Tonight, the Illinois Fighting Illini will play the Valparaiso Crusaders at the State Farm Center.
The Fighting Illini are coming off a big 86-52 win over Jacksonville State from over the weekend. The Illini had five players score in double-digits against JSU, and senior guard Joesph Bertrand recorded a double-double with 20 points and ten rebounds in the game.
Valpo is a member of the Horizon League and finished first in the conference last year. Their overall record last season was 26-8 and earned a spot in the NCAA National Tournament (lost to Michigan State in the Second Round).
Thus far this season, the Crusaders come into tonight’s game with a 2-0 record. Their last game was a 113-50 win over the North Park Vikings.
Through their first two games of the season, Valparaiso has five players all averaging over 10.0 points per game.
The Crusader offense is led by senior guards LaVonte Dority and Jordan Coleman with both players averaging 15.0 points per game. Dority and Coleman can both shoot the ball very well, but Coleman can also draw fouls as well. Through just two games, Jordan Coleman has made all twelve of his free throws this season.
As for rebounding, Valpo has three players averaging over six rebounds per game thus far this season.
Junior forward Vashil Fernandez leads the team with 7.5 rebounds per game which freshman forward Alec Peters and Jordan Coleman averaging six rebounds per game a piece.
Valparaiso can shoot the ball very well and Illini head coach John Groce knows this. Three years ago while at Ohio, Coach Groce faced off against the Valpo Crusaders. Groce’s Bobcats beat the Crusaders 78-75, but the Crusaders still made 41.2% of their shots in that game.
Valpo is averaging about 57% from the field this season, but they did hit 70.2% of their shots against North Park.
This will be the 39th meeting between the Fighting Illini and the Crusaders. The Illini lead the series 25-13.
So far through two games for the Illini, it’s been all about the team’s new member with transfer Rayvonte Rice getting the majority of the hype following the JSU win.
Rice leads the team with 17.5 points per game and is also hauling in 5.5 boards per game as well.
However, if Illinois really wants to win this game to improve to 3-0, they will need to play very well defensively.
It’s easy for opponents to just try and out shoot Valpo, but most of the time teams will not win that battle. After looking at Valpo’s eight losses from a year ago. In six of those losses, the Crusaders shot under 40% of the field, and they out shot their opponent in two of those eight losses.
Probable Illini Starters:
- G – Tracy Abrams (Jr.)
- G – Rayvonte Rice (r-Jr.)
- G – Joseph Bertrand (r-Sr.)
- F – Jon Ekey (Gr.)
- F/C – Nnanna Egwu (Jr.)
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