Illini face difficult road test

Michigan guard Daniel Horton (4) goes for the ball as Illinois guard Dee Brown (11) tries to lay it up against Michigan at Assembly Hall on Saturday. Brown went 6 for 17 and contributed 26 points to the 79-74 Illinois victory. Adam Babcock

Michigan guard Daniel Horton (4) goes for the ball as Illinois guard Dee Brown (11) tries to lay it up against Michigan at Assembly Hall on Saturday. Brown went 6 for 17 and contributed 26 points to the 79-74 Illinois victory. Adam Babcock

By Courtney Linehan

After moving to 2-1 in conference play with a win against Michigan on Saturday, Illinois men’s basketball hopes to conquer another ranked opponent when it faces No. 13 Indiana tonight in Bloomington.

When the Illini (16-1, 2-1) step into the other Assembly Hall, they’ll have a four-guard offense and a tough home-court advantage to overcome as they work to stay among the top teams in the Big Ten.

Indiana (10-3, 2-1) comes into the game fresh off an 87-73 loss against Michigan State. The Hoosiers have had almost a week to rest since the game, and are hungry to stay above .500 in the conference.

But with an injury benching sophomore forward D.J. White, Indiana’s shifted lineup will create mismatch problems for Illinois.

“With D.J. White being out, they have a four-guard offense with (Robert) Vaden at the four, so that’s definitely going to be a concern,” Illinois forward Warren Carter said.

The Illini are also worried about controlling big man Marco Killingsworth, who leads the Hoosiers with 20 points and 7 rebounds per game. Illinois coach Bruce Weber coached Killingsworth on the Big Ten team that competed in Europe this summer, and said the powerful senior is one of his biggest concerns.

“He has great balance, a wide body, good skills, a lot of confidence,” Weber said. “He’s so natural, he does a sigma, a square-up. He’s got the little spins and the hooks. He’s got a great college game.”

Weber worries that if Killingsworth plays at the level that’s become typical of him, the Hoosiers could prove tough competition in both the Big Ten and the national postseason.

“They’re good. They can make a run at the league and the NCAA.”

As for the Hoosiers, their biggest concern is a common one among Illini opponents: shutting down Dee Brown. Indiana knows Brown is a strong player with speed, agility and a solid shot, and hopes to control the star senior.

The responsibility will likely fall to 6-foot-3-inch junior guard Earl Calloway to see if he can run with Brown.

“I just need to focus on bumping up my game another level and be as quick as I can be,” Calloway said. “I just need to give him a little room, but not too much because he is also a good shooter. Keep a hand up and stay back enough that I can react when he drives to the basket.”

While Illinois’ success will likely hinge on how well Brown and fellow senior James Augustine play, the Illini will be stronger if the underclassmen play clean, solid ball and keep up with the more experienced Hoosiers. Carter said his team is more worried about taking care of its own play, and hopes that will secure another victory.

“It’s still about Illinois basketball,” Carter said. “As long as we keep doing what we’ve been doing through our last 17 games we should be all right.”