former Butler coach was hired before the 2017-18 season.

"When I got a chance to be around here, obviously I imagined being around him and being able to learn for a number of years," Holtmann said, according to The Columbus Dispatch. "We've had a chance to spend some time together and he's been, whether it's been talking to a recruit or just sharing thoughts, he's been great.

"I wouldn't say our relationship has grown to where we're close friends because I just got here, but he really has been tremendous from day one to me and (Meyer's wife) Shelley's been tremendous to my wife."

After Sunday's win over Minnesota, Holtmann went so far as to weigh in on the football Buckeyes' snub from the four-team playoff field.

"There's a few things I don't understand in life," Holtmann said. "I don't understand why airlines overbook their flights when they know how many seats they have. I don't understand how Rocky III never got an Academy Award.

"I can't for the life of me understand how we are No. 6 in the final college football playoff ranking. I don't get it."

Holtmann's team could help its own national ranking with a win against Illinois. Ohio State dropped three spots this week in the poll after a loss to Syracuse a week earlier before bouncing back against Minnesota.

The Buckeyes may be without productive freshman guard Luther Muhammad for the second consecutive game. He suffered a disclosed shoulder at the end of the second half against Syracuse and his status is day to day.

"He's progressing," Holtmann said on his weekly call-in radio show. "I don't know what that means for Wednesday night. This is the kind of game where you would like to have him because of his ability to put it on the floor and his decision making will be good, but we'll see."

Junior Andre Wesson helped pick up the slack against Minnesota with a career-high 16 points and his brother, Kaleb, the team's leading scorer and rebounder this season, finished with 15 points.

Holtmann expects Illinois to put up a fight in the United Center, an arena the Fighting Illini call their home away from home.

"I think our guys understand most Big Ten games are going to go down to the last four-five minutes typically," Holtmann said.

Illinois (2-6) has struggled in the early going, plagued by mistakes and inconsistency. The Illinois committed 26 fouls last week in a loss to Notre Dame and sent Nebraska to the line for 30 free throws in a 75-60 loss on Sunday.

"We're very close," Illinois forward Kipper Nichols said, according to the Champaign News-Gazette. "Just the everyday grind of things -- enforcing the good stuff and learn from the bad -- I think that's really it."

Sophomore guard Trent Frazier, Illinois' leading scorer at 14.7 points per game, agrees that the Illini are close.

"We've got to put two halves together," he said. "That's the one thing right there. We're beating ourselves. It's the little things -- the details -- we're missing right now and we're not paying attention. Put two halves together, and we'll be an unbelievable basketball team."