HQ prediction: UI 82, Chicago State 66

Sneak peek:
Chicago State at Illinois,
8 p.m. today

Lineups
Illinois (4-0)

STARTERS
P    Name    Yr.    Ht.    PPG
G    Tracy Abrams    Jr.    6-2    11.5
G    Rayvonte Rice    Jr.    6-4    16.5
G    Joseph Bertrand    Sr.    6-6    13.3
F    Jon Ekey    Sr.    6-7    8.5
C    Nnanna Egwu    Jr.    6-11    10.0
FYI: The last time these teams met two years ago, Egwu scored 11 points, the first time in his career that the then-freshman had reached double figures in scoring.
OFF THE BENCH
G    Jaylon Tate    Fr.    6-3    4.0
G    Kendrick Nunn    Fr.    6-3    3.0
G/F    Malcolm Hill    Fr.    6-6    5.0

Chicago State (2-3)
STARTERS
P    Name    Yr.    Ht.    PPG
G    Clarke Rosenberg    Jr.    6-3    13.6
G    Nate Duhon    Sr.    6-3    8.2
G/F    Quinton Pippen    Sr.    6-4    15.6
F    Eddie Denard    Sr.    6-6    8.6
F    Matt Ross    Sr.    6-8    13.6
FYI: Pippen, who’s in his second season at Chicago State after transferring from Missouri State-Western Plains, is the nephew of Bulls great Scottie Pippen.
OFF THE BENCH
G    Jamere Dismukes    Sr.    6-1    5.0
G    Kurt Karis    Fr.    6-1    1.2
G    Corey Gray    Sr.    6-1    3.2

Details

Site: State Farm Center (16,618), Champaign
TV: BTN — Josh Lewin (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 10-0. Last meeting: Illinois 90, Chicago State 43, Nov. 27, 2011 (Champaign).
FYI: Bardo, who earlier this month released a book, “The Flyin’ Illini: The Untold Story of one of College Basketball’s Elite Teams,” is calling his first Illinois game as a member of BTN after spending eight years at ESPN.

Marcus Jackson’s storylines

1 Twice this season Illinois has outrebounded an opponent by 24. It happened Sunday in the win against Bradley and in the season opener against Valparaiso. For the season, Illinois is pulling down close to 14 more boards than its opponent. Coach John Groce thought his team could be good on the glass because of the team’s makeup. But it takes more than talent. “The key is consistently going (hard) and doing that all the time. We’ve got some guys that do it pretty well, and we’ve got to continue to do that; it’s not automatic,” he said.

2 Tracy Dildy’s Chicago State squad likes to apply fullcourt pressure at every opportunity. The Cougars will press after made free throws, missed free throws, dead balls, made baskets. With the Illini opting to play two point guards, Abrams and Tate, at the same time on occasion, they could help in attacking the pressure. “Obviously, you want to have ball handlers on the floor in those situations,” Groce said. “Could this be a game where having both of them out there simultaneously is helpful against the pressure? No question. When they’re together, we’ve got two play-making guards, guys that handle the basketball, two guys you expect to be positive assist-to-turnover, and they expect that out of themselves as well, and that makes your team better offensively.”

3 Through four games, Illinois has performed well on the defensive end of the floor. The Illini are among the Big Ten leaders in field goal percentage defense, scoring defense, rebounding margin and blocked shots. If you want to nitpick, you can point to the fact they’re forcing 8.5 turnovers per game, which is last in the Big Ten. “Part of it is officiating: How aggressive can you be in a certain area of things to expose yourself to fouling? For us, I always tell them fouling negates hustle, and we’ve got to find ways to play hard without fouling,” Groce said. Groce is pleased with all those other areas, so he’s not overly concerned with creating more turnovers right now. “We would like to force a few more, but I don’t want to give up (all the other defensive areas).”

Prediction:
Illinois 82, Chicago State 66


This will be the last of the five straight home games to begin the season, and the Illini are looking to extend their homecourt win streak to nine dating back to last year. Get caught looking ahead to Tuesday’s visit to UNLV and the Illini could find themselves in a position of having to atone for an ugly nonconference loss, something they avoided last season. Like all in-state opponents, playing Illinois will be like Chicago State’s Super Bowl. Expect the Illini to respond accordingly. (N-G prediction record: 4-0)
 

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