IU, Illinois ready for rematch

Brad Underwood has never coached inside Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.

But the Illinois coach once played inside the venerable arena while a member of Kansas State’s team in 1985. His thoughts?

“Great shooting gym,” the Underwood said.

His Illini could certainly use the offensive boost.

While Indiana has suddenly found its stride through a new-look lineup, Illinois is slumping into Bloomington for Wednesdays 8:30 tip-off as losers of three straight.

Just like the Hoosiers earlier this season, the Illini are still searching for the right combinations and distribution of production.

Matters were complicated during practice this past weekend when redshirt junior forward Michael Finke suffered a concussion that kept him out of Sunday’s game against Penn State.

So the Illini deployed their sixth lineup arrangement of the season against the Nittany Lions, and fell 74-52. They went scoreless for nearly nine minutes and closed the game by making only four shots in the final 12 minutes.

“One of the things that’s been challenging is, I don’t know where (the offense) is coming from night in, night out,” Underwood said. “We had two starters start the other night and didn’t score a point. That’s frustrating. You just don’t know where you’re getting it from.”

Trent Frazier, the reigning Big Ten Freshman of the Week, has been among Illinois’ bright spots, though.

The 6-foot-1 guard has started the bulk of his team’s Big Ten contests this season, and has scored in double figures in 14 of the past 16 games, averaging 16.3 points and shooting 41.4 percent from 3-point range during that span.

“Everyone’s loading up on Trent,” Underwood said.

Which means Illinois will be looking for others to help carry the load when it takes on Indiana on Wednesday night.

In the Jan. 24 meeting between the teams, a 73-71 Illini victory, Frazier and junior forward Leon Black both posted 19 points to pace Illinois.

On that night, Indiana threw away its chance to grab a road victory, committing 18 turnovers and going 16-for-29 at the free throw line.

It was also one of the last up-and-down games from IU sophomore point guard Devonte Green, who was inserted to help the Hoosiers handle and break free from Illinois’ pressure.

Green made several nice plays in the game, finishing with five assists, but he also committed some critical late mistakes, including an errant pass on IU’s final play of the one-possession ballgame.

Green hardly played in IU’s next game, seeing only four minutes against Purdue, but has authored the best basketball of his brief Indiana career across the past four games. During that span, Green averaged13.8 points, while notching 19 assists against only five turnovers.

“For him to be playing the way he is right now is a really good step for our team,” IU coach Archie Miller said. “We’re getting quality playmaking ability, if you look at his last four games (and) his assist totals on those. He’s a guy that can really start to make things better for us, and lo and behold, that’s giving him confidence in other areas.”

Illinois will also have to account for Juwan Morgan, who poured in a Big Ten career-high of 28 points against the Illini on Jan. 24.

“He was 12-for-14 and really did it in a lot of different areas,” Underwood said. “It’s not just one way to stop him. They put him in some cross-screening action and he scored. He led the break in transition. There was some pick-and-pop isolations for him and there were some 15-foot jump shots. He’s a talented kid. He’s a hard guard and we have to do a better job.”

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