HQ prediction: UI 72, IPFW 61

HQ prediction: UI 72, IPFW 61

 

Sneak peek:

IPFW at Illinois, 7 p.m. today

 

Lineups

Illinois (6-0)

STARTERS

P Name Yr. Ht. PPG

G Tracy Abrams Jr. 6-2 10.5

G Rayvonte Rice Jr. 6-4 17.2

G Joseph Bertrand Sr. 6-6 11.8

F Jon Ekey Sr. 6-7 9.3

C Nnanna Egwu Jr. 6-11 9.7

FYI: Rice, who scored 25 points in Tuesday’s win at UNLV, is the first Illinois newcomer to reach double figures in his first six games since Kiwane Garris did in 10 straight games in 1993-94.

OFF THE BENCH

G Jaylon Tate Fr. 6-3 3.7

G Kendrick Nunn Fr. 6-3 3.0

G/F Malcolm Hill Fr. 6-6 4.3

IPFW (6-2)

STARTERS

P Name Yr. Ht. PPG

G Pierre Bland Sr. 6-2 10.3

G Isaiah McCray Jr. 6-0 6.8

G Joe Edwards Jr. 6-5 8.8

F Michael Kibiloski Sr. 6-7 9.3

F Steve Forbes Jr. 6-9 12.0

FYI: The Mastodons beat Eastern Illinois in Charleston on Wednesday for their sixth win, matching the best eight-game start in the program’s Division I era.

OFF THE BENCH

G Mo Evans Fr. 6-0 7.6

F Luis Jacobo Sr. 6-5 14.6

F Joe Reed So. 6-8 11.0

Details

Site: State Farm Center (16,618), Champaign.

TV: ESPN3 (Internet only) — B.J. Schaben (play-by-play) and former Illini Sean Harrington (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: First meeting.

FYI: Tonight’s game is available online only through the ESPN digital stream and the lone remaining game on the schedule that won’t be broadcast live on television is the Dec. 10 game against Dartmouth. Games against Alabama State, Jacksonville State and Bradley were also not televised.

Marcus Jackson’s Storylines

IPFW is a hard team to figure out. The Mastodons played well without its top player (Jacobo) on the road against a Dayton team that knocked off Gonzaga in Maui and then on Wednesday at Eastern Illinois, they go down to the wire. Shortly after Illinois’ win Tuesday at UNLV, though, John Groce was fully aware that IPFW won’t come to Champaign fearful of the big stage. “(Dayton coach) Archie Miller’s a friend of mine and IPFW had Dayton beat at Dayton,” Groce said. “That’s a hard place to play; I can appreciate that because when I was at Xavier, I thought Dayton was a very hard place to play.” IPFW played that game at Dayton without Jacobo, a Summit League Player of the Year candidate.

After such a big win on the road at UNLV on Tuesday, the trick for Illinois is to bounce back and regain focus for tonight’s game despite limited preparation due to travel and the Thanksgiving holiday. After the win on the road last year at Gonzaga, the Illini didn’t handle itself particularly well in a home win against Norfolk State. Groce will rely on his veterans and captains to ensure the Illini bring their A game. “We’re going to have our hands full on Friday and see how mature we are after a big road win,” Groce said. “Can we flip it around, be mentally tough, be mentally mature and make sure we’re prepared and play well on Friday?”

Overlooked somewhat by Rice’s stellar performance at UNLV was the contribution that Egwu made in the second half. The big man scored 10 of his 12 points in the final 20 minutes, including a pair of three-pointers that caught UNLV off guard. “We didn’t study that, that was something under the carpet,” UNLV’s Roscoe Smith said. Rest assured IPFW and most teams going forward will respect Egwu’s range. Even still, he’s got the green light. “He’s shot so many (in practice). You combine the last two summers, he’s taken more shots in our off-season shooting stuff than anyone on the team. He’s been making them this past week in practice. He had a practice where he was 5 for 7 from three.”

PREDICTION

Illinois 72, IPFW 61 

Understandably, there’s a level of concern within the Illini coaching staff about the short amount of prep time, coupled with the travel back home from the Pacific Time zone during the holiday break. It’s worth mentioning, though, that the Mastodons only had Thanksgiving Day to prepare after playing Wednesday at Eastern Illinois in front of 425 people. The Illinois veterans have been through this drill before. And it should help that the Illini practiced Thursday at home before enjoying Thanksgiving dinner together. Surely, the veterans have kept the freshmen focused and there was plenty of reminders over turkey of how easily the holiday weekend can be ruined with a loss at home after a big, confidence-building road win. (N-G prediction record: 6-0). 

 

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