No. 11 Illinois men’s basketball takes on Arkansas State with injury statuses still unknown

Basketball+head+coach%2C+Brad+Underwood%2C+strategizes+with+the+team+during+the+JSU+game+on+Nov.+9.+The+Illini+will+be+up+against+Arkansas+State+on+Friday.+

Photo courtesy of Illini Athletics

Basketball head coach, Brad Underwood, strategizes with the team during the JSU game on Nov. 9. The Illini will be up against Arkansas State on Friday.

By Christian Jones, Staff Writer

The No. 11 Illini are at home for the second time this week as they face the Arkansas State Red Wolves Friday night at 8 p.m. They will attempt to win their seventh straight game at State Farm Center.

The Illini were victorious in their season opener against Jackson State on Tuesday, though it wasn’t a great showing for the No. 11-ranked team in the nation. 

They will again be without Kofi Cockburn, though the statuses of Trent Frazier, Andre Curbelo and Austin Hutcherson are unknown. When asked whether any of the three injured guards would play head coach Brad Underwood responded, “To be determined.”

“It’s a very good basketball team, a team that finished fourth last year in the Sun Belt, which is an extremely underrated conference,” Underwood said. “A team that’s got very good coaching. Mike (Balado) does a great job there.”

Arkansas State is spearheaded by a pair of scoring guards, Desi Sills and Marquis Eaton. Sills transferred to Arkansas State this summer after playing three years at the University of Arkansas. He led the Red Wolves in scoring in their season opener with 21 points.

“You add to them Desi Sills, who’s a player from Arkansas who had multiple 20-point games last year,” Underwood said. “A guy who’s a legit, high major talent and a guy who can go get baskets with the best of them.”

Eaton, a senior who’s played his entire college career at Arkansas State, averaged 14 points and five assists last season. He lead the team in scoring during the 2020-2021 season.

The Illini will have the most trouble with the Red Wolves big man Norchad Omier. As a freshman last year, Omier was second in scoring, averaging 12.6 points per game. He also led the team in rebounds and blocks with 8.3 and 1.4 per game, respectively.

Underwood expects Omier to take a big leap this year.

“They’ve got an interior threat that is capable of being the league MVP,” Underwood said. “Very bouncy, 6’8″, 250 pounds. Scores it, finishes everything at the rim. He’s got great touch. So, this is a basketball team that will play fast. They’ll throw a lot of defenses at us. We’ll see pressure.”

 

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