HQ men's hoops prediction: UI 76, Bradley 61
Bradley at Illinois, 5 p.m. Sunday
P Name Yr. Ht. PPG
G Tracy Abrams Jr. 6-2 11.3
G Rayvonte Rice Jr. 6-4 17.7
G Joseph Bertrand Sr. 6-6 16.0
F Jon Ekey Sr. 6-7 5.0
C Nnanna Egwu Jr. 6-11 10.0
FYI: Egwu has scored exactly 10 points in each of Illinois’ first three games. He reached double figures in scoring six times last season as a sophomore.
OFF THE BENCH
G Jaylon Tate Fr. 6-3 4.0
F Austin Colbert Fr. 6-9 2.0
G/F Malcolm Hill Fr. 6-6 5.0
P Name Yr. Ht. PPG
G Walt Lemon Sr. 6-3 16.0
G Omari Grier So. 6-4 15.5
F Tyshon Pickett Sr. 6-6 12.5
F Auston Barnes Jr. 6-8 12.8
F Chris Blake Jr. 6-7 3.0
FYI: Barnes has posted back-to-back double-doubles, including Friday’s effort in which he scored a career-high 15 points and grabbed a career-best 11 boards against Chicago State.
OFF THE BENCH
G Ka’Darryl Bell So. 6-1 3.5
F/C Xzavier Taylor Fr. 6-9 6.0
G Stefan Zecevic Fr. 6-6 2.5
Site: State Farm Center (16,618), Champaign
TV: BTDN (Internet only) — Joey Gelman (play-by-play), Jeff Ohmer (analyst) and Hayley Lockwood (reports).
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 13-3. Last meeting: Bradley 72, Illinois 68, Nov. 28, 2009 (Las Vegas).
FYI: The last time these programs met was the 2009-10 season at the Las Vegas Invitational. In that game, Bradley’s Sam Maniscalco, who finished his career at Illinois, scored 12 points and had five assists.
Marcus Jackson’s storylines
Today the Braves will play their fifth game in a 10-day span, and they enter today’s game with just one day of rest after playing at home against Chicago State on Friday. “We’ve only got three guys who have played before this season, and playing so many games, it’s hard. We haven’t had a chance to get back into practice and clean some things up,” Bradley coach Geno Ford said. “We’re all kind of dealing with the same things.” The Illini last played Wednesday and utilizing an 11-man rotation can be advantageous. “They’ll be ready to play. (Ford) does a great job coaching them,” Illinois coach John Groce said.
With so many new faces, this early part of the season has been a learning experience for Groce and his staff. They’re never really sure how players will respond in certain situations. Last Sunday against Jacksonville State was a less-than-stellar performance. The staff challenged the players leading up to Wednesday’s Valparaiso game and like the response. “I really liked our overall presence much better than I did when we played Jacksonville State; that was the most important thing,” Groce said. The key now is to continue with that same effort.
Lemon is as dynamic a guard the Illini have seen this season, and you’ll likely see a host of Illinois players share the responsibility of guarding the Missouri Valley’s active career scoring leader much of the game. He’s well-rested, too, having fouled out in just 17 minutes Friday. “I’ve really enjoyed watching him on film. I think he’s really talented,” Groce said. “Our team is going to have to defend him, not necessarily one guy. He’s that good.”
PREDICTION: Illinois 76, Bradley 61
A face familiar to fans of both programs will be in attendance today. Sam Maniscalco, who spent the first four years of his career as the starting point guard at Bradley before spending his fifth year as the starter at Illinois, will be somewhat conflicted for today’s game. It’s not burdensome for him, though; he’s going to enjoy the show. “I think it’s going to be fun,” Maniscalco said at Big Ten media day. “I’m going to be there supporting both programs, and I’m just hoping for a good game.” (N-G prediction record: 3-0)