Feb 8, 2014; Minneapolis, MN, USA;Minnesota Golden Gophers guard Deandre Mathieu (4) gets congratulated by by center Elliott Eliason (55), guard Austin Hollins (20), and forward Oto Osenieks (10) after getting fouled in the second half against the Indiana Hoosiers at Williams Arena. The Golden Gophers won 66-60. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Illinois Fighting Illini Basketball: Illinois vs. Minnesota Preview and Live Thread


The Illinois Fighting Illini basketball team is down, but they still have the chance to rally and recover. The Illini have five more games before the Big Ten Tournament, and if they are going to make any type of post season noise it’s imperative that they find their mojo so that they are playing their best basketball when Big Ten Tourney play gets underway on March 13th in Indianapolis.

The final five game push begins tonight when the Illini travel to Minneapolis to face the Big Ten’s 7th place team. The Minnesota Golden Gophers enter tonight’s game 17-9, and winners of 2 of their last 3 games. Their only loss in the 3 game stretch was an 8 point road defeat at the hands of #21 Wisconsin.

It’s no coincidence that Minnesota has found their way back into the win column just as their leading scorer, Andre Hollins (14.9 ppg), has returned to their lineup following a 3 game absence. While his production is certainly crucial to their success, it’s another player who has been lighting up the stat sheet for the Gophers that’s been the true difference maker.

Deandre Mathieu, a 5’9” dynamo point guard who is the second leading scorer for the Gophers (11.9 ppg), is coming off an 18 point, 4 rebound, 2 assist effort in Minnesota’s win over Northwestern in their previous game. He shot 7-10 from the field (1-1 from 3 point range), and 3-5 from the free throw line on his way to those 18 points, but it doesn’t stop there. In the Gophers last 3 games; Mathieu is 15-31 from the field and 11-14 from the charity stripe. Limiting Mathieu’s success should be priority #1 for the Illini defense tonight. If they can find a way to slow him down it should trickle throughout the rest of the lineup because he is the straw that stirs the drink for Minnesota.

Three Things I’d like to see tonight:

1. Defend for 40 minutes - The Gophers can really shoot it. As a team, they are shooting 44.7% from the floor. Get in their face all night long and contest every shot they decide to take.

2. Limit Eliason and Walker - The two post players for the Gophers aren’t offensive juggernauts, and there is no reason that Illinois should make them look like it because they get caught up trying to stop the Andre and Austin Hollins and Deandre Mathieu. Ekey, Egwu, and Morgan need to hammer the glass tonight and keep the Minnesota bigs from getting anything easy underneath.

3. Beware Malik Smith - It seems like there is always a random guy that shows up and hits big shots when the Illinois defense does a great job on all the marquee players. Yeah, I’m looking at you Marc Loving and you too, Tre Demps. Smith hasn’t been doing much on the offensive end recently aside from dropping 14 points in 16 minutes against Wisconsin 2 games ago, but he did hang 29 on Nebraska at the end of January so he has the ability to blow up if left alone. Don’t let Smith be the hero!

The Skinny

When: Wednesday, February 19, 2014, 8 PM CST

Where: Williams Arena – Minneapolis, Minnesota

TV: BTN (Directv 610 / DISH Network 439)

Announcers: Steve Physioc (Play by Play) and Shon Morris (Analyst)

Feel free to drop back in during the game and chat with me in the comments section below with any observations you may have!

I-L-L!

You can follow Ryan on Twitter @RPKraemer.

Dick's Sporting Goods presents "Hell Week":

Tags: Illinois Fighting Illini

  • Kale Livesay

    Keep this pace up.

  • @RPKraemer

    A primal scream released by Ray Rice as the ball sails wide and out of bounds by Minnesota.

  • @RPKraemer

    That was a poised move by Hill. 44-35.

  • @RPKraemer

    This is exactly the type of defense I was talking about in the preview.

  • @RPKraemer

    What a great defensive play that leads to the Nunn throwdown. 46-37. Nunn has 19.

    • Kale Livesay

      Tate to Nunn simeon connection.

  • @RPKraemer

    46-37 Illinois with 7:28 to play. Hill will be headed to the line when we return.

  • @RPKraemer

    Ray Rice, not the shot we needed there. AT ALL!!!

  • @RPKraemer

    Very strong take by Hill. 49-39 Illini with 5:59 to go.

  • Kale Livesay

    Give the ball to hill or Nunn and stay out of the way.

  • Kale Livesay

    Put hill back in

  • @RPKraemer

    49-41 Illinois 4:27 to play.

  • Kale Livesay

    Watch we will have no good offensive looks with the freshman on the bench.

  • @RPKraemer

    Groce has lifted Nunn and Hill both. It’s the old standard lineup out there right now – Abrams, Rice, Ekey, Egwu, Bertrand.

  • @RPKraemer

    Clutch D on the inbounds pass by Ekey.

  • Kale Livesay

    Bailed out better convert.

  • @RPKraemer

    Rice gets the ISO on the freshman, and gets the foul call. Funny how that works when you hit some shots from deep to loosen up the interior D.

  • Kale Livesay

    We need Nunn back in he took one bad shot.

    • @RPKraemer

      Kale – it’s called a blow. Groce is trying to prime him for the final stretch. You know this man.

      • Kale Livesay

        He is 18 he is fine,!

  • @RPKraemer

    Big time rebound on the free throw miss.

  • Kale Livesay

    Freshman groce ride them lets go.

  • @RPKraemer

    Mathieu has 3 points right now. Keep the pressure on him.

  • @RPKraemer

    50-44 Illini lead with 2:45 to play.

  • @RPKraemer

    EGWU!!!

  • Kale Livesay

    Put the freshamn in.

    • @RPKraemer

      He’s been in since MAthieu’s free throw attempts. Geez man. Pay attention.

  • @RPKraemer

    52-44 and now Minnesota makes a boneheaded play. Make them pay!

  • Kale Livesay

    Got one

  • Kale Livesay

    Put hill in for offense .

  • Kale Livesay

    Bull dog

  • @RPKraemer

    Awesome take by Abrams.

  • @RPKraemer

    54-44 Illini lead with 72 seconds to play.

  • Kale Livesay

    make these bull dog please.

  • @RPKraemer

    Stopping Mathieu stopped them in their tracks.

  • Kale Livesay

    Go figure in what is considered the toughest gym to shoot in we get hot.

  • Kale Livesay

    Got give nunn the showtime there bull dog

  • @RPKraemer

    Ekey with a great steal. Mini-Pitino just got GOT!!

  • @RPKraemer

    58-47 Illinois with 54.2 to play. It’s not over, but damn it’s close.

  • @RPKraemer

    It’s not going to be easy the rest of the way, but Illinois needs to build off this win and go get Nebraska next time out. Let the chips fall where they may, but keep fighting!

  • @RPKraemer

    60-49 37.6 to play.

  • Kale Livesay

    Illini with a road win busting bubbles.

  • @RPKraemer

    Illinois 62 Minnesota 49 FINAL!!!! Great road win! Thanks to all who stopped by tonight!