IU basketball will try to build on its two-game winning streak when it hosts Illinois on Wednesday night.
TheHoosier.com has quick facts and gameday links posted below.
Tipoff: 8:30 p.m. ET
Radio: IU Radio Network
1) Illinois' defense
Admittedly, I probably underestimated the defensive abilities of Illinois freshmen guards Mark Smith and Trent Frazier. Both caused tremendous problems for Indiana in the second half because of their on-ball pressure, and I doubt that effort has curtailed despite the Fighting Illini's struggles this season.
2) Battle of the backcourts, Part II
In the first game, Indiana's senior-led backcourt of Josh Newkirk and Robert Johnson struggled against Frazier and Smith. Green's quickness should provide IU with a better matchup against Frazier both offensively and defensively, so I'm really curious to see how that matchup especially plays out.
3) Big Ten Tournament implications
A win over Illinois Wednesday night would secure Indiana a first-round bye in the conference tournament in two weeks. A loss to the Illini would be bad not only because of their record but because of the perceived missed opportunity at home.
Keys to the game:
Turnover battle – The Illini turn people over but often struggle with turnovers themselves. The Hoosiers are one of the nation’s leaders in turnover differential. The team that can create turnovers and then turn them into points will have a big advantage in this one. Illinois won the turnover battle in the first meeting by forcing 18 Hoosier miscues.
Nothing in the paint - This is not a very good shooting Indiana team outside overall, so you may see more zone from the Illini in this one to keep the ball away from Morgan and keep Black in the game on the interior. The pressure defense on the ball and denying reversals can happen in man to man, but they must limit the easy buckets off backdoor cuts and lobs. Indiana shot 20-29 from 2-point range in the first meeting. If Finke is unable to play, that shouldn’t hurt the defense, but it will hurt the offensive spacing.
Spread the floor – Someone has to be a threat from behind the arc. Illinois just can’t shoot, hitting just 29.5% from 3 in Big Ten play. Take away Trent Frazier’s 37% and Leron Black’s 50% and…ouch. Nichols 32% in conference, Alstork 22% overall, Finke 19% in conference, Jordan 36% in conference, Williams 7% in conference, Lucas 17% in conference, Smith 18% in conference…..ugh. Illinois has to find a way to make some shots. They are a better shooting team, and most of it is mental. They need to figure it out.
Brad Underwood has never coached inside Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.
But the Illinois coach once played inside the venerable arena while a member of Kansas State’s team in 1985. His thoughts?
“Great shooting gym,” Underwood said.
His Illini could certainly use the offensive boost.
While Indiana has suddenly found its stride through a new-look lineup, Illinois is slumping into Bloomington for Wednesdays 8:30 tip-off as losers of three straight.
Just like the Hoosiers earlier this season, the Illini are still searching for the right combinations and distribution of production.
Matters were complicated during practice this past weekend when redshirt junior forward Michael Finke suffered a concussion that kept him out of Sunday’s game against Penn State.
Indiana may have had two victories last week against lower-level Big Ten teams, but a statement was still made in many ways.
Primarily, it was that team defense has been turned up a notch, and it’s beginning to pay dividends.
In two games last week against Rutgers on the road and Minnesota at home — wins by 22 and 24 points — Indiana limited its opponents to 24- and 33-percent shooting.
The two teams were a combined 33-of-114 from the field (29 percent). They combined to shoot that same 29 percent from 3-point range.
It’s that kind of effort Indiana needs to see this week, beginning Wednesday night at home against Illinois, if the Hoosiers hope to continue to be in the upper half of the conference standings.