Valparaiso (2-0) at Illinois (2-0)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Wednesday, November 13, 7:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: State Farm Center (16,618) -- Champaign, Illinois. Television: BTN. Home Record: Valpo 2-0, Illinois 2-0. Away Record: Valpo 0-0, Illinois 0-0. Neutral Record: Valpo 0-0, Illinois 0-0. Conference Record: Valpo 0-0, Illinois 0-0. Series Record: Illinois leads, 5-0.
GAME NOTES: A pair of teams off to 2-0 starts get together on Wednesday night, as the Valparaiso Crusaders come calling on the Illinois Fighting Illini.
Valparaiso dispatched its first two opponents, Murray State (77-74) and North Park (113-50), both at home. The Crusaders are playing the first of three straight road games here against the Illini, and they are hoping for big things this season after amassing a school-record 26 victories in 2012-13. Valpo will begin Horizon League play at home versus UIC on January 2, 2014.
Illinois has routed its first two foes this season, besting Alabama State (80-63) and Jacksonville State (86-62), both at home. This game marks the third of a season-opening, five-game homestand for the Illini, who are hoping to up the ante this year after going 23-13 in 2012-13. UI, which has won 24 consecutive home games against non-conference foes, kicks off Big Ten Conference action against visiting Indiana on New Year's Eve.
Illinois has never lost to Valparaiso in five previous matchups, and this marks the first meeting between the two since 2004 -- a game the then top- ranked Illini won easily, 93-56.
Valpo coach Bryce Drew watched on as his team put forth a balanced effort in the recent rout of Division III North Park, as five players scored in double figures in what turned out to be the fourth-largest win in program history. LaVonte Dority hit 7-of-8 shots, including five 3-pointers, on his way to a game-high 21 points, while Clay Yeo added 15, Jordan Coleman had 14, Bobby Capobianco 12 and Jubril Adekoya 11 for the Crusaders, who shot a sizzling 70.2 percent from the floor, making good on 12-of-18 long-range launches along the way. Conversely, the overmatched Vikings shot just 27.9 percent from the field, missed 16 of their 21 3-point tries, were outrebounded by a 39-24 margin, and turned the ball over 17 times. Although it's early, Coleman and Dority are averaging 15 ppg, with the former also grabbing 6.0 rpg. Valpo is outshooting the opposition, .571 to .317, while also holding double-digit advantages in both rebounding (+12) and scoring (+33).
Senior guard Joseph Betrand notched his first career double-double in the Fighting Illini's 24-point win over Jacksonville State, scoring 20 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. Bertrand's backcourt mates, Tracy Abrams and Rayvonte Rice, each tallied 13 points, while Nnanna Egwu and Jaylon Tate chipped in with 10 apiece for Illinois, which converted 52.5 percent of its field goal attempts, despite going only 4-of-12 from 3-point range. Tate dished out eight of the team's 14 assists, and the Illini controlled the paint by outscoring the Gamecocks down low, 40-28. Rice leads the team in scoring with his average of 17.5 ppg, although Bertrand is hot on his heels at 17.0 ppg, and he brings down an average of 9.0 rpg to boot. Illinois is shooting 48.4 percent from the floor, while holding the opposition to 33.8 percent. Unfortunately, a 25 percent showing from beyond the arc will not serve the team well as it prepares to face tougher foes moving forward.
The Crusaders are hoping the sixth time is the charm as they seek their first win ever over the Illini. Only problem is, winning in Champaign isn't easy and they will need to really curtail the play of the UI guards to have a chance.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Illinois 73, Valparaiso 68
11/13 10:31:17 ET