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Five things to know about Illinois



Minnesota_13

Junior forward Juwan Morgan charges through Minnesota players for a basket during the Hoosiers' game against the Minnesota Gophers, on Friday at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. The Hoosiers beat the Gophers, 80-56. Evan De Stefano

As IU men’s basketball looks to build on the momentum it's created thanks to an easier, rest-filled portion of its schedule, Big Ten bottom feeder Illinois comes to Bloomington with the Hoosiers looking for revenge.

Exactly three weeks before Wednesday night’s game between the Hoosiers and the Illini, the two teams met in Illinois. The Illini were winless in the Big Ten while IU had won four of its last five games, but a late collapse cost the Hoosiers, who lost 73-71 on the road.

Illinois has since won another Big Ten game, but remain among the conference’s worst teams. Here are five things to know about the Illini:

Recent slide has Illini back at the bottom

Illinois followed up its first conference win against IU with a 31-point blowout of Rutgers, which pushed the Illini above .500 overall and gave them a 2-8 Big Ten record. Since then, Illinois has lost three in a row to move to 12-14 overall and 2-11 in conference.

Single digit losses against No. 8 Ohio State and Wisconsin were followed up by a 22-point loss against Penn State on Sunday, so things appear to be trending in the wrong direction again for Ilinois. With five games left and four of them looking to be quite difficult for the Illini, their regular season finale against Rutgers could be a battle to decide the Big Ten’s worst team.

Frazier’s on fire

For a freshman guard, Trent Frazier has been asked to do a lot for Illinois this season. He’s the team’s second-leading scorer and anchors the frenetic Illini defense that’s forced the fifth-most turnovers in Division I.

But in conference games particularly, Frazier’s done even more. He leads Illinois with 14.4 points per game in Big Ten play, and in his last nine games he’s averaged 17.3 points per contest. Against IU on Jan. 24, Frazier tied for a team-high with 19 points and had one stretch in the first half where he scored 13 straight for Illinois. If he has a repeat performance on Wednesday, it’ll make life tougher for the Hoosiers.

Illini still bringing the pressure

Last time out against Illinois and its in-your-face defensive style, IU turned the ball over 18 times. In the five games since, the Illini have forced 12.2 turnovers per game while the Hoosiers have averaged only 10 turnovers per game.

IU Coach Archie Miller said the Hoosiers were unable to match the energy level of the Illini in the second half of their previous meeting. He blamed that disparity for much of his squad’s turnover troubles. One would assume that there will be no such energy problems for IU playing inside Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall, but Illinois will still be getting after it on defense.

From bad to worse

A second-half spurt propelled the Illini over IU in January, but Illinois’ most recent game left coach Brad Underwood jokingly wishing that there was no such thing as halftime. Illinois played a miserable second half against Penn State on Sunday and was outscored 37-16 after the break.

“We’re a team right now that, just one mistake, and we hang our heads,” Underwood told reporters after the game.

Concussion puts Illinois starting lineup in question

Junior forward Michael Finke, Illinois’ tallest rotation player at 6-foot-10-inches, missed Sunday’s game against Penn State with a concussion and also did not practice Monday, Underwood told reporters.

Finke is averaging 9.6 points and 4.8 rebounds per game this season. Though he was virtually nonexistent against IU earlier this year, Finke makes up the bulk of what little size the Illini have in the paint. If he misses Wednesday’s game, a thin frontcourt would get even thinner for Illinois.

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