Pete DiPrimio, sports columnist and college beat writer for The News-Sentinel of Fort Wayne, Ind., takes his best shots on the world of Hoosier basketball.

Monday, January 22

Look For IU-Illinois Intrigue

Yes, there’s certain to be plenty of intrigue when Indiana plays at Illinois in yet another Big Ten showdown.

Sure, much of it will involve super recruit Eric Gordon, who signed with IU after orally committing to Illinois.

But in the big picture it’s about winning, and right now the Hoosiers (14-4) are doing more of it than any Big Ten team other than Wisconsin. They have won five straight and nine of 10. They have won two straight on the road, including an impressive performance at Connecticut.

Now they go to an arena (Illinois’ Assembly Hall) where they haven’t won since 1999. They’ve lost their last five games there, mostly because the Illini had powerhouse teams.

This season, however, Illinois is vulnerable. Injuries to key players have contributed to a 14-7 record and five losses in their last seven games.

The biggest injury has been to forward Brian Randle, who has missed a number of games because of a foot injury. He’s played the last two games, but coach Bruce Weber isn’t optimistic he’ll play against Indiana.

Also questionable is 6-10 forward Shaun Pruitt, who averages 11.3 points.

“The hex that we’ve had continues,” Weber said. “Now we’re going against a good Indiana team that is playing as well as anybody in the league right now. They’re very good defensively, they shoot threes very well and they have a good post presence with D.J. White.”

White, in fact, won his first Big Ten player of the week honors. He averaged 22.0 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.5 blocks in wins over Iowa and Connecticut last week.

This doesn’t mean Illinois lacks talent. While it has lost three home games this year, it remains a formidable team to beat at Assembly Hall.

“They’ve had a lot of bad luck this year,” IU coach Kelvin Sampson said. “Injuries have kept them from being where they’d like to be right now.”

Still, the Illini can’t be overlooked. They lost at Michigan State by six points and at Wisconsin by seven points. They led Wisconsin 62-61 with two minutes remaining.

“Look at the games they’ve played recently,” Sampson said. “Their first half against Michigan State was as good I’ve seen a team play for 20 minutes. They could have won the Wisconsin game. They’re a good team.”

Add the intrigue and it should make for a heck of a game.


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2:28 PM, January 22, 2007

Blogger Pete DiPrimio said...

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