This Thursday, the Hoosiers face the Fighting Illini for their last away game of the season and the Illini’s final home game.
Illinois is one of the few conference teams that Indiana defeated this year. They did so when Indiana was ranked a solid No. 21. It was after this game that the Hoosiers lost 7 in a row before beating Michigan State for the first time of the season.
Two months later, Indiana has taken an entirely different trajectory than when they last played Illinois. Now both of these teams are littered with losses in conference play with a few marquee victories against ranked teams. The Fighting Illini have defeated both No. 13 Maryland and No. 9 Michigan State at home since these teams last met while the Hoosiers have defeated a ranked Wisconsin team and Michigan State (twice).
Indiana just came out of arguably the biggest victory of the season when the Hoosiers needed it most. Having been on life support for a chance to make the tournament, pulling a victory was a crucial turning point in the season to bring this is to the spectrum of being a possibility. Most believe that the Hoosiers need to win against Illinois and Rutgers, and maybe a conference tournament game to get into the tournament. What is known though, it is going to be a matter of debate for weeks to come and people will be happy or disappointed either way.
Illinois is is 11-18 overall after they played the last place Northwestern team earlier this week. They seemed to be in control from the start of the game especially with the help of Andres Feliz, Ayo Dosunmu, Trent Frazier and Giorgi Bezhanishvili. All four of these players contributed over 10 points and as a team, they went an impressive 33-38 from the foul line in this physical match up. An interesting statistic is that all of the game’s final seven minutes’ points came from the foul line.
Illinois would still be considered another Quadrant 1 win for the Hoosiers as they are ranked 64th per Kenpom. It should be a relatively even match up between two teams that have shown moments of brilliance scattered among hardship throughout the season.
Here’s everything you need to know about this weekend’s contest:
Meet the Fighting Illini
- Leron Black – 6’7” / 230 lbs / Forward – Memphis, TN. Turned professional for Argentino de Junín of the Argentinian Liga Nacional de Básquet. Left as a Junior.
- Mark Alstork – 6’5” / 190 lbs / Forward – Dayton, OH. Only player to start all 32 games last year.
- Michael Finke – 6’10” / 235 lbs / Forward – Champaign, IL. Transferred to Grand Canyon University.
- Te’Jon Lucas – 6’1” / 180 lbs / Guard – Milwaukee, WI. Transferred to UW-Milwaukee to get closer to home.
- Mark Smith – 6’4” / 225 lbs / Guard – Edwardsville, IL. Transferred to Missouri.
- Greg Eboigbodin – 6’9” / 225 lbs / Forward – Benin City, Nigeria. Transferred to Northeastern.
- Matic Vessel – 6’10” / 215 lbs / Forward – Ljubljana, Slovenia. Struggled in his first year and decided to not return. Had 7 points and 13 fouls all season long.
- Clayton Jones – 6’0” / 190 lbs / Guard – Champaign, IL.
- Cameron Liss – 6’6” / 220 lbs / Guard – Northbrook, IL. Left the team in his junior year.
- Trent Frazier – 6’1” / 170 lbs / Guard / Sophomore – Wellington, FL. Leads the team with 15.9 ppg and 3 assists per game. Currently in 4th in the Big Ten in 3 pt %.
- Ayo Dosunmu – 6’5” / 185 lbs / Guard / Freshman – Chicago, IL. Five-star freshman guard that was #32 in the country. Has been instantly creating a positive impact for the team and the sole top 100 player that Underwood has recruited.
- Giorgi Bezhanishvili – 6’9” / 235 lbs / Forward / Freshman – Rustavi, Georgia. Freshman that has been a consistent starter for the Illini. Providing nearly 10 ppg as well.
- Aaron Jordan – 6’5” / 210 lbs / Guard / Senior – Plainfield, IL. One of two seniors on the team. Jordan has never been a consistent starter prior to this year.
- Da’Monte Williams – 6’3” / 200 lbs / Guard / Sophomore – Peoria, IL. Has been a more frequent starter as of late, replacing starter Kipper Nichols from the prior matchup with the Hoosiers.
- Alan Griffin – 6’5” / 180 lbs / Guard / Freshman – Ossining, NY. Started one game (against Xavier) this season after having several impressive outings early this season. Did not meet expectations and returned to the bench and averaging 8.3 mpg.
- Adonis De La Rosa – 7’0” / 260 lbs / Center / Graduate Student – Brooklyn, NY. Transfer from Kent State. Has had minimal impact thus far.
- Andres Feliz – 6’2” / 185 lbs / Guard / Junior – Guachupita, Dominican Republic. Has 7.5 ppg and started a handful of times. The star of the last game with the Wildcats, scoring a season high 26 points.
- Samba Kane – 7’0” / 220 lbs / Center / Freshman – Dakar, Senegal. Only 2.4 ppg and plays about 8 minutes per game.
- Tevian Jones – 6’7” / 205 lbs / Guard / Freshman – Chandler, AZ. Minimal impact from the player, but he is also now suspended and out indefinitely.
- Kipper Nichols – 6’6” / 220 lbs / Forward / Red Shirt Junior – Cleveland, OH. Has started most of the games this year and provided around 10 ppg for the Illini.
- Tyler Underwood – 6’2” / 180 lbs / Guard / Red Shirt Junior – Champaign, IL. Underwood’s son who transferred from Oklahoma State.
- Samson Oladimeji – 6’4” / 200 lbs / Guard / Junior – Rolling Meadows, IL. Gets a point every other game.
For Illinois, there are no significant injuries to report.
For Indiana, Jerome Hunter has declared his intention to sit out the rest of the year as a redshirt. Hunter suffered a leg injury which required surgery and has not seen the floor this season.
What to Watch for:
- Will the Hoosiers Carry Momentum? Indiana played one of their best performances of the season – apart from Marquette, maybe their best. Playing to that caliber, especially like they did in the second half, will be crucial to win out as many of the games for the season. It is difficult to pinpoint as to why this level of play was achieved, but the Hoosiers looked comfortable and appeared to finally be playing against the opponent rather than themselves. The Hoosiers shots that they were confident in taking and took appropriate risks. This development says a lot about Archie’s dedication to improving and utilizing the team to its fullest when it matters most.
- Will Justin Smith hit a post-birthday basketball hangover? To celebrate his birthday, Justin Smith had undoubtedly the best game of his career and carried the Hoosiers out of a hole when it mattered most. This opened up shots for the rest of the team and made the Spartans struggle to defend all the options. Spreading the court and utilizing the strengths of the entire team will be crucial going forward to allow the Hoosiers to use Romeo and Juwan to their fullest.
- Illinois’ Havoc Producing Defense Underwood has had plenty of doubters this season, much like Archie with their ability to lead a major basketball program. Underwood really creates a defense that forces teams to make bad decisions and end up digging themselves in a hole. For this reason, they are No. 1 in the Big 10 in creating turnovers and havoc in their competition. Last game, Illinois created 8 (and gave up 12), but forced Northwestern into a devastatingly high 27 fouls and 38 shots from the line. Coupled with nearly 87% from the line, it will put Archie Miller’s #1 free throw defense team in the country to the test.
- The Second Battle of the Border. We predicted the game will be especially interesting between the two play maker rookie guards Romeo and Dosunmu last time these teams met, and we were right. Combined they scored about 35% of the points during the matchup and made over 50% of their FG apiece. These two Jordan Brand Classic competitors will play against each other for maybe the last time this Thursday and will likely be the main talking points again. Romeo won the first match, but traveling to Illinois will give Dosunmu another opportunity to shine.
- Indiana needs to turn heads at least one more time. It is great to win. It is great to win another Quadrant 1 victory too. However, we need to make a few more statement wins to make the decision easier for the committee. Fortunately, they do not look at conference records for their candidates, but Indiana’s biggest conference win margin has been 8 points and this was against Illinois in January. Repeating this or improving upon it will give the Hoosiers a fighting chance.
How to Watch
|Date||Thursday, March 7th|
|Time||8:00 PM EST|