6:30 p.m. at No. 19 Illinois • State Farm Center • FS1, 100.3-FM
Winning streak has Illini ranked and climbing
Preview: Illinois coach Brad Underwood had never experienced losing like he did in his first two seasons in Champaign. His combined record was 26-39, including just 11 total Big Ten wins from 2017-19. The rebuild is over for the Illini (15-5, 7-2), who on Jan. 13 earned a national ranking for the first time since 2014. They also entered this week in a first-place tie with Michigan State, the latest they had been atop the standings since 2006. The Illini are tough to beat at home but have made their case to be conference title contenders with road wins at Wisconsin, Purdue and Michigan during a six-game winning streak. The Gophers (11-9, 5-5) are 1-6 in true road games this season, but they won last Thursday at Ohio State for the first time since 2005.
Players to watch: Gophers sophomore center Daniel Oturu hasn’t faced a challenge he wasn’t ready for against some top big men. He is second in Big Ten games in scoring (21.1) and rebounding (11.3). He faces another big test in Illinois’ 6-11, 290-pound Kofi Cockburn, who won the Big Ten freshman of the week award for the seventh time Monday after his 22-point, 15-rebound performance in the program’s first win at Purdue since 2008.
Numbers: The Gophers hoped to be a much-improved three-point shooting team this season, but they haven’t shown it in league play. They rank 13th in three-point percentage (28.0) and 14th in three-point percentage defense (37.8).