Stakes dramatically different for Buckeyes, Illini

Stakes dramatically different for Buckeyes, Illini

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) To outside observers, it looks like a mismatch.

No. 6 Ohio State is 10-0, can clinch a share of the title in its Big Ten division and can keep alive any flickering hopes of being the last unbeaten standing when the final poll votes are cast.

Illinois (2-6) has lost its last five games and in conference play is 0-4 this year with a 10-game losing skid. With problems on both sides of the ball, the Illini are four-touchdown underdogs.

For both teams, the opponent isn't as important as how each team plays.

The Buckeyes' Urban Meyer doesn't want any letup as his team cruises into its bye week before two last, pivotal games to end the season.

``Here's the thing: How good are we?'' Meyer said. ``That's the question to ask ourselves.''

The Buckeyes, despite their flawless record, have been less than stellar at times. They've played sporadically all year on both offense and defense, surrendering big points and yardage (a 42-39 win over Indiana) and at other times gutting out a low-scoring struggle (17-16 at Michigan State).

As the wins have added up, the Buckeyes say they don't feel any weight of the expectations.

``No pressure, no pressure. We felt we could win every game, we said it at the beginning of the season, So why not? Why give up? Why stop right now?'' cornerback Bradley Roby said. ``There's no pressure. We're putting pressure on ourselves, but there's no pressure from the outside.''

It's a different kind of pressure at Illinois. Coach Tim Beckman, a former Meyer assistant, is seeking a sign of hope in an otherwise dreary season.

``We understand Ohio State is a good football team,'' he said. ``The only thing we can control is what we do. Those are the things that we talk about every day that we step there on the practice field or in the meeting rooms - how can you improve yourself today? That's what we ask our players to do.''

The Illini figure if they can put things together for a change it just might be enough. After all, Illinois has won seven of the last 11 meetings at Ohio Stadium.

``They're undefeated so we're going to have to go up there and play our best game,'' Illini defensive tackle Akeem Spence said. ``We can't make stupid penalties, we can't turn the ball over and we can't give up big plays. I think if we do that, we can slow them down.''

All week, Ohio State's coaches have been showing clips of Illinois highlights, stressing how talented the Illini are rather than how poorly they have been playing. They are last in the Big Ten in most offensive and return categories.

The point is trying to get the Buckeyes to not look past the Illini to the bye week, to not look ahead them to the upcoming battles at Wisconsin and at home against rival Michigan to close out the season.

``That's everybody's mindset, that we can't be complacent or bad things will happen,'' Ohio State left tackle Jack Mewhort said. ``I think everybody knows that.''

Ohio State, led by run-first quarterback Braxton Miller, is averaging roughly 100 yards more per game on the ground (248) than the Illini are giving up (153). So expect the first punches to be thrown up front on the line.

Miller is one of the first few names mentioned among the favorites in the Heisman Trophy race. He admits he's getting excited by all the talk.

``With the offensive style that we've got ... you win awards off of things that you do in this offense,'' he said. ``It's supposed to make big plays.''

His counterpart at Illinois, Nathan Scheelhaase, has struggled through a season of injuries and mistakes. The Illini rank near the bottom in the Football Bowl Subdivision in sacks allowed (almost 4 a game), scoring (18 points per game) and total offense (just 317 yards a game).

He's got an idea of what lies ahead on Saturday.

``It's a tough test. They're playing as well as anyone in the country right now,'' Scheelhaase said. ``For sure you're not always going to be favored in those games, but that's why they play (them).''

Beckman was the head coach at Toledo a year ago and nearly pulled off a stunner in the Horseshoe. His Rockets had the ball late in the fourth quarter, trailing by five points, but were unable to pull off the upset.

After much success as a head coach and an assistant - he coached defensive backs on the Ohio State team in 2006 that was unbeaten and No. 1 before being walloped 41-14 in the BCS title game by Meyer's Florida team - for the first time he is dealing with losing.

``You learn how to take defeats. I hate losing, but it's just how to react to the players after continued defeats, I think is very important,'' he said. ``I guess (I've learned) how to continue to motivate and continue to push your football players to be the best they can be.''

That's the goal for both sides, regardless of each team's record.


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5 must-see moments from Wizards' blowout loss to Hornets, including Bradley Beal's buzzer-beater

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5 must-see moments from Wizards' blowout loss to Hornets, including Bradley Beal's buzzer-beater

Here are the five best plays or moments from the Wizards' 122-105 loss to the Charlotte Hornets on Friday night...

1. This was a tough one for the Wizards. For the third time this season, they got beaten by the Hornets and for the second straight time it was in a blowout.

They still had their moments, though, including this alley-oop from Tomas Satoransky (11 points) to Markieff Morris (13 points, eight assists, six rebounds). It was the second alley-oop connection for those two in as many games:


2. This was a play that encapsulated the Wizards' night. Jodie Meeks drew a flagrant foul on Michael Carter-Williams, but took a hard shot to the head:

3. Kelly Oubre, Jr. had a solid game with 11 points, including this big dunk:


4. Speaking of Oubre, he helped the Wizards close the first half with a late surge. The real highlight was Bradley Beal stealing the ball and hitting a corner three at the buzzer:

5. Beal ended up with 33 points, six assists and six rebounds. Here's an and-1 he got to go down in the second half:

All in all, it was an ugly performance for the Wizards. To cheer you up, we'll leave you with this young fan who had a great time at Capital One Arena despite the result:



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Wizards suffer lopsided loss against Hornets, who have had their number this season

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Wizards suffer lopsided loss against Hornets, who have had their number this season

The Washington Wizards lost to the Charlotte Hornets 122-105 on Friday night. Here's analysis of what went down...

Bad matchup: Despite their poor record, there is something about this Charlotte Hornets team that gives the Wizards trouble. The Wizards lost to the Hornets for the third time in three tries this season on Friday night and, aside from a push in the third quarter, were never really in it.

All in all, it was a dud of a game for the Wizards who were probably due for one. They had won three straight games and eight of 10 since John Wall got injured. They were also coming off a huge road win the night before in Cleveland, a game that started an hour later than usual.

It was a tough turnaround and the Wizards sure looked like it. It was evident in their defense and unforced errors. They did, however, have a decent shooting night. They shot 49.4 percent from the field 16-for-17 from the free throw line.

The Wizards' second unit didn't provide a lift outside of Kelly Oubre, Jr. (11 points). Mike Scott, one of their best bench options, was held scoreless.


Ugly first half: The Wizards only trailed by 12 points at halftime, but that score was skewed by a five-point push in the final seconds. The Hornets dominated for much of the first two quarters and did so by hitting threes and forcing turnovers. Those mistakes dug the Wizards a hole they never recovered from.

The Wizards had 10 turnovers in the first half, the same amount they had in their entire game the night before. Limiting mistakes was a big reason they beat the Cavaliers, yet the script was flipped by Charlotte.

The Hornets capitalized with 23 points off those 10 first-half turnovers. The Wizards had 14 giveaways for the games that led to 28 total points. 

Charlotte was 7-for-11 from three at one point in the first half and finished 17-for-39 (43.6%) for the game. That is very uncharacteristic for the Wizards, who entered the night second in the NBA in opponents three-point percentage.

Again, though, the first half ended well as Oubre and Bradley Beal gave the Wizards a jolt in the final seconds:


Bad defense: The Wizards have played some great defense in recent weeks, but they just didn't have it on Friday night. Most surprising were the guys that hurt them most.

Dwight Howard was limited to 11 points and six rebounds and Kemba Walker didn't score his first points until the final minute of the first half. But others like Frank Kaminsky (23 points), Marvin Williams (15 points) and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (14 points) got pretty much anything they wanted.

For Walker, it was a tale of two halves. He was held in check by Tomas Satoransky in the first half, but broke out in the third quarter and finished with 24 points and seven rebounds. Maybe it was tired legs on the Wizards' part, but Walker just kept dribbling until he got space and once he did, he knocked down shots.

Much like Kyle Lowry did a few weeks ago, Walker made adjustments to find success against Satoransky. We haven't seen that happen much since Wall went out, but those two guys have given him some trouble. Both guys are considerably smaller than Satoransky and very quick. Maybe there's something to that.

Add it all up and this was one of the worst defensive games of the season for the Wizards. They allowed their most points in a game since Jan. 17 against, you guessed it, the Hornets. Only three times this year have they given up more than what they allowed on Friday.

No Sessions: The Wizards did not debut their newest player on Friday night, which was probably to be expected given Ramon Sessions has not had any practice time yet. That is part of why he didn't play, but it's also another indication that he is unlikely to play much with the Wizards. Sessions is on a 10-day contract and is not expected to supplant either Satoransky or Tim Frazier at point guard. Frazier would seem to be the guy in danger of losing minutes, but it was business as usual for him against the Hornets.

Up next: The Wizards are off Saturday before returning to action at home against the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday night. Tipoff is at 8 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington.