Illinois men’s basketball travels to Iowa City for first conference road game of season

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Cameron Krasucki

Guard Alfonso Plummer dribbles the ball during the game against Rutgers on Dec. 3. The Illini will be up against Iowa on Monday.

By Jackson Janes, Sports Editor

Head coach Brad Underwood has achieved a lot since arriving in Champaign: He turned a struggling program around to become a regular Big Ten powerhouse and guided the team to a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament and a conference tournament title last season.

Yet, there’s still something that he has yet to check off his Big Ten bucket list: beat Iowa at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City.

“It’s a great program; this year they’ve got a really good team obviously, and Coach McCaffery is a great coach,” said freshman Luke Goode. “I think Coach Underwood said he hasn’t won in there yet since he’s gotten the job, so that’s something that we take personally, and our team is ready for the challenge.”

Iowa (7-1 overall, 0-1 Big Ten) has started the season hot, opening the year with seven straight wins, including an impressive 75-74 win over Virginia on the road in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. That streak was snapped on Friday in the team’s conference opener, though, with the Hawkeyes falling to the No. 2 Purdue Boilermakers in West Lafayette.  

Illinois (6-2 overall, 1-0 Big Ten) put together one of its most impressive wins of the season on Friday in its Big Ten opener for its fourth straight win, taking down Rutgers at State Farm Center by 35 points without Preseason All-Big Ten sophomore guard Andre Curbelo.

Alfonso Plummer has emerged as one of the team’s most reliable scorers, as the Utah transfer is averaging 15.1 points per game, the second-highest mark on the team.

Underwood noted the team’s struggles with 3-point shooting last season, and Plummer has become the team’s most dangerous asset from beyond the arc, notching a team-high 24 treys on 42.1% shooting through eight games.

Iowa sixth-year redshirt senior guard Jordan Bohannon also provides a 3-point threat for the Hawkeyes, and he’s shooting 42.9% from deep thus far.

“It seems like he’s been there for forever, and again he hasn’t changed,” Underwood said. “He’s still the Big Ten’s all-time leading 3-point shooter for a reason.”

Though the Hawkeyes no longer have Big Ten Player of the Year and National Player of the Year Luka Garza and Joe Wieskamp, who were both selected in the NBA Draft, and CJ Frederick, who transferred to Kentucky, sophomore forward Keegan Murray has become a force for the Iowa on both ends of the court. 

Murray missed the team’s Big Ten opener against Purdue, but he will likely return on Monday. He is averaging 24.6 points per game, the second-highest mark in the country.

Underwood expects the Hawkeyes to provide a challenge despite missing several key contributors from the team the Illini beat by 11 in the Big Ten tournament semifinals last season.

“This is as athletic a team as there is in the Big Ten,” Underwood said.

Monday’s contest will be both teams’ final conference game of December, and it will tip off in Iowa City at 6 p.m. and will be aired on FS1.

 

@JacksonJanes3

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