PREVIEW: Illinois at Iowa

Lead basketball reporter Derek Piper previews Illinois' game at Iowa on Saturday.

Illinois (14-12, 4-9) at

Iowa (14-12, 6-7)

Date & Time: Feb. 18, 1 p.m. CT

Location: Carver-Hawkeye Arena (Iowa City, Iowa)


Quick Hits

  • Illinois had a week off from game action following an 83-70 loss against Penn State last Saturday.
  • The Illini have lost four of their last five games.
  • Illinois is 1-5 on the road this season.
  • The Illini are 12-30 in Big Ten road games under John Groce.
  • Illinois is 84-71 all-time against Iowa, and the Illini have won the last two meetings.
  • Iowa lost two road games last week following a three-game winning streak.
  • The Hawkeyes are 5-1 at home in Big Ten play this season.

Projected Starters

Te'Jon Lucas (FR): Lucas had 11 points, seven assists and two steals in the loss against Penn State last Saturday. He put together a pair of strong performances last week, as he also scored 11 points at Northwestern with six assists and five rebounds. He's a major reason to keep watching.

Malcolm Hill (SR): Hill finished with 14 points and went 6-of-10 from the field against Penn State. But he had five turnovers and he only registered one rebound in his 33 minutes of action. Groce didn't like his veterans' effort last time out, and Hill will need to bring it against a healthier Peter Jok.

Kipper Nichols (R-FR): Nichols made the first start of his career last Saturday, and he totaled six points, a rebound and two turnovers in 22 minutes. He splashed two three-pointers, and he has made his last six attempts from deep.

Leron Black (R-SO): Black had six points and two rebounds in 14 minutes against Penn State. He's registered just three rebounds combined through the last two games, and he's played no more than 15 minutes in each.

Maverick Morgan (SR): Morgan had six points, three rebounds and three turnovers in 26 minutes last Saturday. He also fouled out. Morgan played rather soft after getting his shot blocked early in the game.


Michael Finke (R-SO): His hair continues to grow and his outside shot continues to fall. Finke hit two threes against Penn State, as he totaled eight points and five rebounds in 27 minutes. He went 5-of-9 from deep last week, and he's shooting 52.9 percent from three in Big Ten play.

Jalen Coleman-Lands (SO): Coleman-Lands came off the bench and scored a team-high 12 points against Penn State. He hit a pair of threes and also had two steals. Coleman-Lands also showed off some of his distributing ability last week with five assists at Northwestern.

Tracy Abrams (GR): Abrams had seven points, four rebounds and three assists in 23 minutes last Saturday. Statistically, that was his most productive performance since the Big Ten home opener when he scored 16 points.

Jaylon Tate (SR): Tate did not play in either game last week. Prior to that, he had played five straight games with double-digit minutes.

Mike Thorne Jr. (GR): Thorne did not appear in either game last week. He had five points and three fouls in 10 minutes against Minnesota the last time he played.

Aaron Jordan (SO): Jordan got the start against Northwestern last week, but he has not played since his four-minute stint to start that game.

D.J. Williams (SO): Williams has sat the bench in six straight games. Over the last 10 games, his only action was three minutes at Michigan.

Iowa Starters

Jordan Bohannon (FR): Bohannon had a rough game at Michigan State last weekend, as he went scoreless for the first time in his career and shot 0-of-8 from the field. But he's a capable scorer and distributor. Bohannon has scored in double figures in each of his last four homes games.

Isaiah Moss (R-FR): The Simeon product has some talent and athleticism, but he has been up and down. Moss scored 19 points and hit three treys against Minnesota last week. But he's also had plenty of quiet outings, and none more quiet than six scoreless minutes in Champaign last month.

Peter Jok (SR): Jok was clearly hobbled by a back injury in the first meeting against Illinois, as he finished with 10 points and four turnovers. He missed the two games after that, and now, he looks closer to his usual self. Jok had 29 points and nine rebounds against Minnesota last week.

Ahmad Wagner (SO): Wagner had 12 points, five rebounds and three assists off the bench against Illinois last month in 21 minutes. He has started five straight games since then. Wagner finished with seven points and four boards at Michigan State last weekend.

Tyler Cook (FR): Cook is a physical specimen even as a freshman at 6-foot-9, 250-plus. But Illinois was pretty successful in neutralizing him in Champaign. Cook finished with five points, three rebounds and four turnovers. He's scored in double figures in four of the five games since then.

Three Things I'm Looking For

1. Point of emphasis. Which team is able to get more from their freshman point guard? Lucas' play was a huge key to Illinois winning on the road at Northwestern last week. The offense moves more and flows better when the ball in his hands. He's a playmaker. And Lucas is able to score the ball as well, and he could put up even more points if he finishes consistently around the basket. Meanwhile, Bohannon's play says quite a bit about how the Hawkeyes will fare from game to game. He was 1-of-9 for only three points at Illinois last month in the loss. But he had 12 points and nine dimes in a win at home over Purdue. And Bohannon -- like most freshmen -- has played better at home. He's a good facilitator too. Bohannon has almost a 2.6-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio.

2. Glass house. The Hawkeyes reeled in 16 offensive rebounds against the Illini in the first meeting. Groce said that has been a major focus area this week. Illinois was -7 in the rebounding margin against Penn State the last time out. They haven't gotten a ton of help from their best rebounder recently. Black played 29 minutes combined last week with just three rebounds. Groce said he believes Black has another gear that he needs to show. After a week off to refresh the mind and body, this would be the time to see it.

3. Senioritis? Groce was not pleased with the effort level of his veterans last Saturday. "I expect more." On Friday, he said that the coaching staff challenged the older guys this week to lead the younger players on the team. With five graduating players, that's probably something you shouldn't have to be pushing for in mid-February. This team has lacked an inspirational leader. They lacked toughness and energy the last time out. There's no question that someone like Hill is disappointed and beaten down a little bit. But it's on him and his teammates to figure out how they want to go out this season. Will they go out fighting or check out? You worry about the latter (and ladder).


Both teams have had a week to prepare for this one. Energy level should definitely be nonnegotiable for the Illini. But the fact of the matter is that Iowa is 5-1 at home in Big Ten play. Carver-Hawkeye is a tough place to play. And despite winning their last road trip, Illinois is still 1-5 on the road this season. Jok will be much harder to handle this time around. Vegas has Iowa by 5, and you should probably give the points and feel just fine.

Iowa 75, Illinois 68

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