Illinois men’s basketball hits the road for Saturday afternoon contest with Indiana


Cameron Krasucki

Senior guard, Da’Monte Williams, attempts to block a pass by Wisconsin forward, Johnny Davis, during the game on Wednesday. Illinois heads to Bloomington, Indiana to play against the Hoosiers on Saturday.

By Jackson Janes, Sports Editor

Coming off his best performance of the season, junior center Kofi Cockburn and the No. 18 Illini will head east to Bloomington, Indiana, to take on the Indiana Hoosiers on Saturday afternoon.

Illinois sits atop the Big Ten standings with a 9-2 record, while Indiana boasts a 7-4 conference record, though it has wins over Purdue and Ohio State on its resume. Both wins have come at home at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall, and the Hoosiers’ sole home loss came at the hands of the Michigan Wolverines on Jan. 23.

“They’ve got a lot of veterans; they’ve got a lot of guys back,” said head coach Brad Underwood. “(Head coach) Mike (Woodson)’s doing a great job of adding his spin to this team. This is a team that’s playing really fast; they’re great in transition. They’ve got a little bit of a Michigan State feel to me in terms of what they’re doing defensively.”

Both the Illini and Hoosiers are riding winning streaks, with Illinois coming off a dominant 80-67 wn over No. 18 Wisconsin on Wednesday, a game in which Cockburn commanded the paint, scoring 37 points and grabbing 12 rebounds.

Indiana has a counter to Cockburn in unanimous preseason All-Big Ten selection and 6-foot-9-inch junior forward Trayce Jackson-Davis, who is averaging a team-high 18.3 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.7 blocks while shooting 60.1% from the field.

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Redshirt senior forward Race Thompson is also having a big year for the Hoosiers, registering a career-high 11.4 points, 7.7 rebounds and 1.7 assists. 

The Hoosiers added several players in the transfer portal, including three of its starters: redshirt senior guard Parker Stewart from UT Martin, senior forward Miller Kopp from Northwestern and senior guard Xavier Johnson from Pitt. Underwood acknowledged the impact that the trio has already had on this Hoosier program.

“The portal has been great to them,” Underwood said. “Obviously Miller Kopp coming from Northwestern, Parker Stewart and Xavier Johnson. Xavier’s playing great.”

Indiana is one of the best defensive teams in the conference, currently averaging a conference-best 63 points per game, while Illinois ranks third in the Big Ten in scoring with 77.3 points per game. 

The Illini defense has dominated during the team’s three-game winning streak, with fifth-year senior guards Da’Monte Williams and Trent Frazier leading the way.

In Illinois’ 56-55 win over No. 10 Michigan State on Jan. 25, the pair held Spartan freshman guard to just two points on 1-8 shooting, and junior guard Boo Buie had nine points on 3-11 shooting while being guarded by the duo in the Illini’s 59-56 at Northwestern on Jan. 29.

Against the Badgers and National Player of the Year candidate sophomore guard Johnny Davis on Wednesday, Williams held him to a 5-19 shooting night despite him scoring 22 points, half of which came from the free-throw line.

“I think we’ve got a couple of elite guys in ‘Monte and​​ Trent, and I think other guys are starting to follow into that; Kofi’s really good as well,” Underwood said. “We’re starting to play our best on that end of the court, and it does take some time.”

In a battle between one of the top offensive squads and the best defensive team in the Big Ten, Underwood knows his program has to do all the little things right to leave Bloomington with a win.

“We’re gonna have to work harder on offense,” Underwood said. “We’ll have to be great in transition. We’ll have to be physical on the boards.”

Tipoff is scheduled for 11 a.m. from Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall in Bloomington.



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