PREVIEW: Illinois vs Iowa

Lead basketball reporter Derek Piper previews Illinois' matchup with Iowa on Sunday.

Illinois (11-12, 3-7) vs.

No. 5 Iowa (18-4, 9-1)

Date & Time: Feb. 7, 12:00 p.m. CT

Location: State Farm Center (Champaign, Ill.)


Quick Hits

  • Iowa is No. 5 in the AP Top 25 and they are tops in the Big Ten standings with only one loss.
  • Eight of the Hawkeyes' nine conference wins have been by double digits.
  • Iowa is off to their best start in Big Ten play since 1981-82.
  • The Hawkeyes are top-15 in the country in offensive (No. 6) and defensive (No. 12) efficiency.
  • Illinois is 82-70 all-time against Iowa, but they lost the last matchup 68-60 last February.
  • The Illini are 10-1 against the Hawkeyes in their last 11 meetings in Champaign.
  • Illinois forward Malcolm Hill (19.1 ppg) and Iowa forward Jarrod Uthoff (18.4 ppg) are top-three in the Big Ten in scoring.
  • The Illini are coming off a 110-101 win in triple overtime at Rutgers, which was their first triple overtime game since 1993.

Projected Starter

Khalid Lewis (GR): Lewis earned his first Big Ten start on Wednesday against Rutgers, and he played 46 minutes with nine points, eight assists and just one turnover. Lewis has 20 assists and six turnovers in Big Ten play.

Jalen Coleman-Lands (FR): Coleman-Lands scored a career-high 26 points at Rutgers, while going 6-of-14 from beyond the arc. The freshman guard has a knack for hitting big shots.

Kendrick Nunn (JR): Nunn was less than 100 percent on Wednesday with a hip contusion. He was just 3-of-13 from the field, but he managed to post a double-double with 10 points and 13 rebounds.

Malcolm Hill (JR): Hill stuffed the stat sheet against Rutgers, as he scored a team-high 32 points - including 10 points in the final overtime period. Hill also had 14 rebounds and five assists. He is the top scorer in the Big Ten.

Maverick Morgan (JR): Morgan stepped up with Michael Finke joining the street-clothes crew. He finished with a career-high 20 points, while going 10-of-13 from the field.


Michael Finke (R-FR): Finke sat out on Wednesday with a knee contusion that he suffered against Wisconsin. John Groce said on Saturday that Finke looked good in practice and that he looked capable of playing against the Hawkeyes on Sunday.

D.J. Williams (FR): Williams showed some nice flashes at Rutgers with six points, an assist and a block in 15 minutes. The Illini are hoping to see more of that going forward.

Aaron Jordan (FR): Jordan took just one shot on Wednesday, and he was scoreless in nine minutes of action. Jordan had three fouls, which limited his time on the court.

Jaylon Tate (JR): With Lewis taking the reins, Tate played just nine minutes against Rutgers. He finished with two points, no assists and no turnovers. That was the first game this season that Tate has played but failed to record at least one assist.

Alex Austin (R-JR): Austin hit both of his shot attempts against Rutgers, as he finished with five points in 14 minutes. Austin hasn't shot it well this season as a whole, but he has hit four of his last six three-point attempts.

Cameron Liss (SO): Liss did not play on Wednesday. He has appeared in two games this season.

Iowa Starters

Mike Gessell (SR): Gessell is a savvy veteran with 119 career starts. The senior point guard is averaging 8.4 points, 6.4 points and 3.5 rebounds per game. He is third in the Big Ten in assists per contest.

Anthony Clemmons (SR): Clemmons has taken a big step forward this season. He has more than doubled his points per game average (8.9), while shooting 45.8 percent from the field. Clemmons is also averaging 3.7 assists per game.

Peter Jok (JR): Jok has been a critical source of the Hawkeyes' surge this year. The 6-foot-6 guard is averaging 15.1 points per game, and he has shot 40.7 percent from three. Jok has averaged 19 points per game in his last seven Big Ten contests.

Jarrod Uthoff (SR): Uthoff has played his way into being the current favorite to win Big Ten Player of the Year. The senior forward is averaging 18.4 points, 6.2 rebounds and a league-leading three blocks per game. Uthoff has scored at least 20 points in half of Iowa's games this season.

Adam Woodbury (SR): Woodbury is averaging 8.4 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. He has upped his production on the glass of late. Woodbury has averaged 11 rebounds per game over the last five Big Ten contests.

Three Things I'm Looking For

1. Be the better duo. Illinois and Iowa each feature their own explosive scoring pair. Hill and Nunn average 36.4 points per game combined, while Uthoff and Jok average 32.5 points between the two. All four players are top-10 in the Big Ten in points per game. For the Illini to win this battle, they have to be better in a number of areas - and this is certainly one of them. Nunn has not looked the same since suffering a hip contusion last Sunday against Wisconsin. He has gone 8-of-27 (29.6 percent) from the field over the last two games. The Illini hope some time off from game action since Wednesday night's marathon will have Nunn ready to go.

2. Win the turnover battle. The Hawkeyes are the only team in the country that is top-15 in offensive and defensive efficiency. Based on definition, this is a group that doesn't make many mistakes. Iowa is fifth of all D-1 teams in turnover percentage, as they turn the ball over on just 14.2 percent of their possessions. The Illini are fourth on that list, and they'll need to take care of the ball and take it away at the other end. Between Illinois' three Big Ten wins, they have forced an average of 16 turnovers per game. That may not be an attainable goal on Sunday, but the more uncharacteristic mistakes they can force, the better.

3. Consistency from supporting cast. Regardless of the outcome, the Illini want to see their complementary pieces build off of their recent successes. Coleman-Lands has shown that he can be impactful scorer on the wing, but he has been up and down with his production. Prior to the game against Rutgers, Coleman-Lands had just two points against Wisconsin and he was held out of the starting lineup after violating team rules. It's no surprise that Coleman-Lands is capable of going off in any one game, but the next step is stringing those outings together. The same can be said of Morgan, who had the most points of his career against Rutgers. He was a standout in the win against Minnesota last month, but the Illini were beat up down low in the two games to follow. Sunday is a great opportunity for these two to show up against a tough test.


Upsets have run rampant in college basketball this season. On Saturday, No. 1 and No. 2 in the country went down on the road against unranked opponents. So there is at least the possibility that those in Champaign could see another one. Illinois is 3-12 against top-10 opponents under Groce, and they are 16-16 in home games against Big Ten foes. The Hawkeyes have been flying high this season, while the banged-up Illini haven't been so aerodynamic.

Iowa 82, Illinois 68

Illini Inquirer Top Stories