COVID-19 Illini basketball Illini Basketball

High Noon

Trayce Jackson-Davis has three names, but Brad Underwood used only one during his pre-game Zoom. “Trayce” needs no introduction. You know who he is.

An hour later and 167.7 miles east-by-southeast, new Hoosiers coach Mike Woodson conferred the same respect on “Kofi.”

Kofi Cockburn & Trayce Jackson-Davis

This feels like a fight where the top billing, Godzilla versus King Kong, might not determine the outcome. It oughta be entertaining. But you get the feeling that it’ll be someone else who puts his team on top.

Against Purdue, that other person was Rob Phinisee. Trayce needed only 12 minutes to collect four fouls. It worked out okay for the Hoosiers, because Trevion Williams was ineffective in his 15 of the #BoilerBigs 40 minutes, and Zach Edey got only six shots in his 25.

How did Indiana hold Purdue’s Power Duo to 10 FGA? It’s something to worry about.

Perhaps he was unable to hit them in the face?

The Hoosiers committed THREE total turnovers in that game, and Trayce had two of them. Phinisee came off the bench (as usual) for twenty points, four rebounds and four steals in 26 minutes. That’s a lot of steals. Purdue had none. It’s the product of different defensive philosophies. Woodson’s Hoosiers are doing something more akin to Underwood’s Pokes (and early Illini teams), less pack-line-ish.

But Phinsee won’t pick any pockets tomorrow. Plantar Fasciitis will keep him on the bench.

This won’t happen in Bloomington.

If you looked at early Hoosier results and thought meh, consider three factors.

  1. A new coach/style
  2. Many newcomers playing significant minutes
  3. Trey Galloway’s broken wrist
Galloway is the shaggy one.

Galloway broke his wrist in mid-November. Indiana missed his irritating peppiness for almost two months. He’ll be a pain.

What about Khristian Lander, the heralded super-recruit who arrived in Bloomington and then …

He’s played nine games, starting none. He missed eight straight with a leg injury. Indiana fans still believe in him. They think he’ll be the determining force in Saturday’s contretemps. He’s a turnover machine, and he fouls a lot. We’ll see how that works out.

Xavier Johnson, Parker Stewart and Miller Kopp are the new blood. The Transfer Portal was good to Indiana is how Underwood phrased it. Johnson and Stewart started at Pitt. Stewart left to play for his dad at UT-Martin. His dad died. He left Martin.

Xavier Johnson (IU Athletics)

Johnson arrived at Pitt after Stewart’s lone season, and stayed for three years. Now running the offense in Bloomington, he’s tallied 95 assists for the Hoosiers (and 48 turnovers). Compare Trent Frazier’s 72 (39) and top-ranked Auburn’s Wendell Green’s 110 (47).

The Frazier/Johnson match-up should be as fun to watch as the Bigs Battle, especially for Illini fans.

Stewart is the shooting guard, and he converts 45% from the arc. But he’s attempted only 87 of them. Alfonso Plummer has attempted 160. Frazier’s launched 130. Jacob Grandison 95.

Jake leads Illinois at 43.2% from downtown.

Indiana has attempted 390 3FGs on the year, and their opponents 481. The Illini are up to 537.

Miller Kopp is just as boring for Indiana as he was for Northwestern. Statistically speaking, he does almost nothing but not take away opportunities from his teammates, which is something. Not touted as a defensive stopper, and a proven disappointment as a rebounder, this is the guy you want on the floor to get RJ Melendez some highlight reel.


Covering an early game in (the other) Bloomington poses some obstacles to an Illini media pool still digging out from a foot of snow.

Sure, one could drive over on Friday evening, once the day’s pre-game availabilities have been edited, transcribed, uploaded. If one survived the snow drifts and howling winds while wending the hollers, one could get a room at The Graduate for just $499. Or Hyatt Place for just $439!

Thing is, Hoosiers basketball remains insanely popular in those hollers. Cityfolk like it too! And rather than get up early and drive, these folks have chosen to drive and drink. They’ll be boozing maskless in downtown Hoosierville ten hours before tip-off. The ones who get to bed before midnight will start again before the game.

So, much to Joey’s consternation, we’ll all get up at 5:30 am, lose an hour crossing the border, and hope that Indiana’s DOT plowed the tiny roads, too.

Your trusted sources, among others.

Illini Report will not have an assigned photography spot at The Skjodt. In fact, among Illini media, only WCIA gets a spot on the floor. COVID and big donors have eaten into floor space.

Instead, Illini Report will enjoy something it hasn’t done since the Indiana blowout of 2019 — watching a basketball game. (Illini Report got so depressed during that game, that it had to walk to the very top of the real Assembly Hall’s bowl to watch Archie Miller — remember him? — rip Andres Feliz’s heart out.)

Illini Report will provide postgame coverage from both media rooms at The Skjodt. Being all fancy about basketball, IU has two of them. The opponent’s room is actually an administrative office for IU softball, and it’s never set up until after the game. No A/V equipment, though. Just chairs.

But because the Illini media pool is so butch, and travels well, IU Athletics Communications made an 11th hour decision, on Friday afternoon, to move our postgame to Suite 1820 of The Skjodt.

If we can find that vending machine, we will communicate Brad’s thoughts about the big win.

Or so we can hope.

This game has, since the schedule came out, seemed like the linchpin of Illinois’s quest for a ’22 championship. A win at Bloomington would define the season.

People who forgot how good this IU team is, perhaps because their coach got fired, need only recall the UI-IU contests of the past three years.

We’ve always known that these particular Hoosiers are dangerous. We knew it when Illinois barely beat them last year, and we knew it when Illinois barely beat them the year before that.

See you bright and early.

Illini basketball

The Pushovers

Did you watch Northwestern choke in Ann Arbor on Wednesday? Well then, you know they can’t close a deal.

Did you watch Illinois cough up a 15-point second-half lead on Tuesday? Well, then you know they can’t close a deal either.

Did you watch Northwestern choke against Michigan State on January 15? Well then you know they can’t finish against Michigan State.

And neither can the Illini. And like Illinois, Northwestern won because MSU choked worse.

Pete Nance – still there

Last year’s game at Evanston was one of the strangest college basketball games ever played. The ‘Cats scored 43 points in the first half, and 13 in the second. They led by 15 and lost by 25.

Boo Buie was 0-6 from the field, dished a single assist and booted the ball twice. He garnered four fouls in fifteen minutes of tick.

Six weeks later in Champaign, Buie shot 4-of-9 from the field, scoring nine points. Again one assist. Again two turnovers. But in that much closer game (a 73-66 Illini win), Buie’s 15 minutes produced FIVE personal fouls.

Just wanna remind you how long some of these people have been in college.

Buie didn’t play in the ‘Cats best recent performance against the Illini, the too close for comfort 75-71 Illini win of January 2020. That game (in Champaign) saw lots of Pat Spencer, the gritty 5th-year transfer who spent his first four years playing lacrosse. Remember that guy?

Then, two years ago at Evanston, Buie shot 4-12 (0-5 arc) in a 74-66 loss, again tallying four fouls, but this time in a reasonable 33 minutes.

Boo Buie, Northwestern’s leader & best player, has been terrible to invisible against Illinois.

A reversion to the mean isn’t necessarily in the cards for Boo. After all, the defensive nemeses who shut frustrated him in the past are still playing for Illinois.

But you feel like he might possibly have a better shooting night for once. Like Alfonso Plummer, he doesn’t need a lot of time or space to get his shot off.

This is an official Northwestern document. Gotta love it.

The ‘Cats top scorer is Pete Nance, whose recent success makes you wonder why he plays for Northwestern. His dad was an NBA all-star. Surely he could have gone to a school with academic chops that also knows how to play basketball?

Basketball purists will appreciate the Nance development. He averaged 13 minutes per game as a freshman, on a team that starred Dererk Pardon and Vic Law. But Nance was also behind fellow “First-Year” Miller Kopp, who finally gave up on The Evanston Dream and became Indiana’s worst starter. Despite the pedigree, Chris Collins didn’t rush the Nance development. Pete’s numbers have increased & improved each year.





Pete will encounter Da’Monte Williams tomorrow. If he’s successful against Da’Monte, bully for him. Sometimes it’s nice to root for the underdog.

The pivot is a point of concern with Kofi Cockburn’s status uncertain. Northwestern’s bigs are Ryan Young, who doesn’t start, and Robbie Beran, who does. These guys combine for about 40 minutes and a little more than 5 fouls per game.

Young is considered the more dynamic offensive option, and that’s why Northwestern sucks so much. He’s the last guy you’d want handling the ball with a game on the line. Bad decisions, alligator arms, easily flustered.

If he scores 26 points on 10-14 shooting in a Wildcats win, you can assume this season is, in fact, cursed.

But here’s the thing: All these Wildcats are older and more experienced than they were during any previous game against Illinois. Until the clock reaches 00:00 and the Illini have more points, there’s no reason not to worry about the outcome.

Sleep tight!