Miami at Illinois — 6 p.m. Monday
P Name Yr. Ht. PPG
G Andres Feliz Sr. 6-2 15.3
G Trent Frazier Jr. 6-2 9.7
G Ayo Dosunmu So. 6-5 16.3
F Giorgi Bezhanishvili So. 6-9 10.9
C Kofi Cockburn Fr. 7-0 15.3
FYI: While Cockburn continues to rank second nationally in offensive rebounding percentage (to pace Illinois as the No. 1 team in that particular metric), Illini guard Alan Griffin is 60th. He’s one of just three players 6-foot-5 or shorter in the top 60.
Off the bench
G Alan Griffin So. 6-5 8.5
G Da’Monte Williams Jr. 6-3 4.4
F Kipper Nichols R-Sr. 6-6 3.3
P Name Yr. Ht. PPG
G Chris Lykes Jr. 5-7 12.9
G Dejan Vasiljevic Sr. 6-3 13.9
G Kameron McGusty R-Jr. 6-5 13.3
F Sam Waardenburg R-Jr. 6-10 4.0
C Rodney Miller R-Jr. 7-0 7.4
FYI: The Hurricanes have played this season without Florida transfer Keith Stone, who is rehabbing from a torn ACL he suffered this past January playing for the Gators. The 6-foot-8, 244-pound forward was a top 100 prospect in the 2015 class and averaged 6.2 points and 3.4 rebounds in three seasons in Gainesville, Fla.
Off the bench
G Harlond Beverly Fr. 6-4 9.0
G Isaiah Wong Fr. 6-3 4.3
F Anthony Walker Fr. 6-9 4.1
Site: State Farm Center (15,544), Champaign.
Radio: Brian Barnhart (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: Jason Benetti (play-by-play) and Dan Dakich (analysis) have the call on ESPN2.
Series history: Miami leads series 2-1.
Last meeting: Miami won 70-61 on Dec. 2, 2014, in Miami.
FYI: The most famous game in the brief Illinois-Miami history, of course, was the teams’ Round of 32 matchup in the 2013 NCAA tournament in Austin, Texas. If replay were available (it now is because of this game), the ball that went off Miami forward Kenny Kadji’s hand after Shane Larkin’s go-ahead there-pointer would have meant Illinois possession. The Hurricanes kept the ball instead after the missed call and held on for the 63-59 win.
Scott Richey’s storylines
DEFENSE STILL KEY
Illinois has been on a roll offensively with five straight halves making at least 60 percent of its shots. Hampton shot 44 percent as a team and still lost by 49, but Hawaii (37 percent), The Citadel (28 percent) and Lindenwood (39 percent) all came in below the Illini’s season average of 41 percent. “That’s just one of our biggest focuses right now is trying to create kills,” Illinois junior guard Trent Frazier said. Again, a kill is three straight stops. “We try to come out here every night and whatever team we’re playing is nameless, faceless. We’re trying to prepare ourselves for Big Ten time when we’re playing Michigan State.”
Illinois’ last three opponents haven’t matched the size of the Illini frontcourt. Particularly when it comes to trying to counter 7-foot, 285-pound freshman Kofi Cockburn. The tallest starting “center” Cockburn faced in that stretch was 6-7, 255-pound Eddie Davis from The Citadel. “The one thing I’m probably the most impressed with is Kofi’s ability to guard guards and his lateral quickness,” Illinois coach Brad Underwood said. “Especially here in these last three games we’ve seen a lot of smaller size guys he’s had to guard that can really shoot it. For the most part, he’s continuing to grow in that area, but he’s done a heck of a job.”
Illinois and Miami battled for Class of 2020 four-star recruit Andre Curbelo, winding up as the two teams last standing for the Puerto Rican point guard (via Long Island, N.Y.). The Illini emerged victorious, signing Curbelo last month. The Hurricanes do have a couple of freshmen that will be familiar to Illinois fans. The Illini recruited point guard Isaiah Wong and small forward Anthony Walker — both east coast guys from Trenton, N.J., and Baltimore, respectively — before they picked Miami.
Prediction: Illinois 82, Miami 76
This game probably means more than the previous four combined for the Illini. Sure, a loss in one of those four would have been a bad look, but the wins Illinois stockpiled didn’t really move the needle. Miami might not be the class of the ACC, but notching a power six win with more opportunities this month to come can take the Illini’s season to another level. (N-G prediction record: 7-0)