It’s no secret that the Illinois Fighting Illini (15-8 overall, 5-5 Big Ten) have struggled offensively from time to time this season. There have been many times where they needed a source of offense from someone other than senior guards Rayvonte Rice and the injured Tracy Abrams.
They’ve especially needed a spark since the aforementioned Rice and junior guard Aaron Cosby have been on an indefinite suspension. Over the last two weeks, one player has stepped up to be a driving force to keep the Illini’s NCAA tournament hopes alive.
That one player has been sophomore forward Malcolm Hill. The native of Bellville, Illinois was already the team’s second leading scorer (14.6 PPG) and rebounder (5.4 RPG) behind Rice, but lately he’s taken control of the Illini offense. He was the second leading scorer with 15 points in Tuesday night’s victory over Rutgers, he scored a game-high 27 and hit the game-winning shot against Penn State on Saturday.
He scored 18 in both the loss to Minnesota back on January 24th and the win over Purdue back on January 21st. He pitched in 12 in the heartbreaking loss to Indiana back on January 18th right after Rice and Cosby sustained their injuries before being suspended. During this five game stretch Hill has made 31 of his last 68 shots from the field (roughly 49-percent).
He’s also converted 12 of his last 25 three-point attempts (50-percent), and has given John Groce‘s team a stable force in the unpredictable Big Ten Conference. With the Illini now at .500 in the conference standings, they’re tied for fourth place with Nebraska (13-9, 5-5) who dominated Northwestern on Tuesday night.
Hill is a big reason why Illinois has reached this mark, and unless Rice and Cosby come back anytime soon he’ll need to continue to carry this team. Hill will definitely have his will and determination tested when the Fighting Illini travel to Michigan State (15-7, 6-3) on Saturday. Follow me on Twitter @GabeSalgado82