Changes in Groce’s rotation highlight Illinois men’s basketball win


Quentin Shaw

Illinois’ head coach John Groce watches from the sideline during the game against Minnesota at State Farm Center on Saturday. Groce’s eight-man rotation helped Illinois beat Northwestern in Evanston on Tuesday.

By Lucas Wright , Staff writer

For the Illinois men’s basketball team’s win over Northwestern on Tuesday, head coach John Groce once again shook up his rotation.

This time, he might have found something that can stick.

Groce played an eight-man rotation, with the exception of Aaron Jordan, who started but played only four minutes. Malcolm Hill and Maverick Morgan led the way in minutes with 36 each, but freshman Te’Jon Lucas logged 33 minutes. The point guard’s previous career-high was 27 last Saturday against Minnesota and Jan. 25 against Iowa.

Seniors and former starters Jaylon Tate and Michael Thorne Jr. did not play. Each have seen their minutes dwindling over the course of the season.

The eight-man rotation is the most consistent rotation seen out of Groce’s squad this year, and is possibly the first sign of Groce trying to slim down his rotations for the back half of conference play.

Finke continues to light it up in Big Ten play

Michael Finke is shooting at just under 55 percent from three-point territory in Big Ten play.

His sharpshooting ranks him within the top fifteen in the Big Ten. Finke’s three threes in the second half against Northwestern helped the Illini fight through a tough road win. Finke hit a three with just over 2:30 left to tie the game at 59.

“I feel good. I always say shooters shoot,” Finke said. “I just kept shooting and my teammates found me when I was open.”

Win against Northwestern gives Illinois a chance

The Illini’s next three games are against Penn State, Iowa and a Northwestern rematch. The Iowa game is the only one on the road, and Illinois has already beaten Iowa by double digits.

While it may seem like a long shot at this point, there are realistic scenarios where the Illini can fight their way back into the pack of the Big Ten standings.

Outside of the Northwestern rematch, Illinois does not play another team that is currently more than two wins ahead of them in the Big Ten standings.

Before the Illini’s recent losing skid, the team was in the conversation for the NCAA tournament, according to ESPN’s Joe Lunardi.

The team had hovered on the bubble before sliding down the charts recently, but could climb back with a strong finish in the Big Ten.

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