Illinois plays host to No. 15 Iowa

02/01/2014 7:56 AM

02/01/2014 9:18 AM

Champaign, IL ( - The Illinois Fighting Illini will try to put the brakes on a lengthy slide, but doing so on Saturday evening may prove difficult as they welcome the 15th-ranked Iowa Hawkeyes to town for a Big Ten Conference clash.

Iowa has enjoyed a stellar campaign, winning 16 of its first 21 games, including five of eight Big Ten bouts. The Hawkeyes are however, coming off a 91-69 overtime loss to Michigan State on Tuesday, and they have lost two of their last three after also falling to Michigan in a 75-67 final on Jan. 22. They did manage to sandwich a 76-50 rout of Northwestern in there, and they can even their record in true road games at 3-3 with a win in this contest.

Illinois owned a 13-2 record prior to its recent losing streak, as it now stands at 13-8 overall and 2-6 in conference. The Illini are 9-2 at home, although the two setbacks came in their last two opportunities as hosts against Purdue (66-58) and Michigan State (78-62). The team's most recent defeat took place last Sunday in a 56-46 final at Indiana, and it is averaging just 55.7 ppg during the current skid.

Illinois owns an 81-68 lead in the all-time series with Iowa, and this is the Hawkeyes' first visit to Champaign since Feb. 26, 2012.

In a game that featured 11 ties and 16 lead changes, Roy Devyn Marble scored 21 points, and Aaron White chipped in 10 more, but those efforts went for naught as Iowa dropped a narrow overtime decision at home to Michigan State earlier this week. The Hawkeyes shot just 37.5 percent from the field, and they were absolutely horrendous from beyond the arc (3-of-12), but they used a 30-11 edge in points from the foul line to stay in contention.

Marble and White are the only two Iowa players netting double digits on a consistent basis, turning in 16.3 and 13.5 ppg, respectively. Balance is the key however, as the team boasts eight others who average between 5.7 and 8.9 ppg, helping it muster up 84.5 ppg behind typical shooting efforts of .474 overall and .373 from 3-point range. At the defensive end, the Hawkeyes are yielding 66.4 ppg, with the opposition shooting just 37.9 percent from the field and 28.3 percent from downtown. Iowa easily wins the battle on the boards most nights, laying claim to a +9.5 rebounding differential.

The Illini showed very little fight in their recent loss to Indiana, shooting a paltry 33.3 percent from the floor, which included a 5-of-23 showing from beyond the arc. Rayvonte Rice was the only player to reach double figures, as he tallied 20 points thanks to a 7-of-11 shooting effort. Joseph Bertrand had a particularly rough outing, as he missed 10 of his 11 field goal attempts. The Hoosiers didn't fare much better as they converted 40.8 percent of their total shots, including only 3-of-12 on 3-point tries.

Rice paces the team with 16.7 ppg, while also serving as one of its top rebounders with 5.6 rpg. Tracy Abrams (12.1 ppg, 3.2 apg) and Bertrand (10.6 ppg, 5.3 rpg) round out the double-digit scorers for Illinois, which is putting up 67.5 ppg while allowing 63.3 ppg. The team's defensive effort has been better than what it's shown on offense for the most part, and it does own favorable margins in both rebounding (+1.5) and turnovers (+1.5).

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