Hill, seniors ready to make final push for postseason berth

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Austin Yattoni

Illinois’ Malcolm Hill drives to the basket during the game against Northwestern on Tuesday. Hill is now in sixth place on Illinois all-time scoring list.

By Lucas Wright , Staff writer

The Illinois men’s basketball team has worked its way up to a defining game on its schedule.

At 6-9 in conference play, the team has three games left in the Big Ten season, meaning it has to win out to avoid back-to-back losses in the Big Ten season. The Illini take to the road this weekend for a matchup with Nebraska, a team currently at 6-8 and stuck in the middle of the Big Ten pack with Illinois.

The Illini have the benefit of getting the Cornhuskers on a short turnaround. Nebraska faces off with Michigan State on the road Thursday before heading back to Lincoln for its matchup with the Illini on Sunday.

The Nebraska squad is one focused heavily on building its offense around two star guards. Senior Tai Webster and sophomore Glynn Watson Jr. have led the way on the offensive. The combo has averaged over 30 points per game combined, while no one else on the team is averaging in double figures.

Illinois is coming off its best defensive performance of the season, holding Northwestern to 50 points. The Illini held Scottie Lindsey, Vic Law and Bryant McIntosh to 21 total points on 7-for-32 shooting in the team’s last defensive showing.

While not forcing a multitude of turnovers, this Illinois team proved Tuesday that it can put together strong half-court defenses over long stretches of the game. The next step will be to develop the consistency on the defensive end that the team has been looking for all year.

Hill continues moving up among the all-time scoring leaders

Senior Malcolm Hill joined another Illinois great in sixth place on the all-time scoring list Tuesday. With 18 points, Hill moved into a tie with Demetri McCamey at 1,718 points.

Eighteen more points could bump Hill into the No. 5 spot, as he currently trails Cory Bradford by 17 for fifth all-time. While Bradford’s fifth place as well as Brian Cook’s fourth place spots should be reachable for Hill, he will have to pick up the scoring pace if he wants to catch Dee Brown in the No. 3 spot.

Illinois survives injury scare

In the first half against Northwestern, one of the Illini’s best three-point shooters — Jalen Coleman-Lands — went down with an injury on the defensive end.

Coleman-Lands was slow getting to the offensive end of the floor, but made it through nearly a minute of game time before being subbed out. He was sent to the locker room but was back on the bench cheering on his team in the second half.

“It’s an ankle sprain, and the fortunate thing for us is that we don’t play til Sunday,” Groce said. “Hopefully we’ll get him back for the game. It looks optimistic that we will based on how it looked after the game and what the doctors told me.”

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