Aaron Craft's mix of leadership and competitiveness has combined to provide for the ultimate sign of…
Sunday, March 10: 11:30 a.m. CT - Columbus, OH - Value City Arena (19,049)
ESPN (Announcers: Bob Wischusen, Dan Dakich)
Notes (from OSU sports information):
CRAFT EARNS FIRST TEAM ACADEMIC ALL-AMERICAN HONOR FOR SECOND TIME: Aaron Craft was named to the Capital One Academic All-America Team for the second time Feb. 21, becoming Ohio State's first two-time first team honoree. Th is season, Craft was named Capital One Academic All-America of the Year in Division I men's basketball. A nutrition (pre-med) major, Craft has an overall grade-point average of 3.92 while leading Ohio State to a 22-7 overall record. In three seasons at Ohio State, Craft has set the career record for steals (228) and has led the Buckeyes to 87 victories, a pair of Big Ten titles, two appearances in the NCAA tournament "Sweet 16," and a Final Four appearance. He also is No. 3 in career assists at Ohio State with 486.
BUCKEYES RECORD 10TH LEAGUE WIN: Thad Matta and the Buckeyes have won at least 10 Big Ten Conference regular-season games in each of the last eight seasons, a record streak at Ohio State. Th e Buckeyes host Illinois with a 12-5 record in league play during the 2013 conference season. Ohio State has won at least 10 league games 31 times. Matta tied legendary Ohio State coach Fred Taylor, who coached eight teams to 10 or more league victories, with the win over Michigan State Feb. 24. Matta's nine 20-win seasons overall is an Ohio State record. Taylor led the Buckeyes to six 20+ win campaigns.
THOMAS ADDED TO 1,000/500 CLUB: A total of 25 Ohio State players have scored 1,000 or more points to go with 500 career rebounds. Deshaun Thomas (1,470 career points/519 rebounds) is the latest to join the club after a seven-rebound effort vs. No. 4 Michigan State Feb. 24. Before Thomas, Jared Sullinger was the last to reach the milestone with 1,282 career points and 717 career rebounds. Thad Matta has coached six of the players on the all-time list. William Buford (1,990/666), Terence Dials (1,566/876), Evan Turner (1,517/683), David Lighty (1,458/577), Sullinger and now Th omas have been added to the list during Matta's tenure.
OHIO STATE IN THE BIG TEN: Th e Buckeyes are No. 2 in scoring defense (58.8 ppg.) and No. 3 in 3-point fi eld goal percentage (.360), scoring margin (11.4 ppg.) and turnover margin (+2.7) among Big Ten teams. Individually, Deshaun Thomas leads the conference in scoring with 19.8 points per game and in free throw percentage (.844/103-122). Aaron Craft (4.4) rates No. 2 in assists per game and steals (2.0). Shannon Scott is No. 2 in assist to turnover ratio (+3.3). Craft is third (+2.5).
MATTA AMONG BEST IN MARCH: Thad Matta has put together one of the best records nationally when it counts the most - during the months of March and April. Entering March for the ninth time as head coach of the Buckeyes, Matta has compiled a record of 46-12 in March, the fourth best record by percentage among active coaches. Th e record is the best among Big Ten coaches as well.
MATTA'S SENIOR DAY RECORD: Thad Matta has finished off the home season with a win in seven of eight previous seasons in Columbus. Three times the Buckeyes have defeated ranked teams, two of those were No. 1 at the time. This is the third time Ohio State has ended the home campaign against Illinois with Matta as the Buckeyes' head coach.
Deshaun Thomas: F, Jr., 6-7, 225 - 19.8 ppg, 6.2 rpg
Sam Thompson: F, Soph., 6-7, 190 - 7.1 ppg, 3.4 rpg
Evan Ravenel - F, Sr., 6-8, 260 - 5.3 ppg, 4.5 rpg
Aaron Craft - G, Jr., 6-2, 190 - 9.6 ppg, 4.4 apg
Lenzelle Smith Jr. - G, Jr., 6-4, 205 - 10.1 ppg, 4.9 rpg
Off the bench:
Series record: Illinois leads 104-70
Series streak: Illinois W1
Record @ Columbus: Ohio State leads 43-41
Series streak @ Columbus: Ohio State W3
Last meeting: No. 11 Illinois 74, No. 8 OSU 55 (Jan. 5 @ Champaign)
Groce vs. OSU: 1-0
Buckeyes Head Coach Thad Matta:
"I just want to play well Sunday. That is where our focus is completely. We would be foolish to think past 12:30 Sunday. I say that being respectful -- that's all we've ever done. We have one more game to play to end the regular season and that is the only thing that is on my mind and on the player's minds.
"The one thing I told them is you can't win anything if you don't play well, and you're playing a team that literally destroyed you on January 5th. Quite honestly there hasn't been any other conversation than that other than you've got to play better than the last time we played this team. The fact that we won a big road game the other day doesn't mean a darn thing in terms of Sunday."
On his players mindset in the first matchup against Illinois…
"I don't know what they were that day. I say that from the standpoint that Illinois played unbelievable. It's a credit to them, they're one of the more talented teams in the league."
Ohio State team information: