Illinois (21-9) at Iowa (18-11)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Tuesday, March 5, 7:06 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Carver-Hawkeye Arena (15,500) -- Iowa City, Iowa. Television: Big Ten Network. Home Record: Illinois 12-4, Iowa 14-2. Away Record: Illinois 5-4, Iowa 2-8. Neutral Record: Illinois 4-1, Iowa 2-1. Conference Record: Illinois 8-8, Iowa 7-9. Series Record: Illinois leads, 80-66.
GAMES NOTES: A two-game road trip is all that's left on the schedule for the Illinois Fighting Illini beginning with the tough Iowa Hawkeyes in a Big Ten Conference tilt at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Tuesday night.
It's been an up and down year for Illinois which stormed out of the gates and rose into the national rankings but then fell on hard times once Big Ten play began. The Illini have found a second wind down the stretch however, with victories in six of their last seven games. Illinois is now 21-9 overall, while owning an even 8-8 split in league play. Illinois is probably in the NCAA Tournament field at this point but a win in this game and the regular-season finale against No. 14 Ohio State would only help.
Iowa also opened up the season well with wins in 11 of its first 13 games. However the Hawkeyes ran into a wall once Big Ten play started and have dropped to 18-11 overall. The Hawkeyes are a game behind both Illinois and Minnesota with a 7-9 record against Big Ten opponents with the most recent result a 73-60 setback on the road against then No. 1 Indiana. This is the first half of a two-game homestand for the Hawkeyes who wrap up the season on Saturday against Nebraska.
This is the first and only scheduled meeting between these teams this season. There last meeting ended in a 64-61 victory for the Hawkeyes in last year's Big Ten Tournament. Illinois had won seven straight previously and leads the all-time series, 80-66.
Illinois is coming off a bout with the Cornhuskers that ended in a 72-65 victory for the Illini. Tracy Abrams came off the bench to score a team-high 16 points to pace five players in double figures. Myke Henry also had a nice game off the bench with 12 points, while coming a rebound shy of a double- double.
Abrams is one part of a three-headed backcourt for Illinois that has carried it this season. Brandon Paul (16.1 ppg) leads the attack as the most talented and versatile scorer on the roster. Abrams (10.8 ppg, 3.4 apg) generally takes a backseat as more of a facilitator, while D.J. Richardson (12.8 ppg) is a sparkplug from beyond the arc, but can score in other ways as well. Frontcourt production has been lacking with Tyler Griffey (7.2 ppg, 3.4 rpg) and Nnanna Egwu (6.7 ppg, 4.5 rpg) the top contributors. As a team the Illini are scoring a respectable 70.8 points per game, but assisting on a league low 10.7 field goals per game. That is the lowest mark in the conference as is their rebounding totals (34.1 pg).
Iowa dug itself into a deep hole against the Hoosiers and not surprisingly was unable to get back in range in Bloomington. Roy Devyn Marble scored a team- high 20 points in the setback but the Hawkeyes turned the ball over 19 times while being outscored 29-17 from the free-throw line.
The inside-outside pair of Devyn Marble (14.2 ppg) and Aaron White (13.7 ppg, 6.2 rpg) has kept the Hawkeyes afloat. At 6-foot-6, Devyn Marble has the type of frame to score anywhere on the floor. He has scored in double figures in seven straight games and reached to 18 in six of those contests. White is the leading rebounder for the Hawkeyes, who rank 16th nationally on the boards (39.4 pg). Offensively the Hawkeyes are putting in a solid 70.9 points per game primarily by sharing the ball well as a team. The Hawkeyes lead the Big Ten in assists (15.1 pg). On defense the Hawkeyes are solid, holding teams to less than 40 percent shooting.
Though they have certainly not been one of the teams in the upper echelon of the stacked Big Ten, the Hawkeyes have been a tough out. That is doubly true at Carver-Hawkeye Arena where they have a 14-2 mark. If Iowa can utilize its advantage inside and force Illinois to take shots from the perimeter, this homestand may get off on the right foot.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Iowa 71, Illinois 67
03/05 10:46:22 ET