The Illini go into Iowa City to take on the Hawkeyes in the latest edition of what has become a hotly contested rivalry over the last few years.
The Illini are riding a 4-game win streak (6-2 overall) and are coming off a win against Rutgers in their B1G opener. The Hawkeyes (7-1 overall) are coming into the game off of their first loss of the season to undefeated Purdue. The game will have a different look as its the first time they are facing off after the departures of Ayo Dosunmu and Luka Garza.
Here’s a few things to note before you tune into the game on Monday.
3 Things to Watch Out For
Murray has done his best to fill in the void left by Garza for the Hawkeyes. He’s the second leading scorer in the country at the moment and has been effective inside and out this year shooting 60% from the field and 35% from 3.
Keegan missed their last game against Purdue, but if he plays against the Illini, it’ll be important to keep an eye on his ankle.
Look for Kofi and the Illini frontcourt to play physical defense and test Murray every time down the court.
Illinois’ Perimeter Defense
Along with Keegan Murray the rest of the Hawkeyes have been playing well on offense as they lead the B1G with 91 PPG. A major aspect also been their 3-point shooting as they are 38% from deep while having the most 3-point shot attempts per game in the B1G.
Leading the Hawkeyes in perimeter shooting is super senior Jordan Bohannon. Throughout his time in Iowa City, Bohannon has been a threat from deep, shooting at least 38% from behind the arc each season. Along with Bohannon, Iowa also has Payton Sandfort and Kris Murray who have been shooting well from deep this year.
If Bohannon or the others catch fire early at home, the game can easily unravel and get out of hand. Illinois will have to use its wing depth to its advantage and defend the perimeter aggressively, leaning on Trent Frazier and Da’Monte Williams.
One of the reasons the Illini have been able to turn things around after the two game blip in November has been the emergence of Plummer. He’s shooting ~48% from three over the 4-game win streak and has provided a much needed outside threat that creates the spacing needed for the offense to function. If Iowa shoots well from deep, the Illini have to hope Plummer can keep pace with them.
The last time these two squads faced off was in the Big Ten Tournament Semifinal last season in Indianapolis; Iowa will be coming into the contest motivated to avenge that loss and show they are still a threat in the post-Garza era.
Let’s hope the Illini can continue to build on recent play and add to the winning streak against Iowa.