HQ prediction: UI 69, Georgia Tech 65
Illinois at Georgia Tech, 6:15 p.m. today
P Name Yr. Ht. PPG
G Tracy Abrams Jr. 6-2 11.1
G Rayvonte Rice Jr. 6-4 17.1
G Joseph Bertrand Sr. 6-6 11.7
F Jon Ekey Sr. 6-7 8.7
C Nnanna Egwu Jr. 6-11 9.1
FYI: Abrams registered a team-high four steals in Friday’s home win against IPFW, one off the career high he set last season in a win at Hawaii.
OFF THE BENCH
G Jaylon Tate Fr. 6-3 3.1
G Kendrick Nunn Fr. 6-3 2.6
G/F Malcolm Hill Fr. 6-6 3.9
Georgia Tech (5-3)
P Name Yr. Ht. PPG
G Trae Golden Sr. 6-2 13.5
G Chris Bolden So. 6-3 5.2
G Marcus Georges-Hunt So. 6-5 11.5
F Robert Carter Jr. So. 6-8 9.3
C Daniel Miller Sr. 6-11 10.3
FYI: Carter, who is averaging 9.5 rebounds per game this season, has led the Yellow Jackets in rebounding in five of the team’s first eight games.
OFF THE BENCH
G Solomon Poole So. 6-0 7.5
F Kammeon Holsey Sr. 6-8 7.8
G Stacey Poole Jr. Jr. 6-4 4.0
Site: McCamish Pavilion (8,600), Atlanta
TV: ESPN 2 — Bob Wischusen (play-by-play) and Len Elmore (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 7-1. Last meeting: Illinois 75, Georgia Tech 62, Nov. 28, 2012 (Champaign).
FYI: In last year’s meeting between the Illini and the Yellow Jackets, Bertrand went on a personal 10-0 run during a second-half spurt to help the Illini improve to 8-0 in John Groce’s first season.
Marcus Jackson’s Storylines
1 Coming off the big win at UNLV last week, the Illini received a scare at home, falling behind by 11 before narrowly escaping with a win against IPFW on Friday. The biggest issue, according to John Groce was the lack of toughness his team showed in the first half of that game. Against a veteran Georgia Tech team, toughness will have to be a 40-minute constant. “We’ve got to be more ready to go,” Groce said. “They’re great on the glass, they’ve got great size, they’ve got girth, they’re big, they’re strong on the interior and if you don’t bring toughness against them, it can be a long night.”
2 If you recall last year’s game against the Yellow Jackets in Champaign during the Big Ten/ACC challenge, you’ll notice a lot of familiar names on the Georgia Tech roster from that game. Six current Yellow Jackets played at least 24 minutes against the Illini, plus they’ve added Tennessee transfer Trae Golden, their top scorer. Though Georgia Tech has three losses, this will be a tough matchup for Illinois. “They’re bigger, they’re stronger; you can tell some of those guys got in the weight room in the offseason, they’ve added strength and weight, especially on the interior,” Groce said. “Certainly you can see the growth and development in those guys; they clearly got better.”
3 The good news just keeps coming in for Champaign native Rayvonte Rice, who on Monday was named the Big Ten’s Player of the Week. Rice averaged 21 points, eight rebounds and three steals in two games last week, including a 25-point effort in the win at UNLV. “He’s performing like he’s prepared himself to perform. It’s a great lesson to the young guys. It’s not that he hasn’t had any hiccups and that everything’s easy, it’s hard,” Groce said of Rice, who sat out last season after transferring from Drake. “Right now, he’s earning some of those dividends from all the hard work and effort he put in in so many areas. From that standpoint, I’m really proud of him. He’s got to get better, and he knows that, but I like the start he’s off to.”
Prediction: Illinois 69, Georgia Tech 65
Entering the 15th edition of the Big Ten/ACC challenge, no team has a longer active win streak in the event than the Illini, whose four straight victories is tied with Purdue for the best current run. They’ve won twice on the road during that stretch and a full-out team effort like the one they got last week at UNLV is going to be the recipe to extend the streak to five. For that to happen, the freshmen, who weren’t very good in the win against IPFW, are going to have to elevate their games once again. It all starts with the preparation, which Groce said has been great since Friday’s close call. “This is a team whose margin for error is not real large, and we have to make sure everybody’s ready to go,” Groce said. “We get it done by committee, and I didn’t think we got it done by committee on Friday.” (N-G prediction record: 7-0).