Illini basketball prediction: Illinois 88, NIU 60

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GAME 2

UI men vs. Northern Illinois,

7 p.m. today

LINEUPS

ILLINOIS (1-0)

Probable starters

P Name HT. YR. PPG

G Demetri McCamey 6-3 Jr. 11.0

G D.J. Richardson 6-3 Fr. 14.0

G Brandon Paul 6-3 So. 22.0

F Mike Davis 6-9 Jr. 10.0

C Mike Tisdale 7-1 Jr. 8.0

Top reserves

F Dominique Keller 6-7 Sr. 9.0

G Alex Legion 6-5 Jr. 5.0

F Bill Cole 6-9 Jr. 7.0

Northern Illinois (0-1)

Probable starters

G Mike DiNunno 5-11 So. 1.0

G Tony Nixon 6-4 Fr. 4.0

G Darion Anderson 6-2 Jr. 15.0

F Tyler Storm 6-7. So. 2.0

C Sean Kowal 6-11 Jr. 8.0

Top reserves

C Ante Dzepina 6-8 Sr. 6.0

F Lee Fisher 6-5 So. 1.0

G Jeremy Landers 6-2 Jr. 0.0

FACTS & FIGURES

Site: Assembly Hall (16,618), Champaign.

Radio: Brian Barnhart and Jerry Hester call the action on WDWS 1400-AM, WHMS 97.5-FM, WDAN 1490-AM, WDNL 102.1-FM and WPXN 104.9-FM.

TV: None.

Internet: ESPN360. Lou Canellis is on play-by-play duties, and Dickey Simpkins, who coached Illini guard Brandon Paul on the club circuit, provides the expert analysis.

Series: First meeting. UI coach Bruce Weber has never faced NIU, either.

Coaches: Weber (153-57 in seventh season at Illinois, 256-111 in 12th season overall); Ricardo Patton (16-43 in third season at NIU and 200-203 in 15th season overall).

Klee's storylines

Seeing triples

In what is expected to be a banner season for the Big Ten, two of its stars already turned in a pair of banner performances. Michigan's Manny Harris and Ohio State's Evan Turner were named co-Players of the Week on Monday after each scored a triple-double. So which Illini is capable of the program's third triple-double? "That's tough," forward Mike Davis said Monday. "I would say Demetri (McCamey), but he doesn't rebound enough. I want to say Brandon (Paul), but he doesn't get enough assists. D.J. (Richardson), maybe, if he crashes the boards a little more." Mark Smith and Sergio McClain own the only triple-doubles at Illinois. The best guess is probably McCamey, who has come the closest, with 10 points, eight rebounds and 11 assists at Minnesota in 2008. And the junior showed another selfless floor game in the season opener. While the freshman made headlines, McCamey quietly had 11 points, seven assists and four rebounds. Asked when he'll match good-buddy Turner with a triple-double of his own, McCamey said, "It all depends on what I have to do: points, assists, whatever. It doesn't matter; it's just the flow of the game. If I can get 10 points, 10 assists, 10 rebounds, whatever I to do to win, that's what I'll do."

Crowd control

Players and coaches beamed when asked about the Assembly Hall crowd for the season opener against SIU Edwardsville. "The Orange Krush, you could just tell they were ready to be back at the Hall," junior Demetri McCamey said. said. The crowd was announced at 16,012, the number of tickets sold, while the actual attendance was probably closer to 13,500 or 14,000. It was a noticeable improvement from this time last season, when the Illini had to win their fans back. "It just seemed like there was not the excitement, not the energy," Weber said, adding, "But for some reason the other night there was a buzz from the start of the game." A return to the NCAA tournament surely helped, as did the publicity surrounding the freshmen class. Season ticket sales are hovering around 13,5000, with a 94-percent renewal rate from last season. The big jump is in student season ticket sales, which increased by 40 percent. There are still C-Section tickets available for the NIU game. There are B-Section ($30) and C-Section ($22) tickets available for the Presbyterian (Saturday) and Wofford (Nov. 24) games. Unfortunately for Illini fans, four of the first six games are not on TV.

Staying in-state

Shortly after Ricardo Patton was hired at NIU, the coach said at an AAU event, "We'd love to play Illinois. Hopefully we can work something out." They worked it out and the Huskies and Illini meet for the first time today. It's a one-game affair; there is no return game, as you would expect. "We'll play the state schools," Weber said, adding a disclaimer, "If they want to come to us." The most pressure to schedule an in-state school is coming from south of I-72. When Weber attended a charity event last week in Marion, he was pestered again about a potential series with SIU. "It was the first question (they) asked," he said. If Illinois and SIU schedule a game or series, the most likely scenario would involve a game in St. Louis or Chicago. But the UI is hesitant to play in St. Louis because it would take the shine off the Braggin' Rights game vs. Missouri. And Illinois isn't willing to sacrifice the revenue from a home game to play another road game. "We just don't have the opportunity to go on the road and play a lot of people," Weber said.

Prediction

Illinois 88, NIU 60

Here's what Bruce Weber expects tonight: "It will be a game that will be up and down. We're trying to push it. They like to push it." Yes, those 30- and 40-point games are history. The idea that Weber wants a plodding, deliberate tempo is a misconception. His recent Illinois teams didn't have the scorers of this outfit, and he adopted a (defensive) style that fit his personnel. But over a four-season stretch – spanning two seasons at SIU and two at Illinois – Weber's teams ranked first or second in their respective leagues in scoring. If he has the horses, he's not afraid to run with them. Provided it's a controlled pace, of course. Northern Illinois will be without high-scoring guard Xavier Silas, who is sidelined with a fractured hand. The Huskies haven't beaten a Big Ten team in a decade, and it won't happen tonight. (News-Gazette prediction record: 1-0).

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