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Good Morning, Illini Nation: Steady frontcourt presence

Jan. 26—Sign up for our daily basketball newsletter here

Welcome to "Good Morning, Illini Nation," your daily dose of college basketball news from Illini beat writer and AP Top 25 voter Scott Richey. He'll offer up insights every morning on Brad Underwood's team and college basketball at large:

Illinois has leaned on Coleman Hawkins and Quincy Guerrier as its primary frontcourt rotation this season (with only intermittent Dain Dainja minutes that almost never come in the second half).

Hawkins and Guerrier have delivered in that role with fairly constant and typically high-level production. Especially in the last nine games.

Hawkins is averaging 15 points, 7.2 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 2.4 steals and 1.6 blocks in that stretch. He's doing so while shooting 48 percent overall, 45 percent from three-point range and 80 percent at the free throw line.

"Coleman's ability to shoot it helps a lot," Illinois guard Marcus Domask said after Wednesday's loss at Northwestern where Hawkins tied him with a game-high 22 points. "When he's setting ball screens and popping, it's hard to guard. We went to that a little bit and just found success with it."

Guerrier has been just as productive in the same nine-game stretch dating back to his 28-point performance in Illinois' Braggin' Rights blowout of Missouri. The veteran forward has put up three straight double-doubles and has six in nine games. He's averaging 15.2 points and 9.6 rebounds in the last month and putting up a 47/40/62 shooting slash.

Not that he was overly pleased with Wednesday's game even after going for 15 points and 11 rebounds. To Guerrier, that negated another strong performance from Hawkins and himself.

"Coleman is a hell of a player," Guerrier said. "He's really good. He's making the right plays. He's defending, getting rebounds. He's just got to keep doing what he's doing, and I've got to keep doing what I'm doing. I think defensively I was really bad (Wednesday) and made a lot of mistakes and have got to fix it."