Selection Sunday is just over three weeks away and for the majority of Big Ten teams, it is about finding a way to survive through March. For Indiana, it is all about focusing on the next task at hand and that is a matchup against the Illinois Fighting Illini on Sunday.

After coming off back-to-back wins against Minnesota and Penn State, the Hoosiers fell to in-state rival Purdue Thursday night recording their 10th loss of the season. Indiana had very little offensive production in Mackey Arena as the Boilermaker defense shut down the paint forcing the Hoosiers to take shots from the perimeter. Purdue held Indiana to just 49 total points in the contest, which is IU’s lowest scoring output this season.

The Hoosiers hold the series lead against the Illini 93-87 and have won the past three straight meetings. Both teams met last season in Champaign, Ill. and Indiana came out with a 92-74 victory on the road. However, Illinois is 12-3 at home this season and the Hoosiers are 2-7 in true road games.

Indiana (18-10, 8-9 B1G) is not fully locked into the NCAA Tournament, but their resume consists of six Quadrant One wins and they are fourth in the country with five wins over nationally ranked teams. Sunday’s matchup against the Illini is an opportunity for the Hoosiers to pick up another resume defining win as they seek their first tournament appearance in four years.

How to Watch

WhoIndiana Hoosiers at Illinois Fighting Illini
WhenSunday March 1, 2020 β€” 2 p.m. EST
WhereState Farm Center – Champaign, Ill.
TicketsFind the Lowest Ticket Prices on SeatGeek
WatchBig Ten Network
ListenIU Radio Network
StatsLive Stats
SpreadILL -5.5, O/U 133

Getting to know the Illini

Illinois (19-9, 11-6 B1G) comes into the contest winners of three straight and have bounced back from a four game losing streak they faced during the first half of February. Head coach Brad Underwood is in his third season with the team and is 45-48 and 154-75 overall. Illinois is currently in second place in the conference behind Maryland and tied with Penn State. The Illini are ranked 29th in KenPom and 36th in the NET.

Offensively, Illinois ranks 132nd in the nation with a scoring average of 72.5 points per game. They shoot 44.1% from the field and 31.1% from the three-point line. The Illini average 13.3 assists and 12.5 turnovers per game.

On the other end of the floor, Illinois has the 53rd best scoring defense in the nation holding opponents to 64.7 points per game.

Sophomore guard Ayo Dosunmu leads the team in scoring at 16.4 points per game. He averages 33.0 minutes and is first on the team with 3.2 assists per game.

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In the Illini’s last three games, Dosunmu averaged 21 points per game. He recorded 21 points, six rebounds, four assists and five turnovers in Illinois’ 74-66 victory over Northwestern.

At 6-foot-5, Dosunmu has great size and length at the guard position. He is capable of getting to the rim quickly by taking defenders off the dribble and is exceptional at pulling up off the dribble especially in the mid-range.

Freshman Kofi Cockburn averages the second highest scoring total on the team with 13.6 points per game. He is almost averaging a double-double with 9.1 rebounds per game. Cockburn shoots 52.8% from the field and 67.1% from the free throw line. He has recorded 12 double-doubles on the season.

The 7-foot center’s size lets him excel at defending the basket. Cockburn is averaging 1.2 blocks per game and recorded a season high four blocks against Michigan on Dec. 11.

Even though the Illini shoot just over 31% from deep, they have multiple shooters to watch out for. Sophomore guard Alan Griffin is shooting 42.7 from the three-point line and made a season high six three-pointers against Northwestern. He has recorded multiple made three’s in 12 games this season. Junior guard Trent Frazier is shooting 32.9% from the three-point line. Frazier’s scoring has declined this season as he is averaging 9.4 points per game compared to 13.7 and 12.5 in his sophomore and freshman season respectively.

Projected Starting Lineups

Indiana HoosiersIllinois Fighting Illini
G: #1 Al Durham (Jr.)G: #11 Ayo Dosunmu (So.)
G: #10 Rob Phinisee (So.)G: #1 Trent Frazier (Jr.)
F: #3 Justin Smith (Jr.)G: #10 Andres Feliz (Sr.)
F: #4 Trayce Jackson-Davis (Fr.)G: #20 Da’Monte Williams (Jr.)
C: #50 Joey Brunk (RS Jr.)C: #21 Kofi Cockburn (Fr.)

What to Watch for

1. Kofi Cockburn versus Trayce Jackson-Davis

This has the potential to be one of the best matchups of the season as the two young freshmen have each displayed exceptional performances. Trayce Jackson-Davis is 11th in the conference in scoring and Cockburn is 13th. Cockburn is just one spot above Jackson-Davis in rebounding but is behind Jackson-Davis blocks per game. Indiana’s offense revolves around getting the ball inside to Jackson-Davis and Purdue found a secret to stopping him by doubling him every time he caught the ball inside. Cockburn has the size to oppose Jackson-Davis on his own, but do not be surprised if this game comes down to who wins the battle in the paint.

2. Where will the Indiana shooting come from?

Indiana shot 25.4% from the field against Purdue on Thursday which is their lowest output of the season in that category. The Boilermakers packed the paint and forced the Hoosiers to defeat them from range. Indiana came back late but inconsistencies on the offensive side of the floor have hurt the Hoosiers all season. Illinois has size at all five positions on the floor and with Cockburn on the interior the Illini can defend Indiana’s perimeter players knowing they have a 7-footer underneath the basket. If Underwood decides to take a page from Purdue’ playbook and double team Jackson-Davis, Indiana’s shooters have to make shots to take the pressure off Jackson-Davis.

3. Winning the turnover battle

Indiana is averaging 11.2 turnovers over the last five games and against Purdue they turned the ball over 12 times. However, the issue is not the number but how and when the turnovers happen. In the final minute of the first half against the Boilermakers, Purdue guard Eric Hunter Jr. stole the ball twice and finished both times on the other hand. That sequence put Indiana down by nine at halftime giving Purdue all of the momentum. Illinois is forcing an average of 11.7 turnovers per game. For the Hoosiers to go into Champaign and win they have to not only limit the turnovers but not let them affect the momentum of the game.

4. Preventing Illinois from controlling the offensive glass

Illinois ranks number one in the conference for both offensive rebound percentage both on offense and defense. That means that they are adept at grabbing off of the glass on offense, and they do a fantastic job of preventing opponents in getting second chance opportunities. Cockburn leads the team with 100 offensive rebounds, which is good for third in the conference. Fellow bigs Bezhanishvili and Griffin are in the ball park of 50 offensive rebounds.

Photo: Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

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