Feb 07, 2013; Champaign, IL, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini fans rush the court after beating the Indiana Hoosiers 74-72 at Assembly Hall. Mandatory Credit: Bradley Leeb-USA TODAY Sports

Illinois Fighting Illini vs. Indiana Hoosiers Preview and Live Thread


The last time the Indiana Hoosiers visited the State Farm Center they came in with the #1 overall ranking in the entire nation and when they left, they had a loss. Living in the past is fun, especially when it comes at the expense of the Hoosiers, but this is a new season and both teams are looking to start Big Ten play off on the right foot.

Indiana comes in to this game at 10-3 with 2 of their 3 losses coming against ranked teams (#18 UCONN, #4 Syracuse). Illinois, on the other hand, enters this game 11-2 with one of their losses coming against a ranked team (#15 Oregon).

The Hoosiers are led in scoring by sophomore guard Yogi Ferrell (16.8 ppg). Ferrell has not been held to single digits in any game yet this season, and in his last two games he has shot better than 67% from the floor. Tracy Abrams is going to have his work cut out for him in today’s contest, but Abrams has been playing very well lately and will most likely be geared up for the challenge ahead of him.

Newcomer Noah Vonleh is the Hoosiers second leading scorer (12.0 ppg) and also the teams leading rebounder (9.5 rpg). He brings a large frame (6’10″ / 240 lbs) as well as his obvious skill. Nnanna Egwu is definitely facing a stiff challenge today, and Illinois needs him to play smart and stay out of foul trouble if they hope to limit Vonleh’s potential impact on this game. On the other side of that coin, Vonleh has been facing his own foul trouble the past 3 games, and it has limited his playing time (21, 17, and 19 mpg), which has in turn limited his production.

Outside of Ferrell (42.7%) and senior Evan Gordon (34.6%), the Hoosiers do not shoot well from 3 point range at all. Illinois should pack it in and force Indiana to try to beat them from the perimeter. Ferrell can do it and the Illini should challenge every look he gets from long range, but can the rest of the Hoosiers cash in if given the chance?

From the Illini side of things, Rayvonte Rice and Tracy Abrams have both been playing at a very high level in the past few games. Rice is coming off an Illini career high 28 points against UIC that earned him Big Ten Co-Player of the Week honors. Abrams has been solid, hitting a pair of game winning free throws against Missouri two games ago, and posting 16, 22, and 16 point scoring performances while hitting 17 of 21 free throws across those 3 games.

It’s become very clear that this Illinois team can be great defensively, and they are most effective as an offense when they attack the basket rather than repeatedly settling for long jump shots as the shot clock winds down. Hopefully, they carry over the offensive mindset from the second half of the UIC game which saw them attack, attack, and attack some more. Good things seem to happen for these Illini when that is their modus operandi.

Three Things I’d Like To See Today

1. Defensive Intensity from the Opening Tip - The Illini did not come out with their usual defensive intensity from the opening tip against UIC and it cost them a 44 point half. They can not afford a slow start defensively against Big Ten level competition.

2. Nnanna Egwu Step Up - Egwu has had his moments this season, but he has yet to truly dominate the interior like many Illini fans hoped he would. Instead he has seemed content to heave turn around, fall away jumpers instead of imposing his will with authority. I’d like to see the upperclassman take it to the Hoosiers talented freshman interior player, Vonleh, and get him in some early foul trouble.

3. Win the Rebounding Battle!! -This one is easier said than done. The Hoosiers come in to this match-up as the 4th best rebounding team in the nation (45.5 rpg), and it appears that outside of Vonleh, they get after it as a collective group. Illinois needs to take notes on what they are doing because the Illini have been beaten on the glass in 6 of their last 7 games. They trailed the rebounding battle at halftime of the UIC game 19-8, and the Illini simply can not allow that to happen today if they want to have any shot of winning this game.

The Skinny

When: Tuesday, December 31, 2013 @ 2:00 CST.

Where: State Farm Center – Champaign-Urbana, IL

TV: ESPN2 (Directv 209 / DISH Network 144)

Announcers: Dave O’Brien (Play by Play) & Dan Dakich (Analyst)

You can follow Ryan on Twitter @RPKraemer.

 

Tags: Featured Illinois Fighting Illini Nnanna Egwu Popular Rayvonte Rice Tracy Abrams

  • @RPKraemer

    Kendrick Nunn! Welcome to the rivalry kid!

  • @RPKraemer

    Illinois leads 26-22 following the gorgeous 3 point play by Nunn.

  • @RPKraemer

    I love hearing all of these announcers finally getting clued in on Ray Rice’s game. Newsflash guys, the MVC plays an exciting brand of basketball, and paying attention would benefit you!

  • @RPKraemer

    Vonleh could be a real monster by his junior year. He already looks tough out there, but Indiana could really have an imposing figure by year 3 if he keeps developing.

  • @RPKraemer

    Great tip in by Ekey on the Bertrand miss. Keep hitting the glass, Illini!

  • @RPKraemer

    The sophomore checks in, and immediately makes a mistake! Thanks Hoosiers.

  • @RPKraemer

    Illinois is doing a whole lot of jump passing and I am not a fan. Take the correct angle, get the job done.

  • @RPKraemer

    Excellent defensive play by Rice. If he keeps this type of defense up all season he is going to end up on the Big Ten all defensive team.

  • @RPKraemer

    Wow. The ref was all over that one. Crowd ready to pull out pitchforks and chase the ref outta town.

  • @RPKraemer

    Now Groce is going to have to watch himself the rest of the way. Tough spot for a guy that likes to use his energy to spark his team.

  • @RPKraemer

    Rice AGAIN with the defense and this time turns it to offense.

  • @RPKraemer

    Highly competitive first half sees a 39 all tie at the intermission. Crowd very upset with the Technical call.

  • @RPKraemer

    Illinois D has been pretty good, not great like it has been in the past. This game is very winnable. The Illini need to lockdown on Ferrell on the perimeter and figure out a way to stop Vonleh. Lots of potential foul trouble for the Illini post will have to be danced around.

  • @RPKraemer

    Illinois only trails the rebounding battle by 2 at the half. The big stats is 0-7 for UI from 3 while IU is 6-12. IU will regress if UI turns up the intensity.

  • @RPKraemer

    Wonders never cease! Egwu bulldogged his way in for a hoop. Finally!

  • @RPKraemer

    Ekey with a great offensive rebound! Dakich is exactly right. Rice should ALWAYS go to the basket. Always.

  • @RPKraemer

    PG to PG. Ferrell to rack, Abrams to rack. It doesn’t get any more back and forth than that.

  • @RPKraemer

    Sheehey fail.

  • @RPKraemer

    Morgan with a tough board and putback and now Rice FINALLY hits a 3.

  • @RPKraemer

    Kendrick Nunn came to play today. Nice to see a freshman giving positive contributions.

  • @RPKraemer

    Unfortunately, Yogi Ferrell is lights out right now.

  • @RPKraemer

    Oh, 59-54 IU leads with 10:55 to play. UI Ball.

  • @RPKraemer

    Ferrell just got taken to school by Abrams. Looked close to being a carry, but no call.

  • @RPKraemer

    Tate with a great idea but Egwu is having a highly forgettable game. Terrible shot and then not ready to receive the pass.

  • @RPKraemer

    Vonleh bailed out. Tough call there.

  • @RPKraemer

    Illini trail by 4 with 4:35 to go.

  • @RPKraemer

    Egwu kept it alive and Bertrand finished it up. Down 2 with 4 to go.

  • @RPKraemer

    No bailout for Vonleh that time. Total walk. 67-65 with 3:59 to play. Going to be another heartstopper it appears.

  • @RPKraemer

    Rice with 25, and we have a new game. Vonleh gets whistled. Egwu comes up big there.

  • @RPKraemer

    I’ll do the post, but that alley-oop probably just won the play of the game. GEEZ!!

  • @RPKraemer

    We’re headed to OVERTIME!!! Wowzers. What a crazy game. Good thing Egwu closed out on that help D or that may not have ended well for the Illini.

  • @RPKraemer

    Egwu doing good and bad things in OT. Blocks / Rebounds = Good. Ill advised shots with 4 point leads = Very bad

  • @RPKraemer

    77-75 Illinois after the Abrams leaner with 1:31 left in OT.

  • @RPKraemer

    81-77 with 8.3 to play in OT. Illinois is going to win this one barring a miracle finish by Indiana.

  • @RPKraemer

    Ferrell with an insane 3 to cut it to 1 with 3.1 to play. Illinois to inbound the ball now.

  • @RPKraemer

    Rice headed to the line with 2 seconds left in OT. Need these now Rayvonte.

  • @RPKraemer

    It’s a 3 point game. Here we go.

  • @RPKraemer

    Ballgame! Illinois wins their B1G opener 83-80 in OT. 1-0 in the conference. 12-2 overall.