Illinois at No. 21 Arizona
8 p.m. today
P Name Yr. Ht. PPG
G Andres Feliz Sr. 6-2 22.0
G Trent Frazier Jr. 6-2 6.0
G Ayo Dosunmu So. 6-5 15.0
F Giorgi Bezhanishvili So. 6-9 10.0
C Kofi Cockburn Fr. 7-0 16.5
FYI: Feliz’s opening offensive salvo this season has been the most productive stretch of basketball of his Illinois career. The Guachupita, Dominican Republic, native’s 44 points through the first two games is the most in a two-game stretch in his time with the Illini.
Off the bench
G Da’Monte Williams Jr. 6-3 2.0
G Alan Griffin So. 6-5 9.0
F Benjamin Bosmans-Verdonk Fr. 6-8 0.0
No. 21 Arizona (1-0)
P Name Yr. Ht. PPG
G Nico Mannion Fr. 6-3 9.0
G Dylan Smith R-Sr. 6-5 10.0
G Josh Green Fr. 6-6 10.0
F Zeke Nnaji Fr. 6-11 20.0
C Chase Jeter R-Sr. 6-10 7.0
FYI: The Wildcats’ backcourt depth — aided by Jemarl Baker Jr. getting a waiver after transferring from Kentucky — has been needed. Arizona lost sophomore Brandon Williams to offseason knee surgery, and fellow sophomore Devonaire Doutrive was suspended indefinitely earlier this week for an undisclosed violation of team rules.
Off the bench
G Max Hazzard Gr. 6-0 7.0
F Stone Gettings Gr. 6-9 13.0
G Jemarl Baker Jr. R-So. 6-4 9.0
Site: McKale Memorial Center (14,655), Tucson, Ariz.
Radio: Scott Beatty (play-by-play) and former Illini Deon Thomas (analysis) will have the call on the Illini Sports Network on WDWS 1400-AM, WHMS 97.5-FM, WDAN 1490-AM, WDNL 102.1 FM and WPXN 104.9-FM.
TV: Pac-12 Network.
Series history: Arizona leads 8-6.
Last meeting: Arizona won 78-72 in overtime on Dec. 8, 2007, in Chicago.
FYI: The Wildcats have won the last two games in the series following Illinois’ comeback Elite Eight victory during the 2005 NCAA tournament. The last one in 2007 saw future first-round picks Jordan Hill (23 points and 14 rebounds) and Jerryd Bayless (20 points and five assists) outduel a balanced Illini led by Shaun Pruitt (24 points and nine rebounds).
Scott Richey’s storylines
Illinois sophomore Alan Griffin matched his career high with 11 points in Friday night’s win against Grand Canyon by doing what every Illini fan expected when he was recruited out of Archbishop Stepinac (N.Y.). Making three-pointers, with the 6-foot-5 guard sinking a career-high three from beyond the arc against the Antelopes. “It was nice to get in a little rhythm,” Griffin said. “Just being out there and letting things come to me — not forcing them.” Griffin’s 11 points led Illinois’ bench effort, which was something coach Brad Underwood liked to see. “He was so good this summer, and we all know he’s an elite shooter,” Underwood said. “He’s going to be a big part of our growth and a big part of what we do. I’ll put Alan shooting the basketball up against anybody in the country.”
Illinois’ two-game swing through Arizona is unique. The Illini are one of just two teams from the power six to play two road games in the first week of the season. Underwood inherited the Grand Canyon game, but scheduling Arizona for a two-game series (the Wildcats come to State Farm Center in 2020) was a way to challenge his team. “As we get ready to play two Big Ten games in December, it gives us an opportunity to prepare our guys in two great tests,” Underwood said. “Let’s find out early and figure out what we’ve got to work on. Then we can start to resolve it. There’s nothing worse than playing a bunch of patsies and getting a false sense of who you are. We’re definitely not going to do that.”
ATTENTION TO ATMOSPHERE
It might not be the half rave, half basketball game that GCU Arena is, but Illinois will be in another hostile environment for Sunday’s game at Arizona’s McKale Memorial Center. Count sophomore forward Giorgi Bezhanishvili among the Illini who thrive on the road. He enjoyed everything the Grand Canyon fans threw at Illinois on Friday night. “It was great for us to be on the road early in the season and experience this and really take care of business and win,” Bezhanishvili said after the Illini beat the Antelopes. “I think this win will help us a lot through the season.”
Prediction: No. 21 Arizona 87, Illinois 84
The Illini have gutted out two wins to start the season. They might have been two entirely different scenarios, but the one similarity was a second-half double-digit lead turning into a bit of a nailbiter. Arizona is a different-level opponent than Nicholls State or Grand Canyon, and any potential Illinois missteps will only be magnified against the Wildcats. (N-G prediction record: 2-0)