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Three things to know before IU men’s basketball plays at Illinois


Redshirt junior guard Johnny Jager wears his red Indiana jersey between the starting lineup Feb. 26 during the game against Wisconsin in Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. IU will face Illinois on March 7. Ty Vinson

The revival tour for this IU men’s basketball season continues on Thursday in Champaign, Illinois,as IU plays Illinois for the second time this season.

IU’s first game of 2019 came against Illinois on Jan. 3 inside Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. It was an eight-point win for the Hoosiers which featured a 28-point performance from freshman guard Romeo Langford. That remains tied for his highest scoring game this season.

Before the Hoosiers desperate late-season push toward an NCAA Tournament berth, here are three things to know for the matchup between the Hoosiers and Fighting Illini.

1. IU’s recent improved performances have all come at home, and not on the road.

Though the Hoosiers have had many spirited road efforts this season, the fact remains the team is 2-9 in games played outside the state of Indiana.

Those lone two road wins both came in conference play, at Penn State on Dec. 4 and at Michigan State on Feb. 2.

“We’ve got to approach things the same way we’ve been approaching things,” IU Coach Archie Miller said.

IU’s failures on the road have been a mixture of both close defeats and blowouts losses. Tight losses against Iowa and Maryland have come along with defeats at Michigan and Purdue in which IU struggled to remain competitive.

Illinois’ 1-8 road record is almost as bad as IU’s, and the 9-5 record at home posted by Illinois also isn’t quite as good as IU’s mark at Assembly Hall this season. The Fighting Illini have still managed some surprising home wins.

On Jan. 16 Illinois blew out Minnesota, a team which has defeated both IU and Purdue this season, by 27 points. On Feb. 5 Illinois beat then-No. 9 Michigan State by five.

The Fighting Illini will celebrate Senior Night on Thursday.

There’s a chance that Thursday night could mark the final home game for as many as five Illinois players.

Some players, like graduate center Adonis De La Rosa and senior guard Aaron Jordan, have exhausted their college eligibility. Elsewhere, a trio of juniors — forward Kipper Nichols, guard Drew Cayce and guard Tyler Underwood — may all also move on from playing basketball for Illinois after this season.

Of these five, Jordan and Nichols are the two most significant players. Jordan has started 27 of Illinois’ 29 games this season, leading the team with a 40.5 percent conversion rate on 3-pointers and second on the team in both rebounds per game with 4.8 and free-throw percentage at 79.2 percent.

Nichols only has 14 starts this season, coming off the bench in Illinois’ last 11 games. He, along with junior guard Andres Feliz and sophomore guard Da’Monte Williams, form a core group of three Illinois bench players who all average more than 18 minutes played per contest.

De’Ron Davis is healthy once again for IU.

After becoming a focal point of the IU offense, illness prevented IU junior forward De’Ron Davis from having the same positive influence on games last week.

Davis was initially in the IU starting lineup for last Tuesday’s win against Wisconsin, but became sick before the game and played just one first-half minute. Sophomore forward Justin Smith took Davis’ spot in the starting lineup for the Wisconsin game, and did the same for the Michigan State win where he had his best game as an IU player with 24 points.

Miller said Davis has recovered from his illness and returned “full go” to practice this week.

Davis played just eight minutes against Michigan State, and his usage against Illinois will affect whether redshirt freshman forward Race Thompson or redshirt senior forward Evan Fitzner get a chance to play.

After evaluating film from the Michigan State game, Miller said he should have played more players to give IU an energy boost, something that may come to fruition against Illinois.

“I don’t foresee the minutes of our frontcourt getting swayed one way or another,” Miller said. “I think going into this week, we’re hopeful that we can continue to have more guys step up and play.”

IU and Illinois will play at 8 p.m. Thursday inside the State Farm Center in Champaign, Illinois.

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