The No. 13 Illinois Fighting Illini will play the # 10 Gonzaga Bulldogs as they look to stay undefeated on the season.
This is certainly the biggest game for the Illini and it is their first game against a ranked opponent this season.
Gonzaga is a member of the West Coast Conference (WAC) and finished second in the WAC last year with a conference record of 13-3. Just like the Illini, the Bulldogs are looking to stay undefeated as well.
So far this season, the Bulldogs are nationally ranked 9th in scoring with 83.7 points per game and first in field goal percentage (.531).
Gonzaga has four players averaging double-digit in points coming into Saturday’s game. These four players are senior forward Elias Harris (16.8 points per game), junior forward Kelly Olynyk (13.8 points per game), sophomore guard Kevin Pangos (10.6 points per game), and sophomore guard Gary Bell Jr. (10.1 points per game).
In their last game, Harris led the Bulldogs with 23 points, but Olynyk scored 22 points off the bench. There is a reason why Gonzaga is ranked 9th in scoring so far this season.
Just like they do in scoring, Harris and Olynyk also are Gonzaga two leading rebounders. Harris leads the team with 8.1 rebounds per game while Olynyk averages 7.0 rebounds per game. In the win over Washington State, Olynyk led the team with seven rebounds off the bench.
This will be the sixth meeting between the Fighting Illini and the Bulldogs. Illinois currently leads the series 4-1. However, this is their first meeting in Spokane, Washington and head coach John Groce’s first game against Gonzaga.
These two teams last met nearly a year ago on December 3rd, 2011. In that game, the unranked Fighting Illini defeated the #19 Bulldogs 82-75 in Champaign, Illinois.
Illinois will need to play a lot better on Saturday than they did in their last game against Western Carolina. One player that had a surprisingly off night in that game was Joseph Bertrand. Bertrand was coming off two big double-digit games before scoring only seven points for the Illini against the Catamounts.
If Illinois wants to come out on top, they will need a few things to happen. They will need a better game from Bertrand off the bench, they will need to force the Bulldogs into taking tough shots, and they will need to hit their 3-pointers.
Make sure to follow me on Twitter @RickyWidmer.
Check out my other writings on the Oregon Ducks blog, Autzen Zoo.