Jacksonville State (0-1, 0-0) at Illinois (1-0, 0-0)
6:00 PM EST
Line: Illinois -17
Series Record: First Meeting
Last Meeting: n/a
Blog Representation: the Champaign Room
Illinois will host Jacksonville State in their second game of the weekend. Coming off of a 80-63 win over Alabama State, the Illini will face Jacksonville State out of the Ohio Valley Conference. Jacksonville State lost their season opener to Bradley 65-72.
Illinois is coming off of an upbeat victory over Alabama State, led by transfer Rayvonte Rice. The Illini will likely continue to work on getting point guard Tracy Abrams and center Nnanna Egwu up to speed as the success of their season will likely depend heavily on these two starters.
The lesser competition in the opener allowed John Groce to clear the bench and play all of his freshman. Expect Illinois to do more of the same here as Groce could be forced to turn to his younger players come Big Ten play. At the very least it will help the Illini establish their younger guys and add some valuable experience, even if it's against inferior talent.
Nnanna Egwu posted 10 points and 10 rebounds in the opener and should have his way down low once again as the Gamecocks will play small, with their tallest starter coming in at only 6'8. Also expect Groce to work on getting Abrams comfortable, as the point guard needs to improve this decision making this year.
Look for the Illini to try to improve their perimeter shooting as they're coming off of a 20% shooting performance from three in their opener. The Illini also committed twice as many turnovers as Alabama State, a potential area of concern.
If Jacksonville State wants to have any chance of winning they will need to improve their shooting. The Gamecocks were a poor 3 of 16 from three and shot 66.7% from the line. The team also had an atrocious turnover/assist ratio, committing 15 turnovers compared to only 9 assists. It'll be interesting to see how deep the Gamecocks rotation is as they played predominantly six players in the opener even though D.J. Felder fouled out after 20 minutes. Outside of the top six players, the remaining roster combined for a mere 24 minutes of court time.
Anyway, the Illini are considerably more talented and are fielding the more athletic and taller squad. Look for Groce to continue using these cupcakes as a way to establish some of the transfers (Rice, Ekey), develop his returning starters (Abrams, Egwu) and clear the bench in attempt to establish his young group of talented freshmen.