Iowa (15-13) at Illinois (16-12)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Sunday February 26th, 6:00 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Assembly Hall (16,618) -- Champaign, Illinois. Television: Big Ten Network. Home Record: Iowa 13-5, Illinois 12-3. Away Record: Iowa 2-7 Illinois 2-7. Neutral Record: Iowa 0-1, Illinois 2-2. Conference Record: Iowa 7-8, Illinois 5-10. Series Record: Illinois leads, 80-66.
GAME NOTES: The Iowa Hawkeyes will try to continue their late season push tonight as they head to Assembly Hall to battle the Illinois Fighting Illini in Big Ten Conference action.
This will be the 147th meeting in history between Iowa and Illinois. The Fighting Illini hold an 80-66 lead in the all-time series after being victorious in the last six encounters. Illinois has won 10 in a row at home versus the Hawkeyes.
Head coach Fran McCaffery has seemed to have found a way to properly motivate his team. Iowa rebounded from a short two-game losing streak with back-to-back wins over ranked opponents. The Hawkeyes downed Indiana, 78-66, last Sunday before edging Wisconsin, 67-66, on Thursday night to improve their overall record to 15-13. Iowa has shot 50 percent or better from beyond the arc in each of its upset victories. The Hawkeyes are 7-8 in league action with three games left to play. Iowa has produced 73.3 ppg on the offensive end, which ranks third in the Big Ten.
Matt Gatens has been incredible during Iowa's short two-game winning stream. The senior guard set a new career-high with 30 points in the victory over Indiana, which he then followed with 33 points against Wisconsin, the nation's stingiest defense. Gatens was 7-of-10 from three-point range his last time out to power the victory. Roy Devyn Marble has been helpful for Gatens, as he is averaging 11.1 points and 3.7 assists per game this season. Aaron White will battle the Badgers' bigs inside. White is providing 10.4 points and 5.6 boards per game in his rookie campaign.
After being ranked in the top 25 a little over a month ago, Illinois has completely fallen apart. Head coach Bruce Weber's squad saw its overall record drop to 16-12 on Sunday after an 83-67 setback courtesy of the Ohio State Buckeyes. The sixth straight loss for Illinois was caused by Ohio State's net scorching 65 percent shooting from the floor in the contest. With the team's recent collapse, Weber's future with the team is in jeopardy despite a great deal of success during his tenure with the program. The final leg of their journey is not going to be any easier, as the Fighting Illini have to face two ranked opponents in their final two games following tonight.
Illinois will need its three-headed monster of Brandon Paul, Meyers Leonard, and D.J. Richardson to return to its strong play from earlier this season if the team is going to make any type of run this postseason.. The Illini's leading scorer Paul's 43-point night against Ohio State on Jan. 10th seems like a distant memory after he netted 11 points total on 3-of-16 shooting from the floor over his last two games. Leonard has established himself as one of the top centers in the nation with averages of 13.1 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 2.0 blocks per contest. The Fighting Illini have the talent, but they well need to pull it all together in a hurry as their season slips away.
It is hard to watch Illinois as it continues to unravel. Gatens has been sensational as of late, but both of Iowa's big wins have been at Carver- Hawkeye Arena. The Fighting Illini are going to have to give a spirited effort on the defensive end in order to ground the Hawkeyes.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Illinois 70, Iowa 68
02/26 10:31:24 ET