After the wheels appeared to be falling off in a bad loss against Northwestern just two weeks ago, the Illini have been on a resurgence offensively with impressive showings against Wisconsin, Nebraska, Michigan State and Minnesota.
The visiting Hoosiers on Thursday have had a similar story arc to their season, a team lauded with a great deal of early/preseason praise that’s had tough stretches and is still seeking some consistency.
They may have found some over a common foe in the Wisconsin Badgers as the Hoosiers got an impressive 63-45 victory to end a three-game skid, powered by a strong defensive showing with the Badgers finishing just 32% from the field and 20% from three. It will be clashing of styles as the Illini and Hoosiers will each look to set their tone with their respective play styles.
What To Watch For
For Indiana, it all starts and ends with star post player Trayce Jackson-Davis (17.4 PPG, 9.9 RPG, 2.9 BPG), who anchors the Hoosier attack inside offensively and defensively.
Freshman guard Jalen Hood-Schifino has made an impact early (13.4 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 4.5 APG) as a great secondary offensive weapon and playmaker for others.
Beyond their two leading scorers, the Hoosiers run a deep lineup with 9 players averaging double-digit minutes and 7 players scoring between 6 and 10 points per game. The Hoosiers have also flashed more 3-point shooting ability this season overall (37% as a team, 4 players shooting 40% or better), although they struggled with just 1-of-8 from three against the Badgers.
Overall, the Hoosiers share the ball well (21st in APG at 16.8) while being efficient with their offense (5th in field goal percentage at over 50%). Both UI and IU can block shots, second in the nation at 6.2 BPG for the Illini and 14th for the Hoosiers at 5.6 BPG, so winning the paint battle should be a contentious affair to keep an eye on.
Given the Hoosiers’ offensive efficiency powered by Jackson-Davis’ 58.9% field goal percentage, it will be interesting to see how the Illini’s strong defense (25th in the nation holding opponents to 39.35% shooting) will fare against his interior presence and the complementary scoring that Indiana brings.
Illinois needs to keep it up
Despite Skyy Clark’s absence, the Illini seemed to have found a better rhythm sharing the ball and generating better looks with more fluid movement and intentional dribble penetration on the offensive end. This better execution has helped them bring more energy and activity on the defensive end as well, getting back to more of what we saw earlier this season.
Since the lopsided free throw line numbers against the Wildcats, the Illini have also won the free throw battle in each of their last four contests, so continuing this trend with effective driving from the wing, along with Dain Dainja’s interior presence, will be key to continue putting pressure on defenses and getting Illinois some easy points at the line.
Other keys to victory for the Illini include continuing their run of effective offense with ball movement, cutting, rebounding, and good decision making while making things difficult for the Indiana interior attack with their length and activity on the defensive end. If the Illini can continue being disruptive defensively, efficient offense should follow and carry them to victory over the Hoosiers.