HQ forecast: Gonzaga 73, UI 69

HQ forecast: Gonzaga 73, UI 69

Beat writer Marcus Jackson's breakdown of No. 13 Illinois at No. 10 Gonzaga, 9 p.m. today

Illinois (9-0)
P    Name    Yr.    Ht.    PPG
G    Tracy Abrams    So.    6-1    11.3
G    D.J. Richardson    Sr.    6-3    12.3
G    Brandon Paul    Sr.    6-4    17.8
F    Tyler Griffey    Sr.    6-9    10.4
C    Nnanna Egwu    So.    6-11    6.0
FYI: Egwu nailed the first three-pointer of his career in Illinois’ last outing against Western Carolina, ending a 9-0 Catamounts run in the second half.
G    Joseph Bertrand    Jr.    6-6    8.2
F    Sam McLaurin    Sr.    6-8    4.4
F    Myke Henry    So.    6-6    4.3
Gonzaga (9-0)
P    Name    Yr.    Ht.    PPG
G    Gary Bell Jr.    So.    6-1    10.1
G    Kevin Pangos    So.    6-2    10.6
F    Guy Landry Edi    Sr.    6-6    7.0
F    Elias Harris    Sr.    6-8    16.8
C    Sam Dower    Jr.    6-9    9.0
FYI: Pangos (16 three-pointers) and Bell (15) have made exactly half of the three-pointers for Gonzaga, which has made a three in 636 consecutive games.
F    Kelly Olynyk    Jr.    7-0    13.8
C    Przemek Karnowski    Fr.    7-1    9.3
G    Kyle Dranginis    Fr.    6-5    5.1
Site: McCarthey Athletic Center (6,000), Spokane, Wash.
TV: ESPN2 — Roxy Bernstein (play-by-play) and former Illini Stephen Bardo (analyst) have the call.
Radio: Brian Barnhart (play-by-play) and former Illini Jerry Hester (expert analysis) have the call on the Illini Sports Network on WDWS 1400-AM, WDAN 1490-AM, WHMS 97.5-FM, WDNL 102.1-FM and WPXN 104.9-FM.
Series: Illinois leads 4-1.
Last meeting: Illinois 82, Gonzaga 75, Dec. 3, 2011.
FYI: This will be Illinois’ first trip to the Kennel. The building, which opened in 2004-05, has been kind to the Bulldogs, who are 55-5 in nonconference games there.

Marcus Jackson’s storylines
Illinois has played against big frontcourts this season. Hawaii and USC were big. Gonzaga’s is big, deep and really good. Elias Harris has been on NBA radars since he torched Illinois at the United Center three years ago. Olynyk, Dower and Karnowski will play for money one day. The Illini, who have struggled on the interior at both ends this season, will have to step it up today. “When you look at the minutes played by their 4 and 5s, the depth of those guys and what they bring to the game in the post and on the glass, defensively, affecting shots, it’s certainly the best we’ve played to this point,” Illinois coach John Groce said.

Illinois didn’t lose to Western Carolina on Tuesday at the Assembly Hall, but it sure felt like it listening to players and coaches afterward. How they bounce back from the disappointing performance, with a Top 10 opponent waiting, is something the coaching staff is looking forward to. When the Illini struggled at Hawaii, they bounced back with a 30-point win against USC. When they struggled against Gardner-Webb, they handled Georgia Tech. It might take another 70 percent shooting effort in the first half or someone going on a personal 10-0 run to win in a hostile environment.

It’s no secret one of the main reasons the Illini are unbeaten and why they’re a group that’s fun to watch is the rate at which they shoot the three-point shot. Illinois is averaging 11 made three-pointers per game this season. It will need that and maybe more in a tough environment at Gonzaga. When the shots haven’t been falling, however, Groce’s squad has stepped up in other areas. When they hit a season-low seven treys against Western Carolina earlier in the week, the Illini forced 22 turnovers and scored 29 points off those turnovers. Look for other aspects of the game to step up in the event of a cold-shooting night.

Gonzaga 73, Illinois 69

Illinois’ mantra is “Togetherness and toughness.” The Illini didn’t have that the last time out, and a similar effort will turn into an embarrassment on national television. Expect to see a more inspired performance against the Bulldogs, who have grown accustomed to taking every opponent’s best effort as they have become one of the country’s marquee midmajor programs. Their depth and size could prove insurmountable for Illinois. “I just don’t think they have any weaknesses,” Groce said. (N-G prediction record: 8-1)


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happygilmore wrote on December 08, 2012 at 1:12 am

I think Joe Bertrand could have a big game today. Gonzaga has a great team and are well balanced, but they don't have anyone with Bertrand's combination of length and athleticism. I hope he gets a lot of minutes and is aggressive. Sometimes he doesn't look for his shots much.

This is kind of one of those games where I'll be satisfied if Illinois can play them close. This is one of the toughest places to play in the country. I think Gonzaga could beat anyone in the country at their place.

Gonna need to shoot it really well tonight. Go Illini!

IlliniMike05 wrote on December 08, 2012 at 9:12 am

Spot-on analysis in your first paragraph. I've been saying the same thing. Really, I think our entire backcourt should have an advantage over theirs; Pangos, Bell and Stockton are solid, but our guards are a lot longer, stronger and more athletic. More than just three-point shooting- which probably needs to be a given for us to beat Top 10 teams this year, or to be one ourselves for that matter- we need to get 3-4 transition buckets directly off takeaways from our guards tonight.

But you're right, small forward is their relative weak spot and Bertrand has a chance to really exploit it. He's gotta come off the bench looking to get buckets right away tonight for us to have a chance to win.

penniless wrote on December 08, 2012 at 11:12 am

If,if,if,enough said. Zags    83   illini    68   What part of ESPN opinion did one not understand???Way to many Ifs.


Brownman07 wrote on December 08, 2012 at 11:12 pm

Nice call penniless. Ha!