Indiana Daily Student

IU, Illinois meet still in the process of reinventing lineups

Freshman Emmitt Holt celebrates with Troy Williams after Williams dunked the ball in IU's game against Penn State on Tuesday.
Freshman Emmitt Holt celebrates with Troy Williams after Williams dunked the ball in IU's game against Penn State on Tuesday.

Shutting down senior guard Tracy Abrams after he tore an ACL before the start of the season was cause for concern at Illinois.

Losing Rayvonte Rice—the senior guard who largely replaced Abrams—the first week of January was yet another potentially crushing setback.

IU (13-4, 3-1) will play a new-look Illinois (12-6, 2-3) team relying on a bit more from everybody else Sunday when the Hoosiers and Illini take the floor at 1 p.m. in Champaign, Ill.

Illinois’ guard pair of sophomore Kendrick Nunn and junior Aaron Cosby are coming off their best games of the season, and maybe even careers, in a 72-67 win against Northwestern last Wednesday. The two combined for 44 points and committed a combined zero turnovers.

With or without Rice, Illinois’ remaining guards have shown no signs of laying down with IU coming to town.

“Well they’re a dangerous, dangerous team,” IU Coach Tom Crean said. “They’ve had different guys step up and make plays at different times in games because everybody can make a play…I don’t think that much has changed with Rice not being out there other than the fact that it’s another guy that is a bona fide shot maker.”

The injury situation in Illinois’ backcourt is not too unlike that of IU’s frontcourt.

The Hoosiers will be playing just their second game without junior forward Hanner Mosquera-Perea after he was ruled out “indefinitely” since he suffered a knee injury in practice Monday.

Even with two of its guards on the shelf with injuries, Illinois is still a guard-heavy team. Those guards primarily like to drive the ball into the lane and attack at the rim.

Last week, IU’s counter would have been Mosquera-Perea’s 7-foot-6 wingspan. That has since changed.

Without their starting center healthy, the Hoosiers are still searching for an answer in the middle knowing that teams like Illinois will be aiming to take advantage of a weakened interior.

“Well, that’s the million-dollar-plus question with our team right now, because we don’t have that great rim protection,” Crean said. “We’ll figure out early if they really want to attack the post.”

Sunday’s border-battle between Indiana and Illinois is one of two teams still searching for their identities after suffering major injuries.

Illinois has already managed to prove itself without Rice. The Illini are 2-1 without him with wins over Maryland and Northwestern.

Unlike Illinois, IU doesn’t have a clear-cut replacement for Mosquera-Perea on the bench. The Hoosiers still managed to pass their first test without him in a 76-73 win against Penn State at home Tuesday.

Moving forward, IU is going to be forced to go even more guard-heavy even more often. That puts increased emphasis on versatility and pressures IU’s guards to continue to be a factor on the glass.

“It’s going to be a big challenge without Hanner,” IU sophomore forward Troy Williams said. “We’ve already seen that. The way it is, more people have to step up. People will have to play more than just one or two or three positions. We’re going to have to be anywhere on the court.”

Three weeks ago, the IU-Illinois matchup would have looked much different. Three months ago, even more so.

But as it is, the Hoosiers will continue moving forward without Mosquera-Perea as they look to remain as one of the final four one-loss teams in the Big Ten against an Illinois team looking to remain undefeated at home.

“I think their team is really good and I think everybody knew they would be good, and they’re playing with a lot of confidence right now,” Crean said. “Certainly it’s always a big game when Illinois has a home game, but they’re always well aware of when Indiana is coming to town.”

Like what you're reading?

Get more award-winning content delivered straight to your inbox. Sign up for our Weekly Recap.

Signup today!
Like what you're reading? Support independent, award-winning college journalism on this site. Donate here.

Powered by Solutions by The State News
All Content © 2023 Indiana Daily Student