Eastern Illinois isn’t afraid to take on the big dogs, or in this case, the Big Ten, to prepare itself for the Ohio Valley Conference.
The Panthers (0-3) already have lost at Illinois 87-57 in the season opener, and their next Big Ten test takes them to Columbus on Wednesday to face the Ohio State Buckeyes (2-0). Eastern Illinois also plays at Iowa in December.
“It’s the experiences the players get from playing in those venues,” Panthers coach Marty Simmons said. “They’ll be a time when they’re (my) age and they’ll have children and they’ll want to tell them about playing in the State Farm (Illinois) or playing over at Ohio State, whatever it may be.
“It prepares you for the league. You’re going to play against great competition. You’re going to play against great competition when you get in the league.”
Eastern Illinois’ other losses were to Illinois State (54-49) and Central Michigan (76-60), suggesting the Buckeyes are about to face a third straight overmatched opponent.
OSU has downed Robert Morris, 91-53, and Charleston Southern, 82-56, behind a pair of double-doubles by Zed Key. He had 13 points and 10 rebounds against Robert Morris, and 17 points and 13 boards Thursday.
By halftime against Charleston Southern, Key scored 13 points and grabbed 10 rebounds (five offensive), becoming the first Ohio State player to record a double-double in the first half since Kaleb Wesson’s 11-11 against UMass Lowell on Nov. 10, 2019.
“He’s typically a really physical player,” Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann said of Key (6-foot 8, 255 pounds). “He’s a load in there. Teams tell us that. Physically, he’s a big kid to handle.”
Key knows the double-doubles will soon be harder to come by.
“Obviously this isn’t a Big Ten schedule,” Key said. “Even some of the upcoming games that we have, it’s going to be a lot tougher with stuff we won’t get away with. Stuff on defense. Our ball-screen coverage. Turning the ball over.”
–Field Level Media