HQ prediction: UI 70, Purdue 69

HQ prediction: UI 70, Purdue 69

UI men vs. Purdue,
8 p.m. today


Illinois (13-4, 2-2 Big Ten)

Pos.    Name    Yr.    Ht.    PPG
G    Tracy Abrams    Jr.    6-2    12.6
G    Rayvonte Rice    Jr.    6-4    18.1
G    Joseph Bertrand    Sr.    6-6    11.0
F    Jon Ekey    Sr.    6-7    7.9
C    Nnanna Egwu    Jr.    6-11    7.6
FYI: Abrams has scored in double figures six of the last seven games and has led the team in scoring three times during that stretch, averaging 14.9 points.
G    Jaylon Tate    Fr.    6-3    2.6
G    Kendrick Nunn    Fr.    6-3    3.7
G/F    Malcolm Hill    Fr.    6-6    3.1

Purdue (11-5, 1-2 Big Ten)
Pos.    Name    Yr.    Ht.    PPG
G    Ronnie Johnson    So.    6-0    11.4
G    Terone Johnson    Sr.    6-4    13.6
G    Rapheal Davis    So.    6-5    4.7
F    Basil Smotherman    Fr.    6-5    6.4
C    A.J. Hammons    So.    7-0    9.3
FYI: Terone Johnson is 80 rebounds shy of becoming the fifth player in program history to score 1,000 points, grab 500 rebounds and have 250 assists.
G    Kendall Stephens    Fr.    6-6    7.1
F    Errick Peck    Sr.    6-6    4.8
G    Bryson Scott    Fr.    6-1    8.5


Site: State Farm Center (16,618), Champaign.
TV: BTN — Kevin Kugler (play-by-play) and Shon Morris (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: Purdue leads 96-85. Last meeting: Illinois 79, Purdue 59, Feb. 13, 2013 (Champaign).
FYI: Before knocking off the Boilermakers in Champaign last season, the Illini had lost eight straight to Matt Painter’s squad. Illinois hasn’t beaten Purdue in back-to-back games since 2005-06.

Marcus Jackson’s storylines


Looking purely at the final numbers, it doesn’t appear that Illinois’ offense has been flowing well the last two games, shooting 32 percent at Wisconsin and 28.1 percent at Northwestern. But having watched the film, John Groce is pleased with the execution. His team is getting good shots, it’s just not getting many to drop, including a handful of lauyps and dunks. That’s why entering tonight’s tilt with Purdue, he’s not vowing to make wholesale changes to the approach. “Our body of work over 15 games, I’m going to choose that as the glass half full than over the span of two games,” he said. “We’ve got to knock a few more of those in; our guys know that and I’m confident we will.”


The Illinois roster is made up guys who have faced varying levels of adversity throughout their collegiate careers, whether at Illinois or elsewhere. Then there are five freshmen on the bench who’ve not faced a great deal in terms of the adversity the Illini faced last week at any point in their basketball lives. The guys with the experience are taking charge. “They’ve been pretty steady with their leadership. When adversity hits, that’s when you really learn a lot about your leadership and who guys are. Not surprising, those guys have been the way they have this week,” Groce said. And while they’re learning from mistakes along the way, the Illini haven’t allowed the recent struggles to consume them, to the delight of their coaches. “Most of those guys, to be honest, they’re worried about where their next meal is. Sometimes they can get over it pretty easily.”


When Illinois gets into the lane on the offensive end tonight, there’s going to be a big wall waiting for them that goes by the name A.J. Hammons. The 7-foot center leads the Big Ten, blocking 3.6 shots per game, and he’ll make life difficult for the Illini. Illinois will try to attack him at times and attempt to draw some fouls, but Groce says you have to be intelligent about doing that. He likened him to another big man who controls the defensive paint in the state of Indiana. “Obviously, he’s a great presence in the paint, really affects defensive field goal percentage, really protects the rim well. Reminiscent of the NBA when you watch Roy Hibbert play for the Pacers, very similar,” Groce said.

Prediction: UI 70, Purdue 69

With Big Ten play in full swing, there really aren’t many more secrets. The coaching staffs know one another and each team’s personnel, including tendencies and player strengths. From Illinois’ perspective, it’s going to continue doing what it does well, and that includes trying to get to the basket. Eventually those shots in the paint that aren’t falling will start to drop. They’ll have to if the Illini are to extend their 13-game home-court winning streak. (N-G prediction record: 14-3).


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