The Illinois Fighting Illini Basketball team returns to Atlanta for the second time this week looking to rebound from a total collapse down the stretch in their past game against Georgia Tech which led to John Groce’s complete frustration and the Illini’s first loss of the season.
Their opponent today will be SEC member Auburn, who’s fans may be looking to rebound from some major celebration after last night’s SEC Football Championship Game victory over Missouri which also took place in Atlanta.
Rayvonte Rice is coming off a monster game (24 points, 2 steals, 2 blocks, 3 assists, 3 rebounds) that earned him B1G player of the Week honors. It was his 3rd consecutive solid performance. He has led the Illini in scoring the past three games, and will be the main focus for the Tigers defense coming in to today’s matchup.
In that vein, the Illini bench needs to get things going to help provide support for the starters. In the past three games, the Illini bench has scored 9, 3, and 10 points respectively. They need to find more production than that so that the starters aren’t taxed into logging too many minutes.
Meanwhile, Auburn comes in to this game with a 4-2 overall record. They have scored at least 70 points in all 6 of their games this season, while shooting 44% from the floor as a team. They are an abysmal 3 point shooting team, however, so look for Illinois to play some of the 2-3 zone they have used from time to time this season to try and force long jumpers from the Tigers. Auburn’s highest 3 point percentage in any game this season was 30% against Jacksonville State, and in the other 5 contests they went for 27, 28, 22, 15, and 26 percent respectively.
Sr. Guard Chris Denson is their Rayvonte Rice so far this season. He leads the Tigers, and the SEC, in scoring at 21.8 ppg. So, shutting him down today will be key for the Illini. If they can achieve that, Denson’s back court mate, KT Harrell, will also have to be kept in check as he averages 17.7 ppg. Together, Denson and Harrell combine to average 39.5 ppg which leads the SEC for a pair of teammates.
The Illinois defense has been stifling this season, holding their opponents to 57 ppg which ties them for the 5th best Scoring Defense in the nation with San Diego State according to ncaa.com. For Illinois to come away with a victory today they will need to bring the full force of their defense with them to Atlanta.
When: Sunday, December 8th, 2pm CST
Where: Philips Arena (Atlanta, Ga.)
Television: Fox Sports Midwest (Directv 671 / DISH 418) / Fox Sports South (Directv 646 / DISH 420)
Watch Online: Espn3.com
Feel free to come back and join in the conversation in the comments section below once the game begins.