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3:30 PM PT4:30 PM MT5:30 PM CT6:30 PM ET11:30 PM GMT7:30 PM 北京时间4:30 PM MST6:30 PM EST, Mar 12, 2021
Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, Indiana

No. 3 Illinois opens Big Ten tournament vs. Rutgers

Illinois coach Brad Underwood set two goals this week - lock up a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament and not get COVID-19.

Getting a top seed in the Big Dance might happen if the Fighting Illini win the Big Ten tournament in Indianapolis.

That quest begins Friday night when Illinois, the No. 2 seed in the tournament, faces seventh-seed Rutgers in the quarterfinals at Lucas Oil Stadium. A win would all but cement a No. 1 seed for the Illini (20-6, 16-4 Big Ten), who have won four straight, the last three coming against ranked teams Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio State.

Illinois has won the Big Ten Tournament twice in school history, with its last win coming in 2005, the year the Illini made a run to championship game in the NCAA Tournament.

"Big Ten Tournament, we've been playing for a lot all year and we've accomplished a great deal and we have a lot more to go," Underwood said.

The return of national player of the year candidate Ayo Dosunmu is expected to spark Illinois throughout the postseason. After missing three games with a facial injury, Dosunmu returned to score 19 points in Illinois' 73-68 regular-season finale victory over Ohio State.

Dosunmu and center Kofi Cockburn were named first-team All-Big Ten, while freshman Andre Curbelo was named the Big Ten's sixth man of the year.

"They were all very, very well deserved," Underwood said. "In Ayo's case, unfortunate he missed those three games because maybe he could have been player of the year, in my opinion."

Rutgers (15-10) advanced with a 61-50 win over 10-seed Indiana on Thursday night. Rutgers won with balance and defense, with four scorers in double figures and by holding Indiana to 37.5 percent shooting from the floor. The Hoosiers missed their final 13 shots in the loss.

Illinois and Rutgers played once in the regular season, with the Scarlet Knights beating the Illini 91-88 in Piscataway, N.J. It was the highest-scoring game in the Big Ten for the Scarlet Knights, who shot 46.8 percent from the field and 40 percent (8-20) from 3-point range.

"My group is confident," Rutgers coach Steve Pikiell said. "We've never had an issue there. So, again, every team in this league is really good. Illinois, obviously, is playing great basketball. Much respect for their program. But you play teams like that in this league. Everyone's pretty good, and we're going have to play really well and we're going have to do a lot of things well to slow them down."

An upset of Illinois could improve NCAA Tournament seeding for Rutgers, who will be making its first trip to the Big Dance since 1991.

"We kind of have that chip on our shoulder, knowing that our season got cut short," Rutgers center Myles Johnson said. "Really, really cut short last year and kind of just been carrying with us this season. And again here finally be able to play in the Big Ten Tournament, finally be able to play later on in March, is just such a great feeling, so it's just we got to take each game one at a time and now we're moving on to another game."

--Field Level Media

Updated March 12, 2021

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