The Hoosiers will look to avoid their first losing streak of the season on Saturday afternoon.
IU responded after losses to Texas and Florida State, but the task will be tall to avoid an 0-2 start in Big Ten play.
Illinois opened the season as one of the favorites to win the league.
Although they have hit some speedbumps of their own, the Illini certainly look the part of a really tough out on the road.
GAME DAY ESSENTIALS
Indiana (5-3, 0-1) at Illinois (6-3, 2-1)
- Tip time: Saturday / 4:00 p.m. ET
- Location: State Farm Center, Champaign, Illinois
- Television: FS1 (Brandon Gaudin and Stephen Bardo)
- IU Radio Network (Don Fischer, Errek Suhr, Joe Smith)
- Series: Indiana leads 93-88 (Illinois won last meeting 67-66 in 2020)
- Point Spread: Illinois is a 6-point favorite
- KenPom has No. 7 Illinois by 5 points over No. 22 Indiana
Illinois’ Brad Underwood has a 162-79 (.672) career record in eight seasons including a 53-52 (.505) mark in four years with the Illini. Watch him discuss the game here.
Indiana likes to play a three-guard lineup, but the Hoosiers desire to play even that big will be tested.
Illinois has been starting a four-guard lineup around center Kofi Cockburn.
The Likely Starters
Pos. No. Name Ht. Wt. Yr. PPG RPG APG
G 11 Ayo Dosunmu 6-5 200 Jr. 23.4 7.8 5.2
G 1 Trent Frazier 6-2 175 Sr. 9.6 3.0 2.9
G 44 Adam Miller 6-3 180 Fr. 9.8 1.9 1.0
G 20 Da’Monte Williams 6-3 215 Sr. 6.4 5.3 2.1
C 21 Kofi Cockburn 7-0 285 So. 17.4 9.3 0.1
Pos. No. Name Ht. Wt. Yr. PPG RPG APG
G/F 3 Jacob Grandison 6-6 205 r-Jr. 2.9 2.8 0.8
G 5 Andre Curbelo 6-1 175 Fr. 10.4 3.3 4.3
F 15 Giorgi Bezhanishvili 6-9 245 Jr. 7.1 3.7 0.7
F 33 Coleman Hawkins 6-10 215 Fr. 0.8 1.0 0.7
- Illinois is No. 7 in the latest kenpom team rankings, the program’s highest mark since Dec. 8, 2010 (also 7th)
- They are fifth in kenpom offensive efficiency. That is the program’s highest rating since the 2005 NCAA Runner-Up squad had the nation’s No. 3 offense.
- Illinois is eighth in the NCAA in field goal percentage (.539) and fifth in 3-point field goal percentage (.436). Last season the Illini were 294th nationally in 3FG percentage (.309).
- Illinois’ three losses were away from home to teams currently ranked in the top 14 with a combined record of 18-1.
- Leading the Illini is preseason All-American Ayo Dosunmu. Owning early-season numbers of 23.4 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 5.2 assists per game, Dosunmu is the only player in the nation currently averaging at least 20 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists.
- Kofi Cockburn is averaging 24.3 points and 10.3 rebounds in Big Ten play while shooting 71.4% (30-42).
- Da’Monte Williams is fourth nationally in 3-point shooting (min. 10 attempts), connecting on 14-of-20 for 70% accuracy. Williams entered his senior season as a career 27.8% shooter behind the arc.
- Andre Curbelo has 22 assists over the last three games, leading the Big Ten in league play at 7.3 apg.
MILLER NOT FOOLED BY ILLINOIS’ THREE EARLY LOSSES
There is no doubt about it — Indiana’s loss to Northwestern in its Big Ten opener was a disappointment.
But the teams that learn how to put losses behind them fast and move on will be in the best position to survive in a league that is talented from top-to-bottom.
“You have to absolutely have a tunnel vision about how you approach these next 60 days,” head coach Archie Miller said earlier in the week. “You’re going to play 20 Big Ten games in two months. We’re skipping Christmas and going all the way through and it’s going to be a mental challenge to not break down when things aren’t going well or aren’t going your way as an individual and as a team.
As bad as IU felt on Wednesday night, they can completely flip the script with a win against a top-20 team on the road.
The losses are going to happen to everyone. Last year the first place teams in the Big Ten had six of them.
Miller believes the teams who don’t allow themselves to be steamrolled by one disappointing loss will come out on top.
“I think the team that has the big picture and the long game in their mind that it’s one day at a time, one game at a time has a chance to have really monumental wins,” he said.
Illinois has already dealt with some of those early challenges.
The Illini started the season in the top-ten but have suffered three early season losses to Baylor, Missouri and Rutgers.
“I think they’ve played a really difficult schedule,” Miller said. “If you look at their losses, they’ve lost at Rutgers which is a hard of a team you’re going to play in their building, they’ve lost at Missouri which is a rivalry game, which could have went either way and they lost to Baylor, who arguably may be the No.1 team in the country early.”
Illinois looks to get out and run on the offensive end. In fact, head coach Brad Underwood talks about scoring in the first seven seconds of possessions.
With four fast guards normally on the court, Illinois’ adjusted tempo is near the top of the Big Ten.
“Their offensive attack in transition with the perimeter guys is as good as it’s going to get in the country,” Miller said. “Ayo Dosunmu is one of the best players in all of college basketball in terms of on the perimeter as a one-on-one player as a transition player. His size is problematic for any guard.
“But they have a slew of other guys – two freshmen in Andre Curbelo and Adam Miller have added another two weapons on the outside. Adam Miller can really shoot and Curbello is a really crafty point guard. Then Trent Frazier is back and is now a senior. We’ve known Trent Frazier for a long time now, he can really fill it up as well behind the three. They can hit you from both ways – they play around Kofi (Cockburn) inside and you have to find a way to deal with him. Then their perimeter guys are really, really aggressive and attack-oriented off the perimeter.”
IU forward Race Thompson will be interesting to watch in this one. He will have a tough matchup on the defensive end when Illinois is playing four guards, but Thompson will have a size advantage that IU could exploit on offense.
Illinois forward Giorgi Bezhanishvili may see an expanded role to counteract Thompson, while IU reserve guards Trey Galloway and Khristian Lander should get heavy workloads to deal with Illinois’ four guard looks.
With Illinois’ offense difficult to stop, IU is likely going to have to score a lot of points to keep up. And to do that the Hoosiers will have to get past Kofi Cockburn.
The 7-foot Cockburn was a major force against Indiana last season on the defensive end. He patrolled the paint and ended up with six blocks on the early March afternoon.
Miller has seen other teams try to counteract Cockburn’s shot-blocking ability by pulling him out of the lane.
“I think when Illinois has seemed to struggle, it seems the teams that have had some success against them are really trying to put Kofi in a lot of tough spots to try and bring him away from the basket as much as they can,” Miller said. “Or put him in ball screens to bring him up away from the basket and teams are having some success with that.”
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