GAME NOTES: The Illinois Fighting Illini started the season at 13-3, but have been in a steep decline ever since and will look for just their second win in their last 11 games as they travel to face the Minnesota Golden Gophers in a Big Ten Conference clash at Williams Arena.
Illinois has lost two games in a row and dropped nine of the last 10 altogether, including a 48-39 defeat at the hands of Ohio State Saturday. The Illini have struggled to a 3-10 record in the Big Ten Conference, which is good for last place.
Minnesota has won two of its last three contests, including a 54-48 victory over Northwestern on Sunday. Like Illinois, the Golden Gophers started the year very strong, but have since fallen a bit (though not as hard as Illinois) when the full force of conference play began. Minnesota is 6-7 in the Big Ten this year.
Illinois has almost doubled up Minnesota in the all-time and long-standing series between the two programs, holding a 118-64 lead. This contest will represent the first and only time these teams will meet on the court this season.
Illinois and Ohio State battled to a low-scoring result Saturday, which saw Illinois lose its second straight game. It was a dismal offensive performance all around, as the Illini could only manage 39 points in the entire game (including just 16 in the second half). Illinois shot 28.3 percent from the floor in the game, and went 31.3 percent from 3-point range. Tracy Abrams led the Illini in scoring with 13 points, while Rayvonte Rice chipped in with 11 points.
Rice has been one of the lone bright spots for Illinois this season considering the train wreck of a second half of it. Rice leads the team in scoring with a healthy 16.6 ppg average, adding a team high-tying 5.9 rpg mark and 35 steals to his resume. Abrams checks in at second in scoring with 11.2 ppg, and Joseph Bertrand is third at 10 ppg. Abrams tops the team with 79 assists on the year.
Minnesota and Northwestern battled to a low-scoring contest Sunday that resulted in a Gophers victory. Northwestern went cold in the second half, allowing Minnesota to make a second-half comeback for the win. DeAndre Mathieu was the only member of the Golden Gophers to score double figures, netting 18 points. Minnesota held Northwestern to just 30.2 percent shooting from the floor.
Andre Hollins leads Minnesota in scoring this season with a 14.9 ppg average on 40.6 percent shooting. He's followed by Mathieu, who checks in with 11.9 ppg and a team-leading 112 assists. Austin Hollins is in third in scoring at 11.2 ppg. Elliott Eliason is tops on the squad in rebounding with a 7.4 rpg mark and 60 blocked shots.
Illinois has really struggled in the latter half of this season, but the team has the players to at least compete in every single contest. Minnesota hasn't been extremely strong offensively, like Illinois, so this may be a defensive battle.
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