HQ forecast: UI 84, Norfolk State 60

HQ forecast: UI 84, Norfolk State 60

Sneak peek:

Norfolk State at No. 10 Illinois, 7 p.m. today

Illinois (10-0)

P    Name    Yr.    Ht.    PPG
G    Tracy Abrams    So.    6-1    11.6
G    D.J. Richardson    Sr.    6-3    12.2
G    Brandon Paul    Sr.    6-4    19.5
F    Tyler Griffey    Sr.    6-9    9.8
C    Nnanna Egwu    So.    6-11    5.6
FYI: After his 35-point performance at Gonzaga, Paul raised his scoring average nearly two points from 17.8 and has scored 20-plus 18 times in his career, including five this season.
G    Joseph Bertrand    Jr.    6-6    8.3
F    Sam McLaurin    Sr.    6-8    4.4
F    Myke Henry    So.    6-6    4.5

Norfolk State (6-5)
P    Name    Yr.    Ht.    PPG
G    Jamel Fuentes    Jr.    6-3    7.4
G    Pendarvis Williams    Jr.    6-6    12.1
G    Malcolm Hawkins    Jr.    6-5    12.0
F    Rob Johnson    Sr.    6-8    10.5
C    Brandon Goode    Jr.    7-0    7.8
FYI: Hawkins enters the Assembly Hall on a hot streak, averaging 19.5 points on 12-for-21 shooting, including 5 of 10 from long range, in the last two games.
G    Kris Brown    Sr.    6-3    5.2
F    Rashid Gaston    Fr.    6-8    7.6
F    Kievyn Lila-St. Rose    Jr.    6-6    3.1

Site: The Assembly Hall (16,618), Champaign.
TV: ESPN3.com — Mike Couzens (play-by-play) and Brooke Weisbrod (analyst) have the call for the Internet-only broadcast.
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: First meeting.
FYI: Tonight’s broadcast is online only, but the remainder of Illinois’ games will be available on live television.

Marcus Jackson’s storylines
There was a time when Illinois students camped out overnight for prime seating. It’s about time that excitement level returned to the fan base. The Illini are ranked in the Top 10 for the first time in more than six years and the team is playing an exciting brand of basketball while achieving the lofty rating. “These kids, they deserve to have a crowd,” Illinois coach John Groce said. “I just came out of a place Saturday (Gonzaga) that was revved up like none other. It would be great to have the same type of environment here this week at home. The more the merrier.”

Groce has tried to downplay the ranking and attention that’s come Illinois’ way during the unbeaten start, but there’s no running from it. Illinois is 10-0 for the second straight season, but neither the players nor coaches talk about that. The trick for the Illini is to embrace the acclaim while still doing the same things that helped them get to 10-0 and No. 10 in the country. “How hard we play and how focused we are, how tough we are will be the biggest barometers,” Groce said. “Things like loose balls, energy level, rebounding, deflections, active hands. ... How locked in are we will be the barometers.”

While some of the key parts from last year’s Norfolk State team that upset Missouri in the NCAA tournament last year are gone, this is still an outfit that knows what it’s like to play against a highly regarded opponent and win. “They’re very aware of Norfolk State and how athletic they are and their ability and what they did last year,” Groce said. “The reality is our guys are starting to figure out if we play with toughness and togetherness, we can play really, really good basketball. If you don’t, we’re not very good. ... If you play like we did Tuesday night against Western Carolina, we didn’t have it. That might have been the worst game of the 10 we played and then Saturday night might have been as good as we played, and those were just a few days removed from one another. That’s more mental.”

Prediction: Illinois 84, Norfolk State 60
Sunday’s opponent, Eastern Kentucky, will come to the Assembly Hall unbeaten (9-0), and the Colonels own a 24-point win against Norfolk State. The Illini haven’t blown the doors off an opponent since returning from the Maui Invitational. A blowout win tonight would temper the Colonels’ expectations coming into Sunday. It would also show Illinois’ maturity in how it has handled all the attention that’s come its way since Saturday’s emotional win in a tough environment at Gonzaga. (N-G record: 8-2).


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penniless wrote on December 11, 2012 at 7:12 am

The habit of playing downward to your opponents level is continuous with the llini.It should be a blow-out,but do not hold your breath.   Illini  77  Norfork St. 69    Not on the bandwagon as yet.



aaeismacgychel wrote on December 11, 2012 at 10:12 am

This game and the one against Eastern Kentucky are dangerous ones and if we look past either team they will beat us. These two games between Gonzaga and Mizzou bookends are clearly trap games and I expect some struggles tonight for Illinois and even more struggles on Sunday against Eastern Kentucky. Hopefully we come out with the victory in each one, but I expect some nailbiting and a game that gets decided in the final 4 minutes at most. GO ILLINI!

lmaran wrote on December 11, 2012 at 11:12 am

The games between Gonzaga and MO are the "character-building" games, and with our current team and Coach Groce I like our chances. These games are arranged because they serve a purpose, and that is not to earn "L".