Houston Cougars (29-5) vs. Illinois Fighting Illini (23-9)
March 20, 2022 12:10 pm EDT
The Line: Illinois Fighting Illini +4.5 / Houston Cougars -4.5; Over/Under: 133.5
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The 5-seed Houston Cougars & 4-seed Illinois Fighting Illini will square off at PPG Paints Arena this Sunday in the 2nd round of the NCAA Tournament – South Region.
The 5-seed Houston Cougars improved to 29-5 on the season after defeating the 12-seed UAB Blazers, 82-68, on Friday. Houston was outstanding on both ends of the court against UAB and was able to hold off the Blazers for the victory after taking a 67-51 lead with 7:57 left in regulation. Houston shot 53.3% from the field & 47.6% from beyond the arc while allowing Houston to shoot 53.3% shooting from the field & 47.6% from beyond the arc. Leading the way for the Cougars was Kyler Edwards who had 25 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal, & 1 block.
On the season, coming into their game against UAB, Houston was averaging 75.8 ppg on 46.9% shooting from beyond the arc. The Cougars were averaging 8.0 three-pointers per game on 34.1% shooting from beyond the arc. Offensively, Houston has been led by Kyler Edwards (13.6 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 3.2 apg, 1.0 spg), Kyler White Jr. (13.2 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 1.2 apg, 1.1 spg, 1.5 bpg), Josh Carlton (12.0 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 1.2 bpg), & Taze Moore (10.3 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 2.9 apg, 1.6 spg).
Defensviely, prior to their game against UAB, Houston was holding their opponents to an average of 58.9 ppg on 37.3% shooting from the field. The Cougars have a rebound margin of 7.5 and a turnover margin of 3.0.
The 4-seed Illinois Fighting Illini improved to 23-9 on the season after defeating the 13-seed Chattanooga Mocs, 54-53, on Friday. Illinois had all they could hand from Chattanooga, however, the defense was outstanding in the 2nd half and was able to secure the victory after a pair of FT’s by Alfonso Plummer gave the Fighting Illini the lead for good with :12 seconds left in regulation. Illinois shot 38.8% from the field & 17.6% from beyond the arc while holding Chattanooga to just 32.3% shooting from the field & 26.7% from beyond the arc. Leading the way for the Fighting Illini was Kofi Cockburn who had 17 points, 13 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, & 3 blocks.
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On the season, prior to their game against Chattanooga, Illinois was averaging 75.8 ppg on 45.3% shooting from the field. The Fighting Illini were averaging 9.2 three-pointers per game on 36.7% shooting from beyond the arc. Offensively, Illinois has been led by Kofi Cockburn (21.1 ppg, 10.6 rpg), Alfonso Plummer (14.8 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 1.1 apg), Trent Frazier (12.1 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 4.1 apg, 1.3 spg), & Jacob Grandison (10.3 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 2.4 apg).
Defensively, prior to their game against Chattanooga, Illinois was allowing their opponents to average 67.6 ppg on 41.6% shooting from the field. The Fighting Illini had a rebound margin of 6.1 and a turnover margin of -1.5.
The Cougars are 4-0 ATS in their last 4 games overall & 6-1 ATS in their last 7 games following a ATS win. The Fighting Illini are 5-2 ATS in their last 7 games as an underdog & 0-4 ATS in their last 4 games overall.
Houston has been solid on both ends of the court as the Cougars come into this game ranked 53rd in scoring offense, 3rd in scoring defense, & 1st in defensive FG%. Illinois has been led by their offense this season which ranks 55th in scoring offense, 109th in FG%, &* 42nd in 3P-FG%, however, the defense ranks only 130th in scoring defense and has struggled generating turnovers, ranking 278th in turnover margin.
Illinois has one of the best players in the country in Kofi Cockburn who is an absolute force downlow, however, the Fighting Illini just hasn’t looked as strong over the past few weeks as they were bounced early from the Big Ten Tournament by Indiana and had their hands full with Chattanooga. Houston has been great on both ends of the court this season and as I think their defense give and Illinois team that has averaged just 62.8 ppg over their last 4 games trouble, I think the play here is to take Houston to cover.