A trip to Illinois awaits the Miami Hurricanes, where they’ll face the Illini of Illinois Monday in Champaign as part of the Big Ten-ACC Challenge. UM will try to get back to winning ways following two losses before a Thanksgiving break.
The Canes (4-3) are off a fourth-place finish at the Charleston Classic, going 1-2 with a win over Missouri State and losses to Florida and Connecticut, falling 80-55 in the latter.
To avoid dropping a third consecutive matchup, Miami will need to slow down a multi-headed Illini attack that is averaging over 88 points per contest, including over 100 in their two most recent games.
Sophomore guard Ayo Dosunmu leads Illinois (6-1) in points per game (16.3), including a season-high 24 points in UI-IC’s most recent game on November 26 against Lindenwood, and 20 more on November 23 while facing Hampton.
Senior Andres Feliz and Jamaican center Kofi Cockburn follow with 15.3 points per game, with Cockburn also boasting a team-high 12 rebounds per game as well as five double-doubles. Forward Giorgi Bezhanishvili rounds out the Illini in double-figures just under 11 points per game.
Illinois’ 16.3 turnovers per game suggest Miami can apply pressure on their ball handlers, especially as UM averages just under 10 turnovers themselves.
But for Miami to win, they’ll need good games from their two experienced guards in Chris Lykes and DJ Vasiljevic. In each of the Hurricanes’ losses in Charleston, they suffered setbacks in the form of quiet performances by the two veterans. Vasiljevic had no second half points in the 78-58 loss to UF, while Lykes scored just seven points in the 25-point defeat to UConn—also without a point after halftime.
Vasiljevic leads the Canes with 13.9 points per game, while Lykes follows with 12.9. Meanwhile, redshirt-junior Kameron McGusty’s total bisects the two Miami veterans, adding 13.3 points per game.
UM has won four of their five most recent games in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge, with home wins against Rutgers and Nebraska and road triumphs at Minnesota and Illinois. The Hurricanes fell to Rutgers a season ago, 57-54 at the Watsco Center for their first loss in the series since 2013-14. Miami is 6-6 all time in the event.
The program is 2-1 all-time against Illinois, including 2-0 under Jim Larrañaga, most recently coming out on top in 2014-15 when the Canes defeated the Illini 70-61. UM also beat Illinois in the second round of the 2013 NCAA Tournament, 63-59.
Monday’s game at the Sate Farm Arena tips off at 7 p.m. and can be seen on ESPN2, while 560 WQAM will also carry the game.
UM will be off for 11 days after Monday’s matchup to take final exams, facing Alabama A&M at the Watsco Center on December 14th.