The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, February 10th, 9:00 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Williams Arena (14,625) -- Minneapolis, Minnesota. Television: ESPN. Home Record: Illinois 11-1, Minnesota 11-2. Away Record: Illinois 2-4, Minnesota 2-5. Neutral Record: Illinois 2-3, Minnesota 3-0. Conference Record: Illinois 5-5, Minnesota 5-6. Series Record: Illinois leads, 105-59.
GAME NOTES: The Minnesota Golden Gophers have struggled mightily in recent weeks, and they will attempt to turn things around tonight when the Illinois Fighting Illini come to town for a Big Ten Conference tussle.
Losses in five of the last seven games have dropped Illinois to 5-5 in Big Ten action, overshadowing a 15-8 overall record. The Illini were most recently in action last Saturday when they fell to Northwestern by a 71-70 final. That painful defeat was the fourth true road loss of the season for UI, which has earned a mere two wins in enemy territory this season.
The Golden Gophers are in the midst of a three-game losing streak, and they have not lost four straight games in the Tubby Smith era, creating an interesting storyline for this evening's affair. Prior to the current slide, Minnesota had put together four straight wins, so it is fair to label the squad as streaky. On Sunday, the Gophers fell to top-ranked Ohio State by an 82-69 final, dropping them to 16-7 overall and 5-6 in Big Ten action.
Illinois owns a 105-59 series advantage over Minnesota, and this contest marks the only scheduled meeting of the season between the two squads.
Demetri McCamey of Illinois is one of 10 finalists for the Bob Cousy Award, given annually to the nation's top point guard. McCamey is currently averaging 14.7 ppg and 6.7 apg, and he is a 48.5 percent shooter from three-point range. Mike Davis is the only other double-digit scorer in the fold, as he is posting 11.3 ppg and 6.7 rpg. The Illini are generating 73.2 ppg while permitting 64.8 ppg to opponents while limiting foes to 39.8 percent field goal efficiency. Brandon Paul was outstanding for Illinois against Northwestern on Saturday, as he hit 4-of-6 shots from three-point range and finished with 21 points. McCamey added 14 points, and his team earned a 32-25 rebounding advantage, Unfortunately for the Illini, they fell just short in that affair.
There are three active double-digit scorers for the Golden Gophers, and Blake Hoffarber continues to lead the way with his 14.2 ppg. More than just a scorer, Hoffarber has also handed out 93 assists for Minnesota, which is generating 71.9 ppg while allowing 67.9 ppg. Trevor Mbakwe is registering 13.0 ppg on 60.7 percent field goal efficiency, and he is ripping down 10.3 rpg to go along with 38 blocks. As for Ralph Sampson III, he provides 10.9 ppg. Hoffarber scored 16 points for the Golden Gophers in Sunday's loss to Ohio State, while Sampson and Chip Armelin added 14 points apiece. Unfortunately for Minnesota, its 51 percent shooting from the field was overshadowed by 19 turnovers and a rebounding deficit.
Expect the Golden Gophers to get the job done at home tonight, as they are too good a team to lose a fourth straight contest. A balanced offensive effort is likely from Minnesota.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Minnesota 73, Illinois 66