The last time Indiana took an extended, COVID-related break, it served the Hoosiers well.
It came during the middle of last month when IU sat idle for six days due to virus issues at Michigan State. At some point between its loss to Purdue on Jan. 14 and its trip to Iowa on Jan. 21, Indiana found the code for beating a ranked opponent. That, or perhaps Iowa just had a really, really bad night. Maybe it was a little bit of both.
Either way, IU emerged from that unplanned layoff looking energized and better off for the downtime. So how will the Hoosiers look after an eight-day break? On Tuesday night against No. 12 Illinois, we’ll find out.
The 69-60 loss at the State Farm Center on Dec. 26 was a winnable game for the Hoosiers. At least, until Ayo Dosunmu took over. The Illini star went off for 30 points — 20 of which came during his final 18 minutes on the floor — to lead Illinois to the Boxing Day victory. Since then, Brad Underwood’s team has gone 4-2 with wins over Purdue, Northwestern, Penn State and Iowa, and home losses to Ohio State and Maryland (!).
Illinois, which has lost seven straight at Assembly Hall dating to 2010, is on the road for the first time since Jan. 7 after playing four consecutive home games due to a pair of postponements. Dosunmu continues to lead the charge for Underwood’s group, and he’s on pace to become just the third Big Ten player since 1993 to average 20 points, six boards and four assists per game. Should he maintain those marks, he’d join a select group that includes IU’s Brian Evans (1995-96) and Ohio State’s Evan Turner (2009-10). At 21.9 points per game, Dosunmu, the nation’s fifth-leading scorer, owns the highest scoring average by an Illini player since Nick Weatherspoon posted 25.0 points per contest in 1973.
The only other Illinois player to finish in double figures on Dec. 26 was ... you can probably guess ... Kofi Cockburn, who posted 15 points and 15 rebounds. That, as we know by now, is just what he does. Cockburn leads the NCAA with 11 double-doubles this season, reaching the milestone in eight of 10 Big Ten games this season. In league play alone, Cockburn is averaging 18.6 points and 11.1 boards.
Dosunmu (20.8 ppg) and Cockburn (15.0 ppg) are two of four members of Illinois’ program to average double figures in games against IU in their careers, joining Giorgi Bezhanishvili (11.5 ppg) and Trent Frazier (10.2 ppg). Since going scoreless against Maryland on Jan. 10, Frazier is averaging 15.0 points and shooting nearly 43% from 3-point range over his past three games. He went scoreless from the field in the December contest against IU.
Overall, Illinois currently ranks seventh nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency (116.9) at KenPom — the second-highest ranking for the program since the statistic began to be tracked in 1997.
Things to watch
So, here’s a thing ... Indiana has recently been hitting its long-range shots — or, at least, it was hitting them before the recent break in the schedule. Across games against Iowa and Rutgers, IU shot 18-for-33 (54%) from beyond the arc — the highest rate of 3-point success in back-to-back Big Ten games since the start of the Archie Miller era. Across Illinois’ past four games, opponents have shot 42% from the perimeter. On the other end, Indiana knows from experience how quickly Illinois can heat up from deep after the Illini knocked down five 3s in the final 10 minutes of the Dec. 26 game. For the season, Illinois ranks eighth nationally in 3-point shooting (39.9%).
It doesn’t sound like Armaan Franklin’s ankle is feeling too good right now
What a frustrating month for the sophomore, who was averaging 18.8 points and shooting 60% from 3-point range over a five-game span leading into Jan. 4. Then the Maryland game happened — Franklin rolled his ankle early in the first half and found himself sidelined for two games nursing an injury. Though Franklin has since returned to the lineup and provided a bit of a spark at times, his ankle has become a nagging problem. He has aggravated the injury multiple times over the past few weeks and hasn’t been able to consistently practice. So how effective will he be on Tuesday? Franklin was awesome in the first meeting with Illinois, going off for a career-high 23 points and hitting five 3s.
TJD vs. Cockburn: Round II
Cockburn wins a lot of his one-on-one matchups in this league. His December showdown with Trayce Jackson-Davis was one of those victories. Cockburn’s size and physicality prevented the IU sophomore from consistently finishing around the rim from start to finish. Jackson-Davis went 3-for-13 from the field and logged only 31 minutes due to foul trouble.
Game Info / How to Watch
Who? Illinois (11-5, 7-3) at Indiana (9-7, 4-5)
Where? Assembly Hall, Bloomington, Ind.
When? Tuesday, 9 p.m. Eastern
Channel? ESPN | Dave Flemming (p-b-p), Dan Dakich (analyst)
Radio? IU Radio Network; Sirius 106, XM 196, Internet 958: Don Fischer, Errek Suhr & Joe Smith
Vegas? Illinois -4