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Illinois Basketball Ready For “Big and Physical” Minnesota

Illinois Basketball prepares to take on Ben Johnson and the 17-10 Minnesota Golden Gophers in Champaign



Illinois Basketball Ready For “Big and Physical” Minnesota
Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Illinois Basketball Ready For “Big and Physical” Minnesota

Illinois Basketball prepares to take on Ben Johnson and the 17-10 Minnesota Golden Gophers in Champaign. Tip-off begins at 8 pm on the Big Ten Network. Illinois is coming off a 95-85 win over border rival Iowa. However, the Gophers are coming off of a 73-55 mashing, on the road at Nebraska.

Underwood’s Opening Remarks on Minnesota

“They are good… They are really good.” Says coach Underwood in reference to the Golden Gophers. “They are coming off a tough one… which, Nebraska may be playing as well as any team in the league.” Of course, In reference to Coach Ben Johnson’s squad having a 73-55 meltdown on the road in Lincoln, on Sunday.

“They can shoot it.” said the Illini coach. “They have a dynamic point guard, who I think leads the nation in assists.” Of course, referring to Gophers Point Guard Elijah Hawkins. In fact, at the time of posting of this article, Hawkins sits at 4th in the nation with 7.3 RPG. (Mike) Mitchell and (Cam) Christie both shoot it, and they are big and physical.” Says the Illini head coach. “Pharrel Payne turned into a very good player.” The Minny Big man is currently shooting 60% on the season and averaging 9.8 ppg. Everybody knows Dawson is very talented and very good.” Dawson Garcia is a former Illini transfer portal target, who coach Underwood is recalling, with some humor.

Furthermore, in his final remarks of his opening statements, Underwood said “They are competing at a very, very high level. They are playing really hard. Ben has done a fantastic job, and this is a very, very good basketball team. As they have proven, they could beat a lot of people.”

Underwood on the Gopher’s Offense

“They are really balanced. says Underwood. “They are going to run great actions, and a lot of actions. Everything is assisted, I think 70% of their baskets are assisted. Hawkins as a point guard, is a little guy that lives in the paint. He could shoot it, they are going to ball screen for him. Dawson is versatile. I think you have to try to fight to keep them to one shot. You can’t give Christie, and Mitchell those guys 3’s. They have been shooting it (up until the Nebraska game) at a very high clip. Dawson can stretch out the floor, Fox comes off the bench, and he’s maybe as effective as any of those guys.” Says Illinois head man. “It’s a very physical team, and very well balanced, and that’s what makes them good.”


Certainly, Illinois is going to have a game on their hands in Champaign. Coach Underwood has addressed some of the recent defensive breakdowns, and the Iowa win was a great sign for Illinois Basketball. Brad seemed to be focused on the size and athleticism that this Minnesota team brings to the table. Of course, Coleman Hawkins is coming off of a career game vs the Hawkeyes, and Quincy Guerrier had a much improved performance. Size will be a factor, and Illinois big defenders and rebounders are going to need to get to work. Consistency has been a problem in the front court, so certainly an interesting matchup for Illinois. Minnesota can score, and if Illinois is losing the battles on turnovers, fouls, and rebounds, this has Penn State potential all over again, with sloppy play.



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Kirkland is a go-to source for Illinois athletics news. He is the lead Football analyst at Armchair Illini and has been featured in top media publications like Bleacher Report, Yard Barker, Autograph, Newsbreak, CBS Sports and more.