Feb 26, 2014; Champaign, IL, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini forward/center Nnanna Egwu (32) andguard Kendrick Nunn (25) and forward Jon Ekey (33) and guard Tracy Abrams (13) and guard Rayvonte Rice (24) huddle during the first half against the Nebraska Cornhuskers at State Farm Center. Mandatory Credit: Bradley Leeb-USA TODAY Sports

Illinois Fighting Illini Basketball: Illinois vs. Clemson NIT 2nd Round Preview Thoughts


It’s Saturday night, and March Madness has settled in nicely all across the country. Our Illinois Fighting Illini survived an acute case of the Madness in Boston this past Wednesday, and they got a hard earned post season win as a result. Next up? The Clemson Tigers.

I managed to catch a good bit of Clemson’s first round match-up with Georgia State and came away realizing that Illinois is going to be facing a team that’s very similar to themselves. The Tigers are physical, and they attack the rim. When Illinois is right, that’s exactly who they are and where they excel best.

Clemson’s 6’6″ junior Forward K.J. McDaniels put on quite the show in Clemson’s NIT opener, finishing the game with 30 points on 9 of 11 shooting including 2 of 3 from three point range and 10 of 12 from the free throw line. He also hauled in 14 rebounds and blocked 5 shots for good measure. As if it’s not obvious from his stat line, he’s the real deal, and Illinois is going to have to limit his effectiveness if they want to have any shot of upending the Tigers on their home court. That said, part of the reason he was so effective in scoring the basketball was the position he was consistently being placed in by his teammates, particularly Rod Hall.

Hall is a 6’1″ junior Guard and his dribble penetration led directly to 6 assists, two of which went to McDaniels. He is very physical, and stopping him from imposing his will in the paint is going to be of utmost importance for the Illini guards.

One other quick thought I have after watching what Clemson brings to the table offensively is that it wouldn’t surprise me to see the Illini find a lot of success in their zone in this match-up. Clemson only shot 29.4% from three in their NIT opener. Furthermore, the Tigers only shot 30.3% from three as a team during the regular season. Pack it in, stop 6’10″ sophomore Landry Nnoko from finding anything easy on the interior, and force Clemson to settle for contested three point attempts. If Illinois chooses to attack the Tigers in this manner defensively, I really like their chances to come out on top despite Clemson having won 10 straight NIT games on their home floor.

The Skinny

When: Sunday, March 23, 2014, 10 AM CST

Where: Littlejohn Coliseum – Clemson, SC

TV: ESPN2 (Directv 209 / DISH Network 144)

Announcers: Rich Hollenberg (Play by Play) and LaPhonso Ellis (Analyst)

Feel free to drop back in during the game and chat with other Illini fans in the comments section below with any observations you may have!

I-L-L!

You can follow Ryan on Twitter @RPKraemer.

For the best deals on NIT tickets visit TiqIQ.com

Tags: Illinois Fighting Illini

  • @RPKraemer

    My apologies to all readers. Apparently, the game will be shown on ESPN. It was listed on ESPN2 previously. You can find it on Directv channel 206 and DISH channel 140.

    We are 5 minutes away from the tip. Let’s go Illini!

  • @RPKraemer

    #RoadKillers in effect today in South Carolina. The Illini are a 4 point favorite in Las Vegas in today’s match-up so I’ll take them by 5.

  • @RPKraemer

    I didn’t mention it above, but Roper, Harrison, and McDaniels are their primary 3 point bombers. None of them shoot it amazingly from 3, but Illinois still needs to identify those three and contest their looks.

  • @RPKraemer

    Illinois goes man early.

  • @RPKraemer

    In the battle of the Nn’s, Nnoko draws first blood on the scoreboard. Illinois now trails 4-0.

  • @RPKraemer

    I have to disagree with Ellis – that was not a good shot from Rice. He was way too deep. Yes, it came in the flow of the transition offense, but that doesn’t mean it was good.

  • @RPKraemer

    We’ve played 4:30, and Illinois only has 1 FG from Kendrick Nunn to show for their offensive efforts as they trail 7-4.

  • @RPKraemer

    Dj Richardson ‏@djrich32 1m
    Last time we played at Clemson we made history!!!

    • @RPKraemer

      Yes, DJ, yes you did. Looking like we are very much going to need some magic today.

  • @RPKraemer

    This is a brutal start for the Illini13-8 now after an Egwu short jumper.

  • @RPKraemer

    Another Egwu basket off a nice feed. 13-10 with 11:20 to go.

  • @RPKraemer

    McDaniels moving gingerly after that rebound. Could be a huge development.

  • @RPKraemer

    Malcolm Hill didn’t settle there. Very nice attack.

  • @RPKraemer

    23-16. Illinois is in the danger zone. They really need some stops so they don’t get too far down to this solid Clemson D.

  • @RPKraemer

    The Illini finally stayed in the zone and have gotten multiple stops in a row. It was a pretty obvious move, but took a little too long to get there.

  • @RPKraemer

    25-19 with less than a minute to go. It’s been a terrible shooting half for Illinois.

  • @RPKraemer

    Make that 28-19 on the Clemson made 3. K.j McDaniels follows that up with a huge block on Abrams to end the half. He’s got springs in his legs.

  • @RPKraemer

    We’ve hit the half, and Illinois faces a 9 point deficit. Stats to follow…

  • @RPKraemer

    Illinois is 0-9 from 3. They are also 8-24 from the field for 33.3%. Clemson is 2-7 from 3 for 28.6%, and are 11 for 20 from the field for 55%. That simply has to change or this isn’t going to end well.

  • @RPKraemer

    Clemson leads the rebounding battle 15-10, block battle 5-2, and assist battle 8-3.

  • @RPKraemer

    Illinois had 6 steals to Clemson’s 0.

  • @RPKraemer

    30-23 Clemson leads at the under 16 timeout.

  • @RPKraemer

    Rice with the tough finish on the foul and we are 1 made free throw away from a tie game. C’mon Ray! Finish the 3 point play.