Illinois coach Bruce Weber said there's no crying in college basketball. "I told the team I don't want any more tears until the end of the season,'' Weber said before the Illini play at No. 8 Ohio State in a Big Ten Conference game Tuesday.
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Illinois coach Bruce Weber said there's no crying in college basketball.
"I told the team I don't want any more tears until the end of the season,'' Weber said before the Illini play at No. 8 Ohio State in a Big Ten Conference game Tuesday.
During the blowout loss at Nebraska on Saturday, the emotional Illini caught the attention of the public and the media. CBS bracketologist Jerry Palm called the Illini "cry babies.''
While Weber will attempt to block the Illini from the negativity -- the players were again off limits to the media Monday -- and control the message with his Illini, Weber sounded chipper on the phone, and he kept a stiff upper lip while recruiting Saturday night in Chicago hours after the Illini loss to the Cornhuskers.
Evidently, he's trying to get a point across to his team with four games left in the regular season before the Big Ten Tournament. The Illini have already lost eight of their last nine games, and pulling them together will be a tough chore for Weber, especially after the Illini fell out of site in bracketology.
"I can't have my own pity party,'' Weber said. "They can't have it. This is it. There is no sympathy from anyone. (The media) knows that. It's out there.
"If we keep feeling sorry for ourselves, the season will slip by. We have to man up. Tough times stop. Tough people don't. That's all we can do.''
After trailing by 32 points at Nebraska, the Illini "need to come together,'' Weber said.
Remember Jan. 10? Guard Brandon Paul scored 43 points and center Meyers Leonard neutralized Jared Sullinger in a 79-74 victory over the Buckeyes. It's one of two wins over top 10 teams by the Illini.
Leonard gets up for the big games, but his challenge is producing in areas other than scoring if the Buckeyes decide to double-team him. In the first meeting, he went one-on-one in the post and finished with 14 points, five rebounds and two steals. Yet Leonard has been frustrated by his lack of scoring production, perhaps one reason for his own meltdown over the weekend.
"With Meyers, his thing is consistency, rebounding and playing defense,'' Weber said. "That's where hes going to help us. If they have two or three guys on him (on the offensive end), he can't let it affect him. He's got to do the other stuff to help us.''
Paul didn't start against Nebraska. While his scoring was the key element in the victory over the Buckeyes, he was also a lead defender. Like the Illini, he's lost his edge. Illinois allowed 50 percent shooting or better in each of the last five games -- all losses.
"We have to guard,'' Weber said. "That's the one thing we were doing early. It gave us a chance to win games. I don't know if we can get it all solved (Monday). We have to have some pride where we do one thing really well.
"We were hanging our hat on that. It wasn't pretty winning 42-41, but we're the last team to beat Michigan State. We're a young inexperienced team on offense. We were going to struggle on offense. A year from now, we'd be more knowledgeable and have a better feel. It might be a different story. Somewhere along the line, we got away from stopping people. It hurt us.''
Weber said he will choose a lineup after seeing who wanted to compete in practice.
Weber kept it as business as usual following the loss. He returned to Illinois on his own from Lincoln, Neb., to attend the game between Chicago prep powers Simeon and DeLaSalle on Saturday night.
"It's my job,'' Weber said. "I'm the coach at Illinois. There was a big game with lots of top recruits. I love recruiting. I love seeing high school games, seeing top players. It's never fun to go recruiting after you lose.''
Meanwhile, Ohio State dropped two of its last three games to fall into a second-place tie in the Big Ten.
"I like the way we've responded in practice,'' Ohio State coach Thad Matta said. "We came back to practice and had a good way about us. As we go into tomorrow night's game, it will be a test of (character). As a coach, you're kind of excited to see how your guys will respond.''
Same goes for Illinois.
John Supinie can be reached at Johnsupinie@aol.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JohnSupinie@aol.com.
Illinois (16-11, 5-9) vs. No. 8 Ohio State (22-5, 10-4)
6 p.m., Value City Arena, Columbus, Ohio (ESPN, Illini Sports Network)
ILLINOIS (16-11, 5-9) ppg rpg
F Joe Bertrand 6-5 So. 6.6 2.7
C Meyers Leonard 7-1 So. 12.9 8.0
G Brandon Paul 6-4 Jr. 14.9 4.8
G D.J. Richardson 6-3 Jr. 12.1 3.0
G Tracy Abrams 6-1 Fr. 4.1 2.2
OHIO STATE (22-5, 10-4) ppg rpg
F William Buford 6-6 Sr. 15.0 4.9
F DeShaun Thomas 6-7 So. 14.6 4.7
C Jared Sullinger 6-9 So. 17.5 9.2
G Aaron Craft 6-2 So. 8.1 2.9
G Lenzelle Smith 6-4 So. 6.0 4.7
Noteworthy: Illinois concludes a stretch of four out of five games on the road. The Illini play three of the next four games against ranked opponents. ... The Illini have a five-game losing streak. ... Guard Sam Maniscalco's 3-pointer against Nebraska ended an 0-for-17 slump from the line that dated back to Dec. 31 vs. Purdue. ... Illinois is 3-3 against ranked teams this year. ... The Buckeyes rank No. 2 in scoring offense (74.9 points per game) and scoring defense (57.1) in the Big Ten.
Key for Illini: Show some emotion and play for pride.
Key for Buckeyes: Jump on them early and see if they crack.
Key quote: "One place you don't want to go right away after the Nebraska game is the game at Ohio State. It's on the schedule.'' -- Illinois coach Bruce Weber.
Prediction: Ohio State 76, Illinois 60