Dec 31, 2013; Champaign, IL, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini guard Rayvonte Rice (24) shoots a free throw during a game against the Indiana Hoosiers at State Farm Center. Mandatory Credit: Ben Woloszyn-USA TODAY Sports

Illinois Fighting Illini Basketball: Illinois Fighting Illini vs. Penn State Nittany Lions Preview and Live Thread


Big Ten leading scorer Rayvonte Rice and the Illinois Fighting Illini return to action this afternoon at The State Farm Center when they clash with the Penn State Nittany Lions in the second conference game for each team. This match-up will boast the Big Ten’s top two leading scorers in Rice (19 ppg) and D.J. Newbill (18.8 ppg).

The Illini are coming off an 83-80 overtime victory following a back and forth battle against heated rival Indiana. Rayvonte Rice was once again dynamic, scoring 29 points in the victory. As a result of this performance, Rice was named Big Ten Player of the Week for the second time this season. Obviously, 29 points doesn’t win a game, though, and it’s worth mentioning that Tracy Abrams and Joseph Bertrand have been doing their jobs from a scoring perspective as well. Against Indiana, the three Illini guards combined for 59 of the Illini’s 80 points.

The Nittany Lions are coming off a reality check loss to Michigan State that looked awfully similar to Illinois’ recent match-up with UIC. Penn State hung 47 points on the #5 team in the nation and led by 7 at the half, but then the Spartan defense locked down on PSU in the second half while only allowing the Nittany Lions to score 16 points in the second stanza.

Penn State is led in scoring by the aforementioned Newbill, but that’s not where their scoring ends. They also have the Big Ten’s 7th leading scorer in Tim Frazier (17.4 ppg). The two combine to lead the nation as a scoring duo and they represent the toughest pair of guards the Illini will have faced this season.  All told, Penn State has 5 players currently scoring in double figures with Newbill and Frazier leading the way. Other players to watch are Ross Travis (11.4 ppg), Brandon Taylor (11.3 ppg), and John Johnson (11 ppg). PSU will go 8 deep in their rotation, but their top 7 get the lion’s share of the minutes.

This game is going to come down to defensive intensity across the board from the Illini because Penn State can clearly score the basketball. When the Illini are in man defense Tracy Abrams will most likely handle Tim Frazier, and Rayvonte Rice will most likely be tasked with slowing down D.J. Newbill. Honestly, I like the match-ups in Illinois’ favor because Rice and Abrams have proven they can lock down when necessary. That’s not to say it’s going to be easy by any stretch, but I just like potential All-Big Ten Defensive POY candidate Rice’s chances in this one.

Three Things I’d Like to See Today:

1. Total Team Defensive Effort From the Tip - Penn State can score. It’s well documented. The Spartans showed the way to victory by holding Frazier to 7 points, and holding PSU to 16 as a team in the 2nd half of their match-up. If Illinois can bring the intensity from the opening tip the Illini will have a great shot of improving to 2-0 in the conference.

2. Rayvonte Rice and Tracy Abrams Attack the Basket - Odds are good that Newbill and Frazier will be guarding Rice and Abrams. Attacking the basket is where the Illini excel. If Rice and Abrams attack early and often the odds are good that the PSU duo of Frazier and Newbill will find themselves in foul trouble. Getting them off the floor with foul trouble is even more effective than having to lock down on them defensively.

3. Win the Rebounding Battle! - I’m going to keep harping on this one until the Illini actually do it! They have been close in recent contests, but have not been able to get the job done. PSU was out-rebounded 45-26 against MSU, and were out-rebounded in 4 of their 5 losses. Control the glass, beat the Nittany Lions.

The Skinny:

When: Saturday, January 4, 2014 @ 1:15 CST.

Where: State Farm Center – Champaign-Urbana, IL

TV: BTN (Directv 610 / DISH Network 439)

Announcers: Josh Lewin (Play by Play) & Shon Morris (Analyst)

You can follow Ryan on Twitter @RPKraemer.

 

Tags: Illinois Fighting Illini Joseph Bertrand Rayvonte Rice Tracy Abrams

  • @RPKraemer

    PSU splits the pair. 44-33 Illinois with 12:12 to go in the game.

  • @RPKraemer

    There has been a lot of back and forth action all the sudden. 50-41 Illinois with 9:20 to play.

  • @RPKraemer

    WHOA!! Newbill just threw a punch at Kendrick Nunn. He should be ejected.

  • @RPKraemer

    52-43 Illinois. The contact was incidental by Nunn although probably unnecessary. Newbill can not throw a punch. Period. He should be tossed.

  • @RPKraemer

    And there it is. total confirmation of what I just typed a couple minutes ago.

  • @RPKraemer

    52-43 Illinois 8:38 to play. D.J. Newbill is gone. Now the full force of scoring falls on Frazier. Newbill hadn’t hit double digits yet anyway.

  • @RPKraemer

    Ekey makes a pair of free throws on the technical, but Egwu misses the dunk on the ensuing possession.

  • @RPKraemer

    Now Rice buries a pair. 56-46 with just under 8 to play as Johnson hits another 3. He has 16.

  • @RPKraemer

    Alley-oop from Abrams to Egwu, and Nnanna is fouled on the attempt as he converts the flush. 60-46 with 7:06 to play and Egwu headed to the line out of the under 8 TO.

  • @RPKraemer

    John Johnson with another basket. Penn state really has something with the transfer from Pitt. He has 18. Penn State trails 61-48 with 6:24 left.

  • @RPKraemer

    Ray Rice converts a pair of free throws. 63-48 6:24 to play.

  • @RPKraemer

    Abrams converts a pair of free throws and he now has 10 despite nothing in the first half. 65-48 Illinois

  • @RPKraemer

    Egwu just blocked a dunk attempt, cleanly. Quite the defensive play by Nnanna. 67-48 Illinois with 4:15 to play.

  • @RPKraemer

    Tracy is a completely different player this half. He’s fouled driving to the basket. He’ll be shooting free throws after the under 4 TO.

  • @RPKraemer

    69-48 with 3:55 to play after Abrams makes both free throws.

  • @RPKraemer

    72-51 now with 2:53 to play. illinois is going to win this one barring a miracle from Penn State who is playing without their leading scorer (Newbill) and their game leading scorer (Johnson – fouled out)

  • @RPKraemer

    2:23 to play and Groce is sending in LaTulip. Calling off the dogs. Quite the defensive showing by Illinois today. Newbill finished with 7 and Frazier held to 9 so far.

  • @RPKraemer

    73-53 1:16 to play. This baby is o-v-e-r.

  • @RPKraemer

    Penn St. ran into a defense today, and it proves that defense can oftentimes be much more important than offense.

  • @RPKraemer

    The shot clock is off. Tate is at the stripe. 31.3 to play Illini lead 75-55 after Tate makes both.

  • @RPKraemer

    Illinois with be 13-2, and 2-0 in the conference! Thanks for joining us today. 75-55 FINAL! I L L !