HQ prediction: UI 73, Hawaii 66
Sneak peek: Illinois at Hawaii, 11:30 p.m. today
P Name Yr. Ht. PPG
G Tracy Abrams So. 6-1 14.0
G D.J. Richardson Sr. 6-3 8.5
G Brandon Paul Sr. 6-4 17.0
F Tyler Griffey Sr. 6-9 13.5
F Nnanna Egwu So. 6-11 8.5
FYI: Abrams has reached double figures in scoring each of the first two games, marking the second time in the point guard’s career he has done so.
OFF THE BENCH
G Joseph Bertrand Jr. 6-6 7.0
F Myke Henry So. 6-6 4.0
F Sam McLaurin Sr. 6-8 4.0
P Name Yr. Ht. PPG
G Jace Tavita Sr. 6-4 2.7
G Brandon Spearman Jr. 6-3 12.3
F Hauns Brereton Jr. 6-6 16.7
F C. Standhardinger Jr. 6-8 17.3
C Vander Joaquim Jr. 6-10 15.3
FYI: Spearman, an AAU teammate of D.J. Richardson, averaged 14.7 points on Simeon’s 2010 Class 4A state title team after transferring from Hales Franciscan.
OFF THE BENCH
F Isaac Fotu Fr. 6-8 6.3
F Ozren Pavlovic Fr. 6-8 1.3
G Manroop Clair Fr. 6-2 2.3
Site: Stan Sheriff Center, Honolulu (10,300).
Radio: Steve Kelly (play-by-play) and former Illini Jerry Hester (expert analysis) have the call on WDWS 1400-AM, WDAN 1490-AM, WHMS 97.5-FM, WDNL 102.1-FM and WPXN 104.9-FM.
Series: Illinois leads 6-0. Last meeting Dec. 8, 2008, Illinois 68, Hawaii 58.
FYI: For the third consecutive game, Illinois’ contest will not be available on live television, but an Internet stream is available free at OCSports.tv.
MARCUS JACKSON'S STORYLINES
Illinois went into the St. Francis game Monday worried about the Terriers’ speed and ability to make plays in transition. It wasn’t an issue; the Terriers were credited with four fast-break points. The Illini share the same concerns entering tonight’s game against the Rainbow Warriors. “The biggest thing that stands out is their tempo, how fast they are,” coach John Groce said. “They’re really going to test our transition defense.” Hawaii point guard Jace Tavita orchestrates the attack, averaging nine assists per game, and if the Illini defense can slow his pace, the better their chances.
John Groce isn’t a big fan of the long trip to Hawaii, but he’s inherited a group that has fared well during true road games early in the season. The Illini enter tonight’s contest winners of five straight nonconference road games, dating back to 2008. The Illini say they’re not allowing their beautiful surroundings to become a distraction. “Our seniors and our captains have done a good job of leading us moment by moment to this point,” Groce said. “It’s a lot of fun; at the same time, it’s still a business trip,” D.J. Richardson said.
Fans might look at the summaries and wonder what’s wrong with Richardson. The senior is shooting 29 percent (5 of 17) from behind the three-point line through two games, down from his career 37 percent clip. His coaches aren’t worried. “D.J.’s going to be fine,” one assistant said. The Peoria native isn’t sweating his slow start. “My shots will fall, and other things have been helping me and the team, being a leader and also playing great defense,” he said.
PREDICTION: Illinois 73, Hawaii 66
The early returns have been highly favorable for Illinois’ first-year coaching staff and its players. The coaches excited the fan base, landing a highly regarded recruiting class this week, and the players have energized the supporters with their play on the floor through two games. “Every day we’re getting better. It starts with practice, and in the games it’s showing as well. We’ve got guys taking charges, getting on the floor for loose balls; we’re playing hard,” Richardson said. It won’t be easy, playing in a hostile environment, but the Illini have shown a focus that will lift them tonight, entering Maui on a high note. (N-G record: 2-0)