Sophomore center doesn't hide his emotions. Now he plays against Wisconsin's tough defense Sunday.

 

 It's easy to read the emotions of Illinois sophomore center Meyers Leonard.   The faces. The body language. When Leonard is flustered with physical play from opposing defenses or an offense unable to keep him happy by getting him the ball, everyone knows it.   "Sometimes I get frustrated and make it a little too obvious,'' he said.   When No. 22 Illinois hosts Wisconsin Sunday, the Badgers will make it even more difficult to get Leonard the ball. Wisconsin leads the nation in scoring defense at 49.0 points allwoed per game.   Leonard already faced a long list of defensive strategies: double teams, post traps, rotating players on him. But the most common plan is simple: Get rough with him.   Against Penn State, an ESPN replay showed one possession where the Nittany Lions had a handful of his uniform and a forearm in his back. No call.   "I don't think they care about fouls,'' Leonard said. "They're hitting me, a lot of times getting away with it. They're trying to get me a little messed up.''   The Badgers do a good job of not fouling with their hands, Leonard said, but the battle for position is a wrestling match for leverage.   ''A lot of times people don't notice, but they try to ride you out and use their legs,'' Leonard said. "I have to stay strong, use my base.''   Moments after the 54-52 loss at Penn State Thursday, Illini coach Bruce Weber complained about the physical defense against Leonard.   "I think there should be more fouls called, but that's just my opinion,'' he said.   Two days later, Weber said some of the responsibility falls on Leonard.   "He's a marked man,'' Weber said Saturday afternoon. "He's one of the better players in the league, the country. People have got to stop him. They're going to be physical. Until they call it, he has to deal with it.   "I've expressed things to officials. He's got to play strong. One thing he does is give in and fall away. He's got to sit in there and play strong.''   It's also easy to see when Leonard is upset in the offense. While Weber admitted the Illini need to get him the ball more after that loss at Penn State, Leonard's 12 field goal attempts were more than any other Illini.   It just seems it would be easier if the offense ran through his hands.   "I'm glad they look at me,'' he said. "They've got people hounding them on the perimeter. Sometimes it's tough angles. I have to remember to stay positive and keep playing.''   Leonard ranks second on the Illini in scoring (13.0 points per game), third in the Big Ten in rebounding (7.8) and leads the league in blocks (2.1). His 10.9-points-per-game jump in scoring from last year is the second-best improvement in the Big Ten, trailing only Penn State's Tim Frazier (11.9).   Illini point guard Tracy Abrams will remain in the starting lineup despite the return of Sam Maniscalco from a three-game break because of ankle pain. Weber said Maniscalco returned to the practice court Friday after playing 27 minutes at Penn State.   After a three-game losing streak when the Badgers shot 21.4 percent from the 3-point line and 33.3 percent overall, Wisconsin hits down with a three-game winning streak. A win before the season's first sellout at Assembly Hall could soothe the Illini after that bad trip to Happy Valley.   "It's a big-time game for us,'' Leonard said. "We've got to try to protect home court. If we follow the gameplan, play hard and play like we did against Ohio State and stretches through the season, we'll be all right.''   John Supinie can be reached at Johnsupinie@aol.com. Follow him on Twitter @JohnSupinie.     No. 22 Illinois (15-4, 4-2) vs. Wisconsin (15-5, 4-3) 1 p.m., Assembly Hall, Champaign (BTN, Illini Sports Network)   ILLINOIS (15-4, 4-2)   ppg     rpg F Joe Bertrand 6-5 So. 6.7 2.5 C Meyers Leonard 7-1 So. 13.1 7.6 G Brandon Paul 6-4 Jr. 14.2 4.7 G D.J. Richardson 6-3 Jr. 12.6 2.9 G Tracy Abrams 6-1 Fr. 2.4 2.5   WISCONSIN (15-5, 4-3)     ppg   rpg F Ryan Evans Jr. 6-6 9.9 6.8 F Mike Bruesewitz Jr. 6-6 6.6 5.1 C Jared Berggren Jr. 6-10 10.6 5.1 G Jordan Taylor Sr. 6-1 13.9 4.0 G Josh Gasser So. 6-3 7.8 4.6   Noteworthy: Illinois' sellout is the first in Assembly Hall this season. . . The Illini's 14-game homecourt winning streak is the second longest in Big Ten play, behind Ohio State's 36-game streak. . .    Illinois will attempt to win consecutive home games against the Badgers for the first time since taking seven straight from 1998 to 2005. . . With Wisconsin sitting just outside the Top 25 this week, the    Badgers could here win as a non-ranked team for the first time since 1997. . .    Key for Illini: Find some efficient point guard play from Abrams, Paul and Sam Maniscalco.   Key for Badgers: Hit their 3-pointers, because Wisconsin isn't as threatening inside as years past.   Key quote: "We're catching them on a high, and we're on a low. It will be interesting how both teams respond.''   Prediction: Illinois 53, Wisconsin 52