The #18 Fighting Illini head to Bloomington on Saturday after a huge win against Wisconsin that returned Illinois to the top of the Big Ten standings.
The Hoosiers are also playing good basketball as of late, having won 3 of their last 4 games, including a thriller against top ten Purdue at home.
Let’s take a look at a few things to keep in mind ahead of this matchup.
Illinois beat Indiana in Bloomington 75-71 in a game that went into overtime last season. The Illini came away with the victory despite a rough outing for Ayo Dosunmu, who only made 2 shots from the field and later fouled out.
Trent Frazier went on a 10-0 run by himself to get the game to overtime and led the team in scoring with 19 points, shooting 45% from the field.
Things to Watch Out For
The Illini’s primary focus on Saturday will be containing the talented third-year forward.
TJD is having his best season to date for the Hoosiers, dropping 18.3 PPG at a very efficient 60+% from the field along with grabbing 8.5 RPG. Jackson-Davis is no slouch on the defensive end either and leads the conference in blocks per game.
In general, as TJD goes so do the Hoosiers, so look for them to lean on him early and often if they want to keep pull the upset at home.
This is the first time the Illini will be taking on the Hoosiers with Mike Woodson at the helm. Woodson, who played for IU under legendary coach Bob Knight, took over at his alma mater after Archie Miller was let go at the end of last season. He returned to Indiana after spending 25 years coaching in the NBA, most notably the head coach of the Atlanta Hawks and New York Knicks, who he took to the playoffs five times in nine seasons.
Woodson has brought some stability back to the program and has begun to instill the discipline and influence that he was well regarded for throughout his NBA coaching career. Under Woodson we can’t count on the same meltdowns and mistake prone basketball we’ve seen from Indiana the last few years.
Let Down Spot
This game has all of the characteristics of becoming a letdown spot for the Illini. We’re coming off a thrilling, physical game that gave the Illini sole possession of first place in the Big Ten, and the team is going into a hostile road environment at Assembly Hall.
If Illinois comes out flat or Kofi Cockburn gets into foul trouble against TJD, this game could spell disaster for Brad Underwood and Co. It also felt like the Illini let the cold-shooting Badgers linger in Wednesday’s game for way too long and didn’t put them away when they should have.
Indiana is a better perimeter shooting team than Wisconsin and if a couple of threes fall their way, it will be hard to regain momentum on the road.
On paper the Illini should be able to take care of business easily, but the Hoosiers are a quality team and it’s always difficult to play at Assembly Hall. It’ll be tempting to overlook them and look ahead to the Purdue game, but as we know anything can happen in conference play.