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Indiana Basketball Game Preview: Illinois – key storylines, injury report, how to watch



Indiana basketball
Previewing Indiana basketball at Illinois by looking at key storylines, injury reports, how to watch and other updates. (Mandatory Credit: Kayla Wolf-USA TODAY Sports)

Indiana basketball continues its 124th season of competition with the finale of a three-game stretch against top-15 Big Ten Conference opponents at No. 10/11 Illinois.

The Illini (14-5, 5-3) enter the matchup with the third-best conference record and a mark of 10-2 at the State Farm Center.

Fifth-year senior guard Terrance Shannon Jr. leads the Illini with 20.5 points per game to go along with 4.2 rebounds, 2.7 assists, and 2.4 made. He had posted .500/.370/.778 shooting splits in 13 games.

Illinois also receives double-digit scoring production from fifth-year senior guard Marcus Domask (15.1 points per game), senior forward Coleman Hawkins (12.0), and fifth-year senior forward Quincy Guerrier (11.8).

Tip is scheduled for 3:00 PM ET on FOX.

Below is the full preview of Indiana basketball at Illinois.

Scouting Notes: Illinois

Key Storylines

A Positive: Gabe Cupps continues to get valuable experience 

It is gloomy days right now for Indiana basketball with not much fans can really be excited about at the moment, and rightfully so.

But when you dig in the weeds of the current state of the Indiana basketball program, there are a few positives fans can take from what has been a disappointing season. One of the bigger ones is the amount of experience freshman guard Gabe Cupps is getting.

When Xavier Johnson went down, Cupps was immediately throw into the fire of the starting lineup and was Indiana’s main ballhandler. Since Johnson has came back, we have seen too much of “bad X” which has in-turn made Mike Woodson go with the freshman guard as a starter once again. Through 19 games, Cupps has started 10 times and played 22.4 minutes per game.

“Gabe is giving us everything that I thought he would give us,” Indiana basketball head coach Mike Woodson said during his weekly radio show on Monday. “He was coached by his dad, who did a hell of a job with that young man in high school. And, it’s been a nice carry-over into his freshman year because he’s not very big, he hasn’t shot the ball like I thought he would shoot, but again, I think that will come in time.

He is not in a position right now where he can produce at the level Indiana basketball fans him to, he is only still a freshman at the end of the day. No matter what the result of the season ends up being, the experience that Cupps got this season is only going to help mold the future of this program.

“But the fact that he competes, man, that’s a big part of playing this game,” said Mike Woodson. “You gotta be a competitor and want to compete and he leaves it out there on the floor when he’s out there.”

How will Indiana fair with Illinois’ small ball lineups? 

Indiana basketball has…let’s just say…a unique lineup. It’s almost your traditional lineup of 2 guard, 1 wing, and 2 frontcourt pieces. The problem is there is controversy whether Mackenzie Mgbako is a wing or a modern day power forward as well as the type of lineups Mike Woodson has used game-to-game.

The lineup topic is certainly going to be a main focus point when the Hoosiers go on the road to face an Illinois team that plays fast and utilizes small ball play, something that Indiana basketball has struggled with over the years.

“The big challenge is that we’ve got to make sure we get our bigs back in transition because they are pushing every opportunity they get, and you know, it ain’t — really, it’s not going to matter who is guarding who,” said Mike Woodson on Zoom on Thursday. “You’ve just got to make sure we get the ball stopped and we’ve got a body on a body.”

“I mean, that’s just the nature of how they play. And you know, we got to take advantage of, you know, our size a little bit, too, inside, and see how they play us.”

If Indiana can truly take advantage of their size, there could be an upset happing in Champaign today. It is just all about Indiana knowing what their strengths are in this type of matchup.

A win would help in so many ways

Indiana needs a win, so badly. Things aren’t looking good as far as the NCAA Tournament is concerned for the Hoosiers, but at Illinois could really get things back on track.

Hoosiers come into this game 4-4 on the Big Ten and with a loss, they dip below .500 in conference play. This is a year in the Big Ten that going sub-.500 is a sure fire way to make sure you do not make the Tournament. Indiana has to pile up wins.

Really, a win just helps brings some positivity back into the program after what has just been a dreadful last 2-weeks. A road win vs a highly ranked conference foe can bring in so much confidence and positive energy back into a struggling team like Indiana.

A win here, we may be back on track for NCAA Tournament push. Maybe.

Podcast: Talkin’ Bout The Hoosiers Ep. 15 – Ant Wright joins the show to discuss the current state of Indiana Basketball

Series History

Indiana leads the 187-game series over Illinois 96-91, one of two matchups (Purdue) in which both IU and the opponent have won 90-plus games in the series.

The Hoosiers are riding a three-game winning streak over the Illini after sweeping the season series a year ago. All-American forward Trayce Jackson-Davis dominated the two matchups. He averaged 30.5 points, 10.5 rebounds, and 4.0 blocks on 71.1% (27-of-38) shooting from the floor.

Indiana began the winning streak in the quarterfinals of the 2022 Big Ten Men’s Basketball Tournament against the top-seeded Illini. TJD posted 21 points, seven rebounds, and three assists in the contest. He hit three free throws in the final 26 seconds of the second half to propel IU into the semifinals by a margin of 65-63.

Read: Indiana basketball looking to ‘soul search’ amid recent skid as week-long break could come at a good time

Injury Updates

Kel’el Ware: The Indiana basketball sophomore center missed last game due to rolling up his ankle in practice. Mike Woodson said earlier this week that Ware has been doing some light practice and is hopeful he can play at Illinois.

Anthony Leal: The senior guard missed the last two games with a calf injury. His status is TBD.

Jakai Newton: Newton had a lower body surgical procedure done this past offseason to help fix a previous injury he sustained during high school. He is still recovering and is not expected to play for the rest of the season.

More: Inside The Numbers: A look at Indiana basketball — how it got here and what’s next

Quick Hitters

Who?: Indiana (12-7) (4-4 Big Ten) at Illinois (14-5) (5-3)

When?: Saturday, Jan. 27, 2024 • 3 PM ET

Where?: State Farm Center (15,544) • Champaign, Ill.

TV: FOX (Jason Benetti, Robbie Hummel)

Radio: IU Radio Network (Don Fischer, Errek Suhr, John Herrick)

Betting Lines: Indiana basketball is listed as an 13.5-point underdog via DraftKings Sportsbook.

SEE ALSO: ‘Sometimes feel disconnected in some ways’: Midway through the season, Indiana basketball is broken and it starts at the top. Can it be fixed? Time will tell.

Make sure to follow Hoosier Illustrated, part of the Full Ride Network, on Twitter @Indiana_FRN, Facebook and YouTube to stay up to date on all of the news, updates and coverage of Indiana University athletics. You can also listen to the Talking’ Bout the Hoosiers podcast on Spotify.

Kyler Staley is a Basketball Recruiting Analyst for Hoosier Illustrated, a comprehensive site covering news, updates and recruiting for Indiana University athletics. Kyler has been in the basketball recruiting industry since 2019 and is a credentialed media member. He has covered Indiana since 2021 while continuing to also work for Prep Hoops Indiana. He has previously worked for Rivals.