Illinois to host No. 5 Michigan at the State Farm Center Wednesday
December 11, 2019
Illinois men’s basketball suffered two straight losses, determined only by two points or less last week. After dropping the ACC/Big Ten Challenge to Miami, then giving up a lead to No. 4 Maryland, Illinois (6-3, 0-1) will host No. 5 Michigan (8-1, 1-0) Wednesday at the State Farm Center.
Michigan is in its first season under head coach Juwan Howard but has made large strides in the Big Ten so far. Returning stars Jon Teske, Isaiah Livers and Zavier Simpson have propelled the Wolverines to an AP Top 25 spot, after not being ranked through the first month of the NCAA basketball season.
The Wolverines will head into Wednesday night’s matchup off a Big Ten win against the Iowa Hawkeyes. Michigan beat Iowa 103-91 last Friday following a 58-43 loss to No. 1 Louisville.
Both the Illini and the Wolverines have four players averaging double-digit scoring, freshman Kofi Cockburn leading all players with 15.4 points per game. Livers is following closely with 15.1 point per game, but Cockburn’s biggest challenge will be Teske, Michigan’s 7-foot-1 center.
While Cockburn is averaging a double-double with 10.7 rebounds per game, Teske is close, averaging 14.1 points and 9.2 rebounds. In his final season at the collegiate level, Teske will challenge Cockburn with a different level of experience.
Simpson is another experienced threat Illinois will have to lock down as he is shooting 57% from the field and 44% from three-point range; however, the senior is averaging 3.8 turnovers per game. Immediately pressuring Simpson could give the Illini an early advantage as they average 16.2 points off turnovers.
Taking care of the ball will be a necessity for the Illini, as turnovers have been a recurring issue this season. The Illini turned the ball over about 16 times per game, allowing opponents to score 15 points off their miscues, on average.
Cockburn will focus on bringing the pressure in the paint, but Illinois’ guards most protect the perimeter as Michigan is the second-best three-point shooting team in the Big Ten. The Wolverines have a .399 percentage from behind the arc.
Livers is the Wolverines’ greatest outside threat, shooting 49% from three-point range and ranking fifth in the Big Ten. Junior Trent Frazier will give Illinois the best chance to match Livers’ efforts. Frazier has a 42.9 shooting percentage from three.
Illinois and Michigan will tip off at the State Farm Center at 8 p.m. on Wednesday.