1. Keep Jordan Clarkson, Jabari Brown, and Earnest Ross in check: There is no doubt that Missouri’s best player coming into Saturday’s Braggin’ Rights game is junior point guard Jordan Clarkson. In his first season with the team, Clarkson leads the Tigers in points per game (19.4) and can score at all three levels on the court. The junior guard can also get his teammate’s going as well. More than 60% of Missouri’s scoring and shots taken come from their perimeter players which includes Jordan Clarkson, Jabari Brown, and Earnest Ross. In Missouri’s 66-60 win over Western Michigan, these three players accounted for 39 of the team’s total points.
2. Stay out of foul trouble: One of the big questions asked at John Groce’s press conference was about the recent foul trouble for Nnanna Egwu and Maverick Morgan. Against Oregon last weekend, both Egwu and Morgan found themselves in foul trouble with three and four fouls respectively. However, other Illini players have found themselves in foul trouble during the Illini’s two losses this season. Egwu, Morgan, Abrams, and Ekey found themselves in foul trouble in the loss to Georgia Tech while Egwu, Bertrand, and Morgan were in foul trouble in the loss to #15 Oregon. Illinois will need to stay out of foul trouble in order to beat a great offensive team like Missouri.
3. Attack the glass: So far this season, the Illinois Fighting Illini been out-rebounded in 4 of their last 5 games. It should come as no surprise that Illinois was out-rebounded in both of their losses in 2013. The Illini will have no easy task this weekend as the Tigers rank 30th in the nation when it comes to rebounding averaging 40.8 boards per contest. If Illinois cannot attack and control the glass in St. Louis, they could find themselves on the losing end of the Braggin’ Rights game for the fifth straight years in a row.
4. Late game defense: Another thing that both Illinois losses have in common is that the Fighting Illini let their defense slip late in the game and let their opponent steal the game from them. There’s a great chance that this weekend’s game against Missouri will be close in the final minutes, and Illinois will need to be defensively sound when that happens. If they are not, expect Jordan Clarkson to seal the game for the Tigers.
5. Keep emotions in check: In any rivalry game, emotions will be flowing before and during the game. In his press conference, John Groce spoke about how the emotion of the Braggin’ Rights game caught him off guard in his first season at Illinois. Because of this, the Illini will need to keep their emotions in check. They just need to stay with the game plan and not let their emotions run wild in the game.
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