Illinois faces Iowa

By Lucas Deal

Illinois has only one home game remaining. Dee Brown and James Augustine need only one win to set the school’s career wins record.

Could it really have set up any better?

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Brown and Augustine will be given the chance to set the ultimate record on Saturday, when the Illini welcome Big Ten leading and 20th-ranked Iowa to the Assembly Hall in the teams’ home finale.

Over the past four seasons, Illinois has played 131 games. Brown and Augustine have started 130 and 128 of those games, respectively. They share an astonishing 110-21 career record.

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    But Saturday afternoon’s game should be far from an easy win. Iowa enters the matchup with a 20-7 overall record and a 9-4 conference mark, which ties Ohio State for the Big Ten lead. The Illini are 22-5 overall and 8-5 in the conference, one game back.

    The Hawkeyes also handed the Illini their first lost of the season, 63-48 in Iowa City on Jan. 7.

    Since the loss, Illinois has struggled to improve, a problem Weber thinks should have been resolved by now.

    “We haven’t grown as a team,” he said. “And we’ve got to grow pretty soon; otherwise the season is going to be history.”

    Growth hasn’t been a problem for Iowa. The Hawkeyes have a senior-laden team and receive solid contributions from five seniors: Jeff Horner, Greg Brunner, Adam Haluska, Doug Thomas and Erek Hansen, as well as junior Mike Henderson.

    “Brunner is one of the toughest guys in the league and Horner is a tough kid,” Weber said. “They have a Big Ten Championship on the horizon and they’re older guys. They’re hungry. We’re going to have to play at a high level to beat them.”

    The experienced Hawkeyes have also had success against the Illini in the past. In addition to their victory in January, they were one of only a few teams that played well against the Illini last season. They lost 73-68 in overtime to the Illini at the Assembly Hall last January and played well but fell 75-65 in Iowa City in February.

    That doesn’t mean Weber doesn’t think his team can win. He just feels it will be a harder game that it could have been if the team had progressed like he had hoped.

    “Right now, we’re just talking about surviving against Iowa,” he said. “We can’t look ahead, but I know it’s not going to be easy. If we don’t play with (intensity), it could be a long game.”