GAME NOTES: The Illinois Fighting Illini will try to fix a five-game losing streak as they travel to Bloomington to take on the Indiana Hoosiers in Big Ten Conference action at Assembly Hall.
Since jumping up into the nation's Top 25, Illinois has squandered chance after chance to climb even higher. The Illini have lost five games in a row, including the last two to ranked opponents. In the team's most recent outing, Illinois dropped a 62-55 decision to No. 17-ranked Ohio State.
Indiana has lost two in a row itself in Big Ten play, including a 71-66 defeat at the hands of Michigan State. This is the second time this season the Fighting Illini and Hoosiers are meeting up. The Illini won the first matchup, 83-80, in overtime.
The all-time series between these long-standing rivals stands at 85-85. Illinois' Rayvonte Rice hit two free throws with two seconds left in overtime to lift the Illini over the Hoosiers in the first meeting this season to tie the series record.
Illinois held a slim lead five minutes into the second half against Ohio State, but that's when the Buckeyes found their shooting touch. Ohio State put the pedal to the floor and wound up taking the contest. Joseph Bertrand netted 19 points to lead Illinois in the contest, while John Ekey scored 11 and Nnanna Egwu chipped in 10 points with nine rebounds. The Illini shot 41.2 percent from the floor in the game, including just 27.8 percent from 3-point range.
Rice has been the dominant force for Illinois this season in terms of scoring, netting 16.6 ppg on 43.3 percent shooting from the floor. His 5.7 rpg average is second on the team, and 24 total steals tops the roster. Tracy Abrams is second in scoring with 12.6 ppg, and first in assists with 67 total on the year. Bertrand is third on the team with and 11.1 ppg average. The Illini average 68.6 ppg this season.
Indiana had a shot to beat the No. 3-ranked Michigan State Spartans in the team's last matchup, but Gary Harris scored 20 of his 24 points in the second half for Michigan State, leading the charge for the Spartan victory. Yogi Ferrell had 19 points in the contest - nine of which came from the free-throw line - to pace the Hoosiers. Noah Vonleh had 13 points and grabbed 13 rebounds for the double-double. The Hoosiers shot 43.5 percent in the loss to Michigan State.
Ferrell and Vonleh are the top two scorers for Indiana this season. Ferrell leads the charge at 17.5 ppg, while Vonleh isn't exactly a close second with 12.4 ppg. Vonleh does lead the team in rebounding, however, recording 9.4 rpg in the team's 19 contests. Ferrell tops the squad in assists this season with 75. Will Sheehey is third on the Hoosiers with 10.4 ppg. Indiana is averaging 77.4 ppg this season.
Illinois may have won the last battle with the Hoosiers, but has since taken a steep decline in Big Ten play. At home, the Hoosiers should have the advantage with solid scoring.
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