Illinois coach Bruce Weber told his players that teams such as Ohio State aren’t going to feel sorry for them. Weber will need a big game from Meyers Leonard on Tuesday. | Nam Y. Huh~AP
Illinois at Ohio State
The facts: 6, ESPN, 560-AM.
Updated: March 22, 2012 8:15AM
Maybe it was therapeutic for Illinois coach Bruce Weber to get back to recruiting Saturday night at the City-Suburban Showdown at Proviso West in Hillside, a mere hours after the Illini were humiliated at Nebraska 80-57.
“It’s my job,” Weber said. “I love recruiting and seeing high school games and top players. It’s never fun to go recruiting after you lose, but it is part of the job. I saw a lot of coaches there and a lot of people.”
Weber gets back to the real world Tuesday, when Illinois plays No. 8 Ohio State in Columbus (6, ESPN, 560-AM).
The Illini stunned the Buckeyes 79-74 on Jan. 10 in Champaign. And if Illinois, which has lost five games in a row and eight of its last nine, can pull off another upset, it would be a huge morale boost.
The Buckeyes (22-5, 10-4) could be vulnerable. No. 11 Michigan led the entire game en route to its upset Saturday over the Buckeyes 56-51 in Ann Arbor.
“I hope we go to Ohio State loose and free and lay it all on the line,” Weber said. “The one place you don’t want to go after a game at Nebraska is Ohio State.”
Illinois (16-11, 5-9) will need a big game from center Meyers Leonard, who has let being double- and triple-teamed affect his play in several of the Illini’s consecutive losses.
Weber said he wants Leonard to be more consistent on defense and with his rebounding.
And Leonard will need to get over his emotional outburst at Nebraska, where he was seen sobbing on the bench with a towel over his head.
“He had tears in his eyes during the game,” Weber said. “He’s a young kid and very emotional. He cared so much and was so disappointed, and it all took a toll on him. I told the guys, ‘I don’t want any more tears till the end of the season.’ ”
Weber told his team that there are no more “pity parties” and teams such as Ohio State aren’t going to feel sorry for Illinois.
“We have to do a better job, and each player, each coach, if [they] can all correct one mistake, it will lead to victories,” Weber said. “My thing is, we have to guard. I don’t know if we can get it all solved today, but we have [time] before [facing] Iowa, Michigan and Wisconsin.
“We have to man up. Tough times stop, tough people don’t.”