HQ men's hoops prediction: Indiana 68, UI 65
Illinois at Indiana, 2 p.m. Sunday
Illinois (13-7, 2-5 Big Ten)
P Name Yr. Ht. PPG
G Tracy Abrams Jr. 6-2 12.6
G Rayvonte Rice Jr. 6-4 17.6
G Joseph Bertrand Sr. 6-6 11.1
F Jon Ekey Sr. 6-7 8.2
C Nnanna Egwu Jr. 6-11 7.0
FYI: Egwu, who had gone scoreless in consecutive games, tallied 10 points against Ohio State on Thursday, equaling the total he produced in the previous four games.
OFF THE BENCH
G Jaylon Tate Fr. 6-3 2.5
G Kendrick Nunn Fr. 6-3 4.0
G/F Malcolm Hill Fr. 6-6 3.5
Indiana (12-7, 2-4 Big Ten)
P Name Yr. Ht. PPG
G Yogi Ferrell So. 6-0 17.5
G Will Sheehey Sr. 6-7 10.4
F Austin Etherington So. 6-6 2.2
F Troy Williams Fr. 6-7 7.1
F Noah Vonleh Fr. 6-10 12.4
FYI: A McDonald’s All-American, Vonleh has been named Big Ten Freshman of the Week six times and leads conference freshmen in scoring, rebounding and blocks.
OFF THE BENCH
G Evan Gordon Sr. 6-0 7.2
G Stanford Robinson Fr. 6-4 5.7
F Jeremy Hollowell So. 6-8 7.8
Site: Assembly Hall (17,472), Bloomington, Ind.
TV: BTN — Eric Collins (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: Tied 85-85. Last meeting: Illinois 83, Indiana 80 (OT), Dec. 31, 2013 (Champaign).
FYI: The two top scoring performances in Big Ten play this season belong to Yogi Ferrell (30 points) and Rayvonte Rice (29). They happened in the same game when these two teams met on New Year’s Eve.
For the first time in his collegiate career, Rayvonte Rice enters a game after going scoreless in the previous game. Illinois’ top scorer didn’t dent the scoring column in Thursday’s loss at No. 17 Ohio State. One reason is he’s not getting to the free throw line like he was early in the season. “There’s two reasons for that. I’m only allowed to speak about one of them. I think he does have to be more aggressive,” Illinois coach John Groce said, declining to criticize the officiating. Rice was overaggressive at times against the Buckeyes and passive at others, according to Groce. The coach also is looking for a better defensive showing from the guard. “I look for Ray to bounce back (Sunday) and play a little bit better on both ends of the floor,” Groce said.
After struggling with his shot in recent weeks, Nnanna Egwu broke out for 10 points in the Ohio State loss Thursday, the first double-figure scoring game he’s had since Dec. 10. That’s all well and good, but it’s not what had Groce encouraged entering Sunday’s game against the Hoosiers. “His M.O. is not that he’s a prolific scorer, that’s not his deal. He needs to defend, he needs to rebound per minute played,” Groce said. “He had nine rebounds in 33 minutes and was impactful on the defensive glass. It was great to have that back. The fact that shots went in, that was a bonus.” Egwu will have his hands full on the glass and defensively against Indiana big man Noah Vonleh, who leads the Big Ten in rebounding at 9.4 per game.
Though it came in yet another loss, Groce was encouraged with the effort his team played with on the defensive end of the floor at Ohio State. The Illini limited the Buckeyes to 24 first-half points and 29 percent shooting on their home floor. “We were tremendous, maybe as good defensively as we have been all year, and didn’t take advantage on the offensive end. We need to do that,” Groce said. It will take another similar effort to have a chance Sunday in a hostile environment. The Hoosiers had offensive success in the previous meeting against Illinois on New Year’s Eve, scoring 23 points in transition with speedy point guard Yogi Ferrell leading the charge. The Hoosiers are third in the Big Ten in scoring (77.4), though that’s dipped 10 points in Big Ten play.
Indiana 68, Illinois 65
The losses have continued to pile up in recent weeks, but Groce continues to be encouraged. More important, his players continue to be receptive to the teachings of the coaching staff, and to suggest otherwise is not a blueprint for getting on the second-year coach’s good side. “They better be. They have no other choice. I get tired of that question,” Groce said. “In terms of attitude and effort, that’s non-negotiable in our program. We don’t play that game. They’ve been very receptive.” In the Big Ten, you can play well and still end up losing games, particularly on the road. During the Illini’s five-game losing streak, it’s been a mixed bag of playing well and losing and playing poorly and losing. Illinois can play a solid game Sunday at Assembly Hall in front of perhaps the country’s most hostile environment and still come out with a loss. (N-G record: 16-4)