Illini Basketball Squad To Face Ohio State

Illinois basketball player Rayvonte Rice, hoisting the Braggin' Rights Trophy with his mother, Rhonda Rice.

Rayvonte Rice hosts the Braggin' Rights Trophy with his mother, Rhonda Rice, of Champaign, on Dec. 20th.

(Photo: Rob McColley for Illinois Public Media)

The Illini men’s basketball team faces the Ohio State Buckeyes in Columbus, Ohio Saturday afternoon.

The Buckeyes are 11-and-3 under head coach and Hoopeston native Thad Matta. But against major conference competition, they've beaten only Marquette, while losing to Louisville, North Carolina and to Iowa (in their Big Ten opener).

Matta indicated Friday that he might be willing to add some man-to-man defense to the zone he's employed thus far on the year.

“We’ve continued to work both our man and our zone”, said Matta. So, as the game progresses, (we’ll) see how it goes.”

Matt added that facing Illinois coach John Groce --- who once worked for him as an Ohio State assistant coach --- is no longer an emotional thing for him.

“Yeah it’s gone”, said Matta. “Because we’ve been apart for a lot of years now, to be honest with you.  Y’know, still keep in contact, all that stuff. But maybe, the first time we played had something to do with it, but not anything more than that.”

In his own news conference on Friday, Groce reiterated that he felt good about his team's performance in their Big Ten conference-opening game at Michigan on December 30th --- even though the Wolverines won, 73 to 65.

When specifically addressing the shot Rayvonte Rice missed to win the game at the buzzer, Groce recalled something that Michael Jordan said, “something along the lines of, he missed more of them than he made.”

Groce then brought up Rice’s successful basket at the end of the Illinois-Missouri Braggin’ Rights game on Decembere 20th, which the Illini won, 62 to 59.

“Obviously he made the Missouri shot, a big time shot, a big time reed on the switch”, said Groce of Rice’s performance. “The other day, he’d probably like to have that one over because he could have read that one a little bit better. But when you’re in that situation, you’ve got to be fearless. You gotta accept: hero, goat, goat, hero, hero goat. Just the way it works. The way sports is.”

The Illinois-Ohio State game tips off at 2:30 PM CST, at the Value City Arena at the Jerome Schottenstein Center on the Ohio State University campus in Columbus. ESPN2 will be carrying the game.

Story source: WILL