The Illinois Fighting Illini head west to face off with Dana Altman’s undefeated #15 Oregon Ducks tonight in their toughest non-conference contest to date. The Illini are coming off a 72-65 win over Dartmouth that moved their record to 9-1 this season. If the Illini want to see that overall record move to 10-1, they are going to have to display the toughness and togetherness that John Groce has been fostering all season long.
Oregon is led in scoring by junior guard Joseph Young (20.1 ppg) who has not been held to single digits in any of Oregon’s first 8 games. He is currently shooting 53.9% from the floor, including 48.6% from 3 point range. If Young is option 1 on the offensive end, then 6’8″ senior transfer forward Mike Moser is option 1A.
Unlike Young, Moser has been held under 10 points twice this season, but Moser makes up for any drag in scoring by being Oregon’s leading rebounder. In the Ducks most recent game against Ole Miss, Moser went off for 24 points and 10 rebounds. Clearly, he is a Duck to watch in today’s game, and the Illini post is going to have to be up to the task of limiting his offensive impact.
Despite these two Ducks being the clear leaders on this team in minutes, scoring, and rebounding, this team is much more than just Young and Moser.
The Ducks have 6 players that are currently averaging double figures in scoring, and they figure to go about 8 deep in their rotation. As a team, Oregon is averaging 91 ppg while shooting 52.9% from the floor including 43.8% from 3 point range. Their 5 primary players all shoot better than 33% from 3 point range. So, it’s very clear that the Illini’s perimeter defense is going to be tested by this tough shooting Oregon team.
Illinois is going to have to bring their “A” Game defensively if they want to have a chance to win this game. Oregon has not faced a scoring defense ranked as highly as Illinois so far this season, and Illinois is going to need to suffocate the Ducks from the get go.
Things I’d Like To See From Illinois Tonight:
1. Be Assertive Joseph Bertrand!
Bertrand is shooting 57.1% from 3 point land this season, but he’s only attempted 14 shots from out there. This needs to change. He needs to show confidence in himself and put up more shots from 3, as long as they are open. Don’t force them, but don’t be afraid to shoot them when they are there, Joe!
2. Freshman maximize their minutes
It seems that the freshman are improving every game, little by little. Kendrick Nunn is shooting 62.5% over his last 3 games (5-8 from the field) to raise his season average to 50%. He is showing signs of coming on, and that’s a good thing for Illinois. Likewise, Malcolm Hill had his best outing as an Illini last time out as he registered 10 points and 4 rebounds in 19 minutes. Now is the time for him to build on that performance, and do it against a better quality opponent.
3. Win the Rebounding Battle
Illinois was out-rebounded by Dartmouth in their last game 33-27, and quite honestly, that’s embarrassing. The Illini need to re-commit to cleaning up the glass. Yes, Oregon is a very good shooting team, but they still miss just under half their shots so opportunities will be there. Illinois has been a rebound by committee team this season, and if that’s how it’s going to be then everyone in orange and blue needs to commit to hitting the boards.
4. Win their 1700th game as a program
Of course, we always want them to win, but why not do it tonight on national television against the highest ranked opponent the Illini have faced this season? Nothing makes a statement better than hitting a program milestone against a quality opponent in their backyard.
When: Saturday, Dec. 14th, 2013 at 8pm CT
Where: Portland, OR at the Moda Center (10,807)
Watch: ESPN2 and on watchESPN.com
Announcers: Roxy Bernstein (PBP) & Sean Farnham (Analyst)
Feel free to drop back in tonight during the game to discuss everything happening in the comments section below.
You can follow Ryan on Twitter @RPKraemer.