Illinois, Iowa aim to keep moving up Big Ten standings


Illinois has won three straight games as it prepares to visit Iowa on Saturday afternoon in Iowa City.

The run coincides with inserting Jayden Epps for fellow freshman Sencire Harris in the Fighting Illini’s starting lineup, a move the latter has taken in stride after talking with coach Brad Underwood and assistant Chester Frazier.

“It’s been good,” Harris said. “Providing that energy is what they need, and I’m going to step up and do my job.”

Harris fit the bill during Tuesday’s 72-56 home victory against Nebraska, scoring six of his eight points during a key 15-4 run late in the second half.

Illinois (16-6, 7-4 Big Ten) won for the seventh time in eight games behind a quartet of double-figure scorers.

Matthew Mayer (16 points) led the way while Terrence Shannon Jr. (13), Epps (12) and Coleman Hawkins (10) followed.

Still hoping to gain ground in the conference race, Iowa (14-8, 6-5) will aim to sweep a three-game homestand. The Hawkeyes defeated Rutgers by 11 on Sunday before rolling past Northwestern 86-70 Tuesday night, giving them six wins in their past eight.

“It’s really good that we got to beat teams in the upper half [of the conference standings],” Iowa’s Filip Rebraca said.

Balanced scoring boosted the Hawkeyes, who had five players in double figures against Northwestern. Rebraca and Payton Sandfort scored 20 apiece, and Kris Murray (16), Tony Perkins (12) and Connor McCaffery (11) were next.

“We moved it, we shared it, we got into the bonus relatively early,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. “Didn’t turn it over. It was a lot of guys that had to go ahead and make plays moreso than anything we were drawing up.”

Illinois leads the all-time series 89-76 and enters on a five-game winning streak against Iowa.

The Hawkeyes won the previous five meetings but haven’t prevailed since a 13-point home victory Feb. 2, 2020.

–Field Level Media

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