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Minnesota Basketball: Previewing Illinois

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Gophers wrap-up January with home tilt rematch against Illini

NCAA Basketball: Maryland vs Illinois Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports

The Gophers played what may have been their most complete game of the year, rolling up 55 first-half points en route to a 92-87 win over then-#19 Iowa. The victory featured all of your favorite Minnesota highlights, including Gabe Kalscheur three pointers, Amir Coffey alley oops, Jordan Murphy rebounds, and Eric Curry playing extended minutes. While the season is far from over, the win showed that Gophers are ready to compete and hold their own at home after getting housed by Illinois just three games before.

But is retribution in the cards? The Illini visit Williams Arena in what will be an opportunity for the Gophers to exact a small amount of revenge after getting thorough embarrassed in Champaign just two weeks ago. It’ll be a disgusting 28 degrees below zero outside. Inside? Maybe Minnesota will stay hot and continue to move things in the right direction.

Essentials:

Who are the Gophers playing?

Illinois Fighting Illini (2-7, 6-14)

What time are they playing?

Wednesday, Jan. 30 @ 8 p.m. CT

Where are they playing?

Williams Arena

Can I watch the game on TV?

Yes, BTN.

Can I listen to the game on the radio?

Yes, KFAN 100.3-FM.

Tell me more about the opponent.

A mere 20 days ago the Illinois Fighting Illini were nothing more than a sad, 4-12 team with an 0-5 record in the Big Ten. They’d lost to the likes of Florida Atlantic at home and suffered more than a handful of double digit losses. And then came a game against the Minnesota Golden Gophers and a 27-point blowout seems to sort of shift things in the right direction for the Illini. Now, instead of being an 0-5 team in the conference they’re merely a 2-7 team in the conference. Since the Minnesota blowout they also notched a neutral court win over Maryland bookending two blowout losses to Iowa and Michigan. It’s a strange time for Illinois.

Have they turned a corner? It’s hard to say. Five-star recruit Ayo Dosunmu is playing at a very high level these days, and has scored 20 or more points in five of his last eight games. Trent Frazier has cooled off a bit, but is still averaging 14 ppg while cleaning up his turnover problem. Add it all up and the Illini are dangerous on any given night, even if they flop more often than not.

What to Watch For:

Illinois Offense

Illinois dispatched the Gophers in Champaign behind an absurd 58% from the field while shooting 50% from deep (8-16). It’s hard to keep up with that pace. The question is, can they do it again. Dosunmu is playing great, but he’s can’t win games by himself. The X-factor in the previous game was Giorgi Bezhanishvili, who added 20 points and eight rebounds to vault the Illini into the stratosphere. If all three of him, Frazier and Dosunmu are hitting shots it could be another long night for Minnesota.

Predictions

I think the Gophers learned their lesson from two weeks ago and will no longer overlook the Illini. They’re a veteran team at home who suddenly looks reinvigorated. KenPom has this game as a 77-71 Minnesota victory. I’m taking the Gophers by 8, 74-66.