The Illini head to face one of their bitter rivals on Saturday as they take on the Iowa Hawkeyes at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Iowa comes into the contest at 14-8 overall and 6-5 in the Big Ten Conference and winners of six of its last eight games.
Iowa is led by 6-foot-8 junior Kris Murray, and if that name sounds familiar it should — his twin brother Keegan was the fourth overall pick in last year’s NBA Draft by the Sacramento Kings.
Kris is the Hawkeyes’ leading scorer at 20.6 points per game and is also averaging 8.8 rebounds a game.
Also leading the Hawkeyes is Filip Rebraca, a 6-foot-9 senior averaging 14.0 points per game and 8.5 rebounds; coach’s son Patrick McCaffery, now back from injury averaging 12.8 points, and junior Tony Perkins (10.5 points per game).
Like recent years, Iowa scores the ball the best in the Big Ten averaging 80.7 points while shooting at a 45.5% clip (sixth best in the conference), so the Illini defense, which has been stout of late, is going to have its hands full.
As well as Iowa scores the ball, they are at the exact opposite of defending it as they are giving up 73.0 points per game and letting other teams shoot at 45.3%, both of which rank last in the conference.
As far as shooting the all important 3-pointer, Iowa shoots it at 33.5% and lets opponents scorch the nets at 34.6% (also last in the Big Ten), so hopefully the Illini’s shooting woes can get back on track.
Despite its length, Iowa only averages 35.9 rebounds a game, which is 11th in the conference, so hopefully the Illini’s long front line can take advantage.
It’s going to be a feisty atmosphere Saturday as it always is.
Who can can forget Chin Coleman getting into it with a couple of Iowa coaches up there on Super Bowl Sunday a few years ago, and Ayo Dosunmu later in the year saying “We really don’t like those guys.”
Hopefully the Illini defense stays tough and the shooting stroke returns for the team, and the Illini can celebrate being ranked again come Monday.