B1G TOURNEY PREVIEW: Illinois vs Iowa

Lead basketball reporter Derek Piper previews Illinois' matchup with Iowa in the second round of the Big Ten tournament on Thursday.

No. 12 seed Illinois (14-18) vs.

No. 5 seed Iowa (21-9)

Date & Time: March 10, 1:30 p.m. CT

Location: Bankers Life Fieldhouse (Indianapolis, Ind.)

TV: BTN

Quick Hits

  • The Illini are coming off an 85-52 win over Minnesota in the first round on Wednesday.
  • Illinois' 33-point win was the largest margin of victory against a Big Ten opponent since 2008.
  • The Illini are 3-3 in Big Ten tournament games under John Groce, and they are 26-16 all-time in the tournament.
  • Illinois is now 7-2 as a double-digit seed in Big Ten tournament play.
  • Iowa finished the regular season with a 71-61 win at Michigan last Saturday.
  • The Hawkeyes defeated Illinois 77-65 in last month's meeting, but they've gone 2-5 since then.
  • Iowa has won five of their last six meetings against Illinois.
  • The Hawkeyes haven't won a Big Ten tournament game since 2013.

Projected Starters

Khalid Lewis (GR): Lewis had four points, three assists and two turnovers in 15 minutes of action against Minnesota. He has shot 50 percent from the field (14-of-28) over the last seven games.

Jalen Coleman-Lands (FR): Coleman-Lands returned to his hometown on Wednesday, while posting 13 points, four rebounds and two steals. The freshman guard has shot 47.3 percent from three (35-of-74) since the beginning of February.

Kendrick Nunn (JR): Nunn bounced back from a pair of rough outings to close out the regular season in which he shot 5-of-23 combined. He had 15 points and went 6-of-8 from the field on Wednesday.

Malcolm Hill (JR): Hill made an impact in a variety of ways against Minnesota - totaling 14 points, six rebounds, three assists and three steals. Hill also had 14 points against Iowa earlier this season, but he'll likely need more this time around.

Maverick Morgan (JR): Morgan had nine points and four rebounds during Wednesday's win. He had a good showing against the Hawkeyes last month, as he totaled 10 points and seven rebounds.

Bench

Michael Finke (R-FR): Finke broke out of his Big Ten funk against the Gophers by posting a game-high 17 points and hitting five threes. He was 0-of-10 from three in the previous four games combined.

D.J. Williams (FR): Williams had two points, two rebounds and a steal in 13 minutes of action on Wednesday. He had one of his best outings of the season against Iowa last month with eight points and four rebounds.

Jaylon Tate (JR): Tate had three points, four assists and no turnovers in 25 minutes against Minnesota. That was the most minutes he has registered since the end of January. Tate hit a three against the Gophers, which gave him two triples on the season for the first time in his career.

Aaron Jordan (FR): Jordan made the most of his opportunity on Wednesday with a three and a dunk during his 12 minutes on the floor. Jordan did not play at all in Illinois' previous game at Penn State.

Alex Austin (R-JR): Austin was the only active Illini player who failed to score against Minnesota. He threw up an ugly air ball from three, but he did have three steals, two assists and two rebounds in 13 minutes.

Cameron Liss (SO): Liss scored his first career basket on Wednesday, which was also the first shot attempt of his career. He has appeared in four games this season.

Iowa Starters

Mike Gessell (SR): Gessell will make the 128th start of his career on Thursday. He is averaging 8.5 points and 6.2 assists per game this season, while shooting 37.5 percent from deep.

Anthony Clemmons (SR): Clemmons has scored in double figures in three of his last four games. He is averaging 9.3 points and 3.5 assists per game, while shooting 45.2 percent from the field.

Peter Jok (JR): Jok has been instrumental in Iowa's success this season, and he was rewarded with a second-team All-Big Ten selection. Jok is averaging 15.8 points per game this year, and he had a game-high 23 points against Illinois last month.

Jarrod Uthoff (SR): The first-team All-Big Ten forward is second in the conference with 18.8 points per game. Uthoff also averages 6.6 rebounds per game, and he is the Big Ten's leading shot blocker (2.7 per game).

Adam Woodbury (SR): Woodbury has turned into an animal on the glass by averaging more than 11 boards per game over the last 13 contests. He had 10 points and 14 rebounds in Iowa's win over Illinois back in Champaign.

Three Things I'm Looking For

1. Keep shooting with confidence. The Illini came out firing on Wednesday against Minnesota, and they set a Big Ten tournament record with 14 made threes. Illinois shot 53.8 percent from deep and 55.2 percent from the field overall. The ball movement was there, as they had 19 assists on 32 field goals. But at the same time, the Gophers didn't provide much of any resistance. Iowa will be a much stiffer opponent at the defensive end. In fact, the Hawkeyes are No. 1 in the Big Ten in three-point percentage defense (30.6 percent). But that doesn't mean the Illini should change their mindset. Finke and Nunn both broke out of shooting funks on Wednesday. They were 12-of-18 combined after going 5-of-28 in the previous two games. That was a much-needed boost of confidence, and they should come in feeling good on Thursday. Those two will be X-factors in this one.

2. Battle down low. Iowa had their way with the Illini on the interior in their first meeting. The Hawkeyes won the rebounding battle 43-to-32. They also had 26 second-chance points and 32 points in the paint. The battle between Woodbury and Morgan will be key in this one. Illinois has to clean up the defensive glass and limit easy looks at the rim.

3. Play the full 40. Groce said he felt that Wednesday was "the best way we've played all season". Most of that had to do with sustaining offensive execution, and playing hard and physical at the defensive end for the majority of the game. The Illini have to replicate that against Iowa on Thursday. Illinois has enough talent to pull the upset, but they have to avoid crippling lapses that have haunted them against quality Big Ten teams.

Prediction

The Illini got the perfect warm-up on Wednesday with the blowout win. Illinois is still just 1-13 this season against Big Ten teams other than Minnesota and Rutgers. But they still have an opportunity to change that, and history has been kind to the Orange and Blue when they are a double-digit seed on this stage. Meanwhile, Iowa has stumbled down the stretch and they have lost to double-digit seeds in each of the last two Big Ten tourneys. Could that be a perfect storm for an upset?

Illinois 75, Iowa 71


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