Our beat writer's pick: Minnesota 77, Illinois 72

Our beat writer's pick: Minnesota 77, Illinois 72

Illinois at Minnesota

8 p.m. today

Lineups

Illinois (10-5, 0-2)

Starters

P Name Yr. Ht. PPG

G Te'Jon Lucas So. 6-1 5.9

G Mark Smith Fr. 6-4 8.3

G Mark Alstork Gr. 6-5 6.6

F Leron Black R-Jr. 6-7 14.8

F Michael Finke R-Jr. 6-10 11.5FYI: Finke set his career high for rebounds with 16 in Illinois' last trip to Minneapolis — a 76-71 overtime victory for the Illini on Jan. 23, 2016.

Off the bench

G Da'Monte Williams Fr. 6-3 4.6

G Trent Frazier Fr. 6-1 9.5

G Aaron Jordan Jr. 6-5 10.9

Minnesota (12-3, 1-1)

Starters

P Name Yr. Ht. PPG

G Isaiah Washington Fr. 6-1 7.9

G Dupree McBrayer Jr. 6-5 8.8

G Amir Coffey So. 6-8 14.0

F Jordan Murphy Jr. 6-6 10.0

C Reggie Lynch R-Sr. 6-10 19.1FYI: All-Big Ten guard Nate Mason is questionable for today's game after missing Minnesota's win Saturday against Harvard with an ankle injury. If he plays, he likely replaces Washington in the starting lineup.

Off the bench

F Michael Hurt So. 6-7 3.3

F Davonte Fitzgerald R-Sr. 6-8 3.0

C Bakary Konate Sr. 6-11 1.2

Details

Site: Williams Arena (14,625), Minneapolis.

Radio: Brian Barnhart (play-by-play) and former Illini Deon Thomas (expert analysis) have the call on the Illini Sports Network on WHMS 97.5-FM, WDAN 1490-AM, WDNL 102.1-FM and WPXN 104.9-FM.

TV: Cory Provus (play-by-play) and Shon Morris (analysis) have the call on BTN.

Series history: Illinois leads 122-66.

Last meeting: Minnesota won 68-59 on Feb. 4, 2017, in Champaign.

FYI: Illinois has won three of its last four games at "The Barn." None of them would be considered offensive masterpieces. The Illini topped the Gophers 57-53 in 2013 and 62-49 in 2014 before winning 76-71 in overtime two years ago.

Scott Richey's storylines

Staying healthy

Leron Black and Da'Monte Williams were part of Illinois' postgame press conference following Saturday's win against Grand Canyon for a reason. Black had a double-double, leading Illinois in scoring and rebounding. Williams hit a dagger three-pointer to help the Illini close out the four-point win. They answered questions around some persistent coughing. A day off Sunday allowed some time to rest and get healthier. "I think we're a little bit better," Illinois coach Brad Underwood said. "It's that time of year, and I think it's a part of what we all experience. ... (Trainer) Paul (Schmidt) does a great job of getting our guys vitamins and staying hydrated. I think we're a little better there. I'm not saying we're 100 percent, but we're closer anyway."

Getting Jordan looks from deep

Aaron Jordan's second-half three-pointer against Grand Canyon was just his second in three games for the Illini after making at least two in nine of the 12 games prior. The one against the Antelopes came like almost all of the 6-5 junior guard's do — from spotting up in the corner. Jordan's 31-of-52 three-point shooting this season comes almost exclusively off assists — 93.5 percent of his makes, in fact. Underwood said the Illini could get him more three-point opportunities in transition. "He's tremendous running with a full head of steam, playing under control, getting his feet under him and making that shot," Underwood said. "We've got to look to do that a little more."

Lynch looming large

Minnesota's Reggie Lynch leads the Big Ten and ranks fourth nationally with 3.93 blocked shots per game with 59 blocks in 15 games so far this season. The 6-foot-10 center's presence is one Illinois will have to be aware of throughout today's game. Not that the Illini intend on totally reinventing their game. "I'm going to do the same thing, and I'm going to attack the basket," freshman guard Trent Frazier said. "The different thing I'm going to do is the kickouts. Everyone is going to make a little adjustment because obviously he's going to block some shots, but we're going to limit his shot blocks by making the extra play and getting some great shots."

Prediction: Minnesota 77, Illinois 72

The matchup between Leron Black and Minnesota's double-double machine Jordan Murphy should make today's game must-see TV. Plus, it's actually on TV, with the Grand Canyon game the last to be streamed online only. The real wild card is whether or not Nate Mason plays. The Minnesota offense regularly runs through him at the point. The truth of the matter is Minnesota's top four players, as a group, can be as good as any group in the country. An Illinois win would certainly be an upset. (N-G prediction record: 12-3)

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