No. 17 Illinois prepares for huge test against No. 2 Texas at Madison Square Garden for Jimmy V Classic

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Sydney Laput

Senior guard Terrance Shannon Jr. dribbles the ball during the game against Syracuse on Nov. 29.

By James Kim, Assistant Sports Editor

No. 17 Illinois is headed to Madison Square Garden in New York, one of the most iconic venues in the NBA. The team’s opponent in the Big Apple on Tuesday night? A No. 2 Texas team that, despite currently being the second-highest rated team, has shown it is extremely capable of taking the No. 1 spot.

“(It is a) great opportunity,” said head coach Brad Underwood of the fixture. “Chris (Beard) does a great job at Texas. They’ve got tremendous talent, they’ve got a lot of people back and they’ve beaten some quality people already, so it should be a great matchup, one I’m looking forward to.”

Illinois is coming off a 71-66 road loss against No. 22 Maryland, who was moved up to No. 13 following the win. Despite clawing their way back toward the end of the game, the Illini were unable to complete the comeback against the Terrapins and endured their second defeat of the season. 

“We’re coming off a night that, to be honest, was very disappointing,” Underwood said. “I thought we took a pretty healthy shot from Maryland in the first half of that game, and we rallied. We played well after that, but we didn’t make plays to win a game. We made some foolish plays, stuff we’ve got to clean up.”

The Longhorns, on the other hand, are yet to suffer defeat in their six games during 2022-23.  Texas’ most recent matchup saw it beat then-No. 7 Creighton by a five-point result, 72-67.

Tuesday night will see Illinois and Texas take the floor against one another for the fifth time in history. The Longhorns lead the all-time series against the Illini 3-2 and won the last encounter in a 90-84 overtime thriller back in November 2010. 

Illinois has a chance to snap its two-game losing streak against Texas on Tuesday, but it needs its top performer in senior guard Terrence Shannon Jr. to continue playing in elite form. Shannon is currently the third-best scorer in the Big Ten and is averaging 19.9 points and 6.4 rebounds per game. He will likely play a huge role if the Illini manage to leave New York with a victory.

For those unfamiliar with the Jimmy V Classic, it is an event hosted by ESPN that pits some of college basketball’s top teams against each other to raise both money and awareness for cancer research. In addition to Illinois vs. Texas, this year’s edition of the event will also feature Duke vs. Iowa.

The Jimmy V Classic will be another great test for Illinois’ freshman players. The pressure of the event, the caliber of the opponent and the awe of the venue will all provide crucial experience for this younger squad. 

“It’s why we’re playing (Texas),” Underwood said. “You’re jumping both feet in. Jimmy V is probably the biggest event in college basketball until you get to conference tournaments and the NCAA Tournament. It’s a big event, it’s in the Garden, there’s four great teams for a great cause so let’s go. Let’s throw (the players) in and see if we sink or swim.”

The Illini and the Longhorns will tip off at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, with the game being broadcasted on ESPN.

 

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