HQ prediction: USC 68, UI 66
Beat writer Marcus Jackson has Illinois losing its Maui Invite opener:
Sneak peek: Illinois vs. Southern Cal, 11 tonight
P Name Yr. Ht. PPG
G Tracy Abrams So. 6-1 16.7
G D.J. Richardson Sr. 6-3 11.0
G Brandon Paul Sr. 6-4 19.7
F Tyler Griffey Sr. 6-9 9.7
F Nnanna Egwu So. 6-11 7.0
FYI: Abrams tied his career high with 22 points to go along with five rebounds in Friday’s overtime victory.
OFF THE BENCH
G Joseph Bertrand Jr. 6-6 5.3
F Myke Henry So. 6-6 2.7
F Sam McLaurin Sr. 6-8 4.3
Southern California (2-0)
P Name Yr. Ht. PPG
G Gio Fontan Sr. 6-0 4.5
G J.T. Terrell Jr. 6-3 13.5
G Byron Wesley So. 6-5 11.5
F Dewayne Dedmon Jr. 7-0 6.5
F Eric Wise Sr. 6-6 8.5
FYI: If you combine the career scoring averages of all the players on the USC roster, it comes to 87.8 points per game.
OFF THE BENCH
C Omar Orbay Jr. 7-2 10.5
F Ari Stewart Jr. 6-7 7.5
G Greg Allen Sr. 6-3 4.0
Site: Lahaina Civic Center, Lahaina, Hawaii (16,618).
TV: ESPN2 — Sean McDonough (play-by-play), Jay Bilas (analyst) and Bill Raftery (analyst) call the action.
Radio: Brian Barnhart (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: USC leads 6-2. Last meeting: UI 90, USC 77, March 14, 1997.
FYI: Hester’s father, Jerry Hester Sr., died Friday. The younger Hester called Friday’s game after receiving the news and has decided to stay in Hawaii to call the three games in Maui.
Marcus Jackson’s storylines
Anyone recognize these Trojans? Much like it’s difficult to get a good scouting report on the Illini early in the season playing in a new system, USC has a roster composed of a bunch of new faces. Five transfers will see significant action for the Trojans, who are looking to bounce back from a 6-26 season in which they went 1-17 in the Pac-12. Terrell, a transfer from Wake Forest, will be a challenging matchup for the Illini guards.
After the Illini cruised to easy wins in the first two games of the season, much was made about the fact that the team hadn’t been “popped in the mouth” yet. Well, Hawaii gave the Illini its best shot Friday and Illinois recovered to win the thriller in overtime. “It gives our guys the concept that you’ve got to play 40 minutes, and I thought we showed great resolve,” coach John Groce said. “You’ve got to deal with adversity and success.” The Illinois team that was broken at the end of last season wouldn’t have been able to come back from 16 down on the road. This group continues to show it’s refreshed.
Hawaii’s bigs gave the Illini problems Friday night with its three front-court starters combining for 44 points and 23 rebounds. USC’s front court is bigger and potentially more dangerous, meaning Nnanna Egwu, Tyler Griffey and Sam McLaurin will likely have to be more productive than they were Friday. The trio combined for 11 points and 13 rebounds against the Rainbow Warriors. “We want and have gotten more production out of our 4 and 5s and we’re going to need that moving forward,” Groce said.
Prediction: USC 68, Illinois 66
The Illini were fortunate to escape Hawaii with that overtime win Friday. The backcourt trio of Paul, Abrams and Richardson were outstanding and will need a similar effort against the new-look Trojans. But even after the 3-0 start, the Illini are still a work in progress. “It’s still early, our system is relatively new to these guys. We’re a new staff, we’ve got some experience, we’ve got an older team so I think that does allow our guys to pick up things a little more quickly than normal,” Groce said. (N-G record: 3-0).