Nov 22, 2013; Champaign, IL, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini guard Joseph Bertrand (2) makes a three pointer during the first half against the Chicago State Cougars at State Farm Center. Mandatory Credit: Bradley Leeb-USA TODAY Sports

Illinois Fighting Illini vs. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets Game Preview and Live Thread


Here we go again. At 6:15 CST tonight, the Illinois Fighting Illini return to the court to renew hostilities with the Ramblin’ Wreck from Georgia Tech in the latest installment of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. The Illini will be looking to improve to 8-0 for the second straight season under John Groce, and a win tonight would also be Illinois’ fifth consecutive win in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.

These two teams hooked up last season in Champaign-Urbana, and the Illini improved to 8-0 while taking the W 75-62. Joseph Bertrand had a quality performance that night while making 6 of 8 shots, including 3 of 4 from 3 point range, to finish with 15 points. He also mixed in 3 rebounds, 1 assist, and 1 steal.

Georgia Tech will undoubtedly be looking to stop Rayvonte Rice who leads the Illini scoring attack at 17.1 ppg, just as they tried to stop Brandon Paul a year ago to no avail. That defensive focus should free up Joseph Bertrand just as it did a year ago, and it will be important for Bertrand to assert himself offensively if the Illini want to find their way to a second consecutive win against the Yellow Jackets.

Tracy Abrams had a very quiet scoring night a year ago, registering only 6 points on 2 of 7 shooting, but did manage to mix in 5 assists, 4 rebounds, and 2 steals to provide positive production. While the assists and rebounds are absolutely wanted, Abrams needs to consistently put the ball in the hoop.

He is coming off a very strong second half performance in the Illini’s last game against IPFW, and the Illini will need Abrams to ride the momentum from that performance into tonight’s contest.

Defensively, the Illini will be looking to lock down Trae Golden (13.5 ppg), Marcus Georges-Hunt (11.5 ppg), Daniel Miller (10.3 ppg), and Robert Carter, Jr. (9.3 ppg). As you can see, the Yellow Jackets boast a scoring balance very similar to what Illinois brings to the table.

Senior Guard Trae Golden is clearly their trigger man, not only leading the Jackets in scoring, but also in assists per game (3.8 apg). Odds are good that Tracy Abrams will draw this assignment when the Illini are not playing the 2-3 zone they have shown on occasion.

6’8” Sophomore Forward Robert Carter, Jr. could be a matchup issue for Illinois this evening, as he appears to be an active player on both ends of the floor. He comes in to this game as the Yellow Jackets leader in rebounds per game (9.5 rpg) and steals per game (1.5 spg). Tack on his 9.3 ppg and he quickly becomes a player that must be watched closely this evening. Jon Ekey will need to keep a body on him at all times when shots go up to neutralize his rebounding ability.

Nnanna Egwu will be tasked with slowing down 6’11” Daniel Miller who adds 8.1 rebounds per game and team leading 1.8 blocked shots per game to his 10.3 ppg. I’m sure Egwu will be more than up to the task.

Tonight’s game appears to be a fairly even matchup on paper despite Georgia Tech’s 5-3 record. As I said in our roundtable discussing Illinois’ chances tonight, I see no reason why Illinois can’t improve to 8-0. This Georgia Tech team has recently shown the ability to cough up a 15 point lead so there seems to be no reason to think that Illinois can’t come back should they find themselves behind by double digits at any point in this contest.

The Skinny:

Where: McCamish Pavilion (Atlanta, Ga.)

When: 6:15 CST

TV: ESPN2

Check back in tonight, and feel free to join in the discussion in the comments section below. GO ILLINI!

You can follow Ryan on Twitter @RPKraemer

Tags: Featured Illinois Fighting Illini Jon Ekey Joseph Bertrand Nnanna Egwu Popular Rayvonte Rice Tracy Abrams

  • @RPKraemer

    Ok, so, that was rough. We had some server issues, but the servers are heating back up just like Rayvonte Rice’s 3 point shooting ability in the last few minutes.

  • @RPKraemer

    Rice on a 10-2 run and the Illini lead it by 3.

  • @RPKraemer

    Abrams really needs to convert those bunnies, but no damage as the Illini stretch the lead out 5 with Rice getting a brief breather.

  • @RPKraemer

    John Groce clearly miffed by the shot clock violation.

  • @RPKraemer

    The baseline ref wanted to call the charge, but didn’t pull the trigger.

  • @RPKraemer

    Rice with a great fake following a quality feed from Tate. Very pretty play all the way around.

  • @RPKraemer

    Rice has 22 with 10:39 to play and he’s headed to the charity stripe.

  • @RPKraemer

    22 points off turnovers tonight for the Illini. It doesn’t matter who they are playing. If they get that type of production they are going to win a lot of games.

  • @RPKraemer

    ALLEY-OOP!! Abrams to Egwu.

  • @RPKraemer

    60-48 7:38 to play. Illini have looked good defensively in the 2nd half. GT looks destined to lose by double digits.

  • @RPKraemer

    Not so fast. GT on a mini run and the Illini lead is cut to 7. Groce is forced to call a timeout to stop the Jacket momentum.

  • @RPKraemer

    All of the sudden, the Illini basket has a lid.

  • @RPKraemer

    Illinois looks way out of sync offensively right now. Thankfully, GT has looked even worse.

  • @RPKraemer

    Just like that we have a fresh game, but Egwu answers and is fouled. He converts the 3 point play and now GT has the ball with 1:20 to play

  • @RPKraemer

    GT has decided to go ahead and try to get more possessions. Going to be a long final 1:09.

  • @RPKraemer

    Abrams split the pair, and then Carter drains a 3. We have a 1 point game with 51.9 to play. Once again, the Illini are in a nail biter. Should serve them well come Big Ten season.

  • @RPKraemer

    Why is a Center the primary ball handler on the perimeter?

  • @RPKraemer

    Illinois spends their final timeout, trailing by 1 with 21.3 to play.

  • @RPKraemer

    So much for a double digit win tonight. The Illini are going to have to find some magic if they want to extend their undefeated streak.

  • @RPKraemer

    The streak is over. GT with the big time comeback win. Illinois scored 1 field goal in the final 9:11. Brutal.