Coming off a bounce back win against the Nittany Lions, the Illini (6-3) look to keep their momentum going with a home contest against the Hoosiers (5-3). Both squads come into the season with more to prove, as both would have likely been tournament teams last season, but were unable to see the payoff of their improved play in 2019-20.
These contests have been competitive in recent years, with the Illini winning 18 of the last 34 meetings since 2002. This one should be more of the same with star power and returning contributors for both teams, making this a must-see match up this holiday weekend.
The Illini were able to edge the Hoosiers in their last meeting, 67-66, at the State Farm Center. The Hoosiers were led by Aljami Durham (13 points), Trayce Jackson-Davis (13 points, 12 rebounds), and Rob Phinisee (10 points, 5 rebounds), all of whom return for the Hoosiers. Fortunately for the Illini, Ayo Dosunmu (17 points) and Kofi Cockburn (15 points, 6 rebounds) return for this matchup, although they will miss the steady contributions of Andres Feliz (15 points, 4 assists, 7 rebounds).
Indiana head coach Archie Miller had the Hoosiers poised for a NCAA Tournament berth last season (20-12, 9-11) and looks to do it again with many key returners and intriguing newcomers this season.
Players to Watch
Indiana star Trayce Jackson-Davis, who decided against jumping to the NBA after a solid freshman campaign (13.5 PPG, 8.4 RPG), has had a strong start building his draft stock so far in his sophomore season (21 PPG, 8.6 RPG). The 6-foot-9, 245-pound forward will challenge the Illini on the boards and give the Hoosiers a savvy scoring presence inside. 6-foot-8 redshirt junior Race Thompson (10.4 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 1.7 BPG) should pair well with Jackson-Davis inside to compete against Cockburn and Bezhanishvili for Illinois.
Indiana has also gotten solid contributions from Aljami Durham (9.8 PPG, 4.8 RPG) and Armaan Franklin (11.9 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 1.3 SPG), as well as Rob Phinisee (7.4 PPG). Phinisee and Durham provide stout perimeter defense as well and may give the Illini offense fits in this one. While relatively quiet to this point, 5-star freshman point guard Khristian Lander (2.9 PPG, 1.6 APG) is due for a breakout game.
What to Expect
Durham and Franklin should present outside shooting threats and create opportunities for bigs Jackson-Davis and Thompson inside for the Hoosiers. Cockburn and Bezhanishvili may see more court time together to counter their inside attack. Curbelo, Dosunmu, and Miller should present effective athletic counters on the perimeter for Durham, Franklin, and Phinisee. Lander and Curbelo will provide an intriguing, young backcourt matchup with the reserves, although Curbelo will have to move his feet better defensively, minimize his turnovers, and be mindful of foul trouble to stay on the floor. Both have something to prove coming in as highly touted point guards from the high school ranks.
Dosunmu and Cockburn should be the clear matchup advantages for the Illini in this one. Look for Thompson to take on Cockburn defensively to keep star Jackson-Davis out of foul trouble and conserve his energy to carry their offensive load. If Cockburn stays out of foul trouble and the Illini are able to get out in transition with Dosunmu leading the way for shooters Miller and Frazier, good things should happen for the Illini. Rebounds and free throws will be keys to victory in this one, as both teams are built on scoring inside the arc. Illinois’ stars and proven depth should win out against the Hoosiers.