The Illinois Fighting Illini will play the Northwestern Wildcats at Welsh-Ryan Arena on Sunday.
The Fighting Illini won in dominating fashion in their last game against the Purdue Boilermakers, 79-59. They had three players reach double-digit points. Among the biggest were D.J. Richardson and Tyler Griffey who had 18 and 12 points respectively.
Sunday’s game will be the second meeting between Illinois and Northwestern. In their first meeting, the Wildcats beat the #23 Illini, 68-54. Northwestern’s Reggie Hearn had a big game the first time around. He scored a team-high 20 points and scored ten points in the first ten minutes of the game. Brandon Paul led Illinois with 21 points in the first meeting.
The Wildcats come into Sunday’s game with an overall record of 13-12 and a Big Ten record of 4-8. Northwestern has not done very well in conference play this season. They started conference play with two losses to #2 Michigan and #9 Minnesota. However, they have pulled off some shocking Big Ten upsets. They defeated #23 Illinois on January 17th and #12 Minnesota on January 23rd.
The biggest questions about Northwestern heading into Sunday’s match-up with Illinois are all about injuries.
The two players that could both miss Sunday’s game will be Hearn and Jared Swopshire.
Swopshire is, for sure, going to miss Sunday’s game with a season-ending knee injury.
Overall, he was averaging 9.7 points per game and 6.7 rebounds per game. His 6.7 RPG is the best on the team for Northwestern. In the first meeting against Illinois, he scored 12 points and grabbed six rebounds.
On the other hand, Reggie Hearn could miss Sunday’s game with Illinois, but might not.
He is currently listed as probable for Sunday with an ankle injury. If Hearn does not play in this game, it would be a huge loss for Northwestern. Just by looking at the first match-up with the Fighting Illini, one can see that he was a big reason why the Wildcats were able to upset #23 Illinois.
Hearn is Northwestern’s leading scorer as he is averaging 14.1 points per game this season.
This will be 168th meeting between the Fighting Illini and the Wildcats. Illinois leads the series 129-38.
This game is a “must-win” game for the Illinois Fighting Illini. Illinois has been on a streak lately by winning their last three games (two against ranked opponents). They are re-building their tournament resume and need a win against Northwestern to keep their tournament chances going strong.
Also, Tyler Griffey has been playing very good basketball ever since the upset win over the #1 Indiana Hoosiers. In the Illini’s last three games, he is averaging 14 points per game and six rebounds per game. Griffey is beginning to look like the player we saw towards the beginning of the season and expect this good play to continue against the Wildcats.
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